Saturday, June 13, 2015

The art of detachment

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." - Proverbs 31:25

This sentence appeared in my brain this morning and hung there like a picture on a wall. A fixture. A permanent installation in the gallery of my conscious mind that I could gaze at whenever I wanted. I enjoyed it.

I was on my way to OIMB's Boathouse Auditorium, about a 10-minute walk down the street from the main part of the campus. If anyone asked, I would use the excuse of a pleasant morning stroll, but really, I just had to move. I was more than a bit excited, and sitting still at my desk just wasn't going to cut it. The wind chilled my arms and had its way with my hair, but being surrounded by that kind of energy somehow helped the energy inside me to dissipate.

You see, I had just arrived at the lab and checked my e-mail. It doesn't sound like a particularly exciting activity, but I had been waiting on several critical messages. One quick scan of my inbox revealed that plane tickets for an upcoming research cruise had been successfully booked, that a colleague on a different continent would help me find the data I need for a project, that a proposal I wrote for ship time was under consideration, and that I had been awarded a scholarship I don't remember applying for.

Well, would you look at that!

Giant leaps on four different fronts, all before 9 am. The irony of this morning is that I've been taking a lot of time off lately. I've actually hit a lull in each of my five simultaneous projects because I've been waiting on other people to answer my e-mails. Usually, when one project gets to a point where I need someone else's input, I shoot off a message, then whip out another project and go at it. I work on that one as long as I can by myself, then continue to seamlessly rotate my projects until one of them gets finished. Somehow, in the past week or so, I've gotten to the point of needing input for all of my tasks. All of them. That means lots of e-mails, to lots of people. And lots of waiting.

If I were wiser, I would see my lull as a blessing, a chance to unplug, to do something different, to allow the seeds I've planted to grow and bear fruit before I harvest. The only problem is that I've never been one to take a step back or be patient.

I'm trying to learn. I'm trying to master the art of detachment, of letting things happen in their own time. It's a heck of a lot more strenuous than hot pursuit, but maybe someday, I'll get it. It always seems to be just about the time that I step back and actually go home at 5 that things start happening for me. It's like the people on the other side of the internet can feel my lengthening breaths and choose only then to respond, once I've sufficiently relaxed.

It was a banner morning, and at least some of my projects are moving again. I'm grateful for the progress, but there's also an important lesson to be had: sometimes taking a leap forward means taking a step back.

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