Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Lazy Thief

In my previous life as a project manager, it was considered good practice to be a lazy thief. Rather than reinvent the wheel for each new project, simply steal a work plan, estimating model or other tool from a previous project, presumably a successful one, and make it work for you. Always seemed like a form of corporate plagiarism to me, but it helped save time and energy. Plus, I’m pretty lazy sometimes.

I received a Christmas letter last year from my friend Kathy Swanson, an ALS accomplice, and was deeply moved. She articulated a sense of life with ALS that I’ve been struggling to convey for months. Like my experience with seeing So Much So Fast (see shameless marketing ploy here), I felt a nearly audible click as I recognized the reality of my own situation.

As I read Kathy’s letter, the thieving ways of my past started to rise inside me. I immediately thought “I need to express these same ideas in my blog.” But I knew I couldn’t improve on what Kathy had written. So with her kind permission, here are a few passages from her letter that resonated with me:

“Earl and I are often asked how we’re doing. Our stock answer is ‘as well as can be expected, under the circumstances.’ The truth is, I’m never sure which part of the question to answer. Life has a kaleidoscopic quality – something beautiful one minute followed by something different the next. Constantly changing, never precisely repeatable – a captivating swirl of events, memories, and emotions. What I’ve noticed this year is that thoughts, events, and emotions swirl by so fast that I don’t have a chance to settle in to a single, enduring reaction to the whole experience. I think I’m glad for that, even though it’s tiring to swing through such a wide array of emotions several times each day. Sometimes I wish desperately for a different reality; sometimes I realize how extremely lucky I have been.

“I don’t want to become stuck at any one point on the emotional scale. Insisting on always being cheerful is no braver than allowing depression to rule the day. As I move through the emotion of the moment, what I hope for is an ability to recognize and own that emotion, to know it deeply, and to also know that I will find my balance as the next emotion crashes in. I spend a lot of time off-balance, but I try to remember that ‘balance’ is not a static or unmoving state.

“Despite how awful ALS is, the outpouring of love and support that I’ve seen this year has been amazing. Things doubly delight me (a winter sunset, the sharp bite of cold air in my nostrils, the balsam scent of the Christmas tree, the laughter of a friend) – I enjoy them for their own sake, and the filter of ALS serves as a blessed reminder to take time to notice them now. Not just to notice them, but to marvel at them, to ponder them, to reflect on them, and to weave them into the tapestry of my life.”

Thank you Kathy.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Scott, for sharing Kathy's wisdom. It reminded me of something I saw last Christmas...wandering through the clothes racks at the mall, I was startled to see a man in a wheel chair behind one rack...but his chair helped him to almost reach my height of 6 feet and I had to sneak around to get a better view of his amazing wheelchair. It was that new kind that balances on two wheels and it was so incredible...he would lean and rock back and forth without falling, and it allowed him to turn narrow corners, as well as reach the top of the racks. I had to call my kids over to quietly witness the magic of that machine. Later in January, I saw it in a library book I had checked out for my students entitled "Cool Stuff". We read about how the balancing mechanism worked, even allowing the user to climb stairs...a wonderful invention. It's true what Kathy wrote...that balance isn't static...it can be tricky to find the balance in our lives, but when reached, it's like a miracle...a marvel to experience...all 3 of my kids' mouths were open as they witnessed the beauty of that balancing machine...it seemed impossible, and yet it was working.
Don't worry, Scott...you'll find that balance.

wendy said...

Hi Scott,
I love reading your blog. I always read something that stays in my heart and mind forever.