I have been pretty much out of balance since mid-August. Not unhappy, or in trouble out-of-balance, but just one-sided for the most part. Two things occurred: the addition of Abby to our home, and returning to work with the fall semester and a changed job. Between those two major changes, many things that were and still are important to me have been moved--not to the back burner, which would imply they are there simmering, but still cooking--but to the cold storage pantry.
I have not had time to do any road trips for photography, so in addition to the postponement of Suzassippi's Mississippi editions on Preservation in Mississippi, which was one of my most cherished opportunities, I have had no opportunity for the posts here or on Red Shutters. The time between posts seems to stretch further and further apart.
My logical self knows and reminds me that things will level out and I will be able to return to my "regular" routine at some point. My emotional self just whines, "But when?" I was in Mound Bayou Wednesday, and took my camera. I had looked up nearby towns for a reasonable detour on the way home after what I assumed would be an hour or hour and a half meeting. There were a couple of places near Clarksdale that I have wanted to check out.
The expected hour or so turned into an entire day, and while I was totally immersed in the task and enjoying the relationships and the excitement of the planning, when I left at 3:30 with an hour and a half drive ahead of me, it was a no brainer to make a right turn at Clarksdale and head home. My head has been spinning ever since, and I have had vital and exciting conversations with my colleagues about the next steps following the meeting with folks in Mound Bayou. It generated an air of...what can I call it? More than just excitement, more than enthusiasm and optimism, more like a sense of what is possible for us as we move further into our work with this community, and for me, as I learn a greater depth of what I don't know and what I need to know, and lean on my friends and colleagues at work to help me with that.
A long time ago, Roberta Greene said, "How do you get to know a community? Slowly...over a long period of time." I have been reminded of that so many times in my community work. My trip to Mound Bayou was for the purpose of finding out what the team of people I work with there saw as the priorities for the next steps. There is the possibility of a small interdisciplinary grant for "seed work" that shows promising outcomes and potential for external funding. As my colleagues and friends in Mound Bayou crystallized those next steps and helped define the outcomes we could produce in a year that would tie into the long-range vision of this rising city, it was reaffirmation that in any work in any community, we are a resource, but we are not in the driver's seat--not if we want to be effective and we want to partner in a meaningful way.
One can see failed efforts all over the Delta (and certainly, other locations, too) where an agency or group came into a community to implement a program designed to meet the needs of a community and yet it either did not address the perceived needs of the community, or people declined to use it. And sadly, or more accurately to me, angrily, many of those so-called efforts have been intentionally designed to benefit the providers, not the community. It's what one of my colleagues calls "pimping out the Delta"--gaining resources to provide service and yet none of the benefits actually reach the community in need, but stay in the pockets of the developers.
So, when I think about the above, and the renewed sense of self I felt after that day in Mound Bayou, watching a community continuing to control its destiny and determination to continue rising from every setback they have ever experienced, perhaps even if my life is one-sided these days, the one side that is available is the most meaningful. I watch daily as Abby is learning she doesn't get her leash until she sits, she doesn't get to go outside until she sits, and what wonderful treats (petting, belly-rubbing, ear-scratching) she gets when she lies by my side, and then see her look at me with affection and trust, knowing that we saved her from probable death, that one-sided part of my life is worth the inconvenience it has brought with it. And finally, as I spend most of my days at my desk in the office, working toward understanding better how to educate social workers by addressing our current challenges, endlessly reviewing and writing curriculum, assessing outcomes, and meeting after meeting, I find myself renewed in that challenge, too. I am reminded that leadership demands sacrifices, but implemented well, carries its own reward in the outcomes.
Perhaps one-sided is not the most accurate description these days. Maybe it's just living fully-dimensional means that for now, I don't do much in the way of road trips, photography, and writing about buildings. Sometimes, it's good to focus on what you have and appreciate the gifts it brings.