Approaching the Edge
I know myself a little. That’s a good place to be in. It means I know enough to recognize patterns and tendencies, subconscious desires and unthinking assumptions, sources of stress and energy. But I also realize I’m only skimming the surface and that keeps me vigilant, questioning, and curious. It’s especially now as I approach the edge.
A few weeks after classes began, I attended my first student government meeting. It was a small group, diligent and thoughtful but also somewhat disordered. This is my opinion, mind you, not an objective fact. I have a preference for order and a talent for seeing its lack. Therefore, I saw a role for myself and with no further ado volunteered to fulfill the vacant role of Treasurer. A semester later, I was the President, for better or worse. Don’t make the mistake of thinking any special merit earned the position – no one else wanted it. The other thing I have a talent for is stepping up, even if I’m not entirely suited to the task. Someone is better than no one, I tell myself. Mostly, I suppose that’s been true. People tell me I’ve done a good job, which is nice.
But I’m approaching my edge. I can see it, feel it, know it. It can be a sharp thing, cutting through my life and severing ties like a blade, but it doesn’t have to be.
I push. When I take on a job, such as President, I push myself and I push others. I can be sharp, even harsh, but also playful and understanding. I try very hard not to push people to do what I want them to do. I fail more often than not. Rather I try to push them to do what they want to do. I fail more often than not at that, too. You can’t empower someone who doesn’t want to be empowered, which is how I ended up in this job in the first place.
But I can only push for so long. Eventually I reach the edge and things just drop away, like Wile E. Coyote going over the cliff. There’s no ground beneath my feet anymore, that thing I was pushing against has fallen away, the the edge to sharp.
The ground I stand on is the illusion of control. In believing that I can control my situation through stepping up and exercising authority, I take comfort in that illusion. Truth is that no one person can ever control anyone else. We can only influence. I know that, but I still hide behind the illusion because it seems safer. If I get him to do this, then that will work. If I get her to do that, then this will stop. So on and so forth. Throw in one little wrench and the who thing goes sideways.
More often that not, the wrench isn’t something or someone else. It’s me. I get tired. I find my edge.
This isn’t a complaint. The edge is not a bad thing. It’s not a looming catastrophe or hideous monster. The edge tells me things about myself, like where I still need to grow or how I’ve already changed. My questions and curiosity bring me close to the edge while my vigilance helps keep me from falling over (if all goes well). I learn a little something more about myself. That’s a good thing.
Sometimes I fall off. We all fall off. We just don’t always like it when the Road Runner laughs at us and sticks his tongue out.
When people ask me why I’m not running for President next year, I don’t know how to explain this edge. It’s so ephemeral and so personal. I don’t always understand it myself. It’s like the cliffs of Ireland, shrouded in fog. You know its there by the sound of the ocean. So I just tell them I have other projects I want to work on, which is true. One of those projects is me, and understanding not just this edge, but all my edges.
Someday I’d like to learn to stop pushing. I’d like to let go of that illusion of control and any other delusions that hold me back. Maybe then I won’t need that edge anymore.