Why Dropping a Ball Isn’t Such a Bad Thing

001Longtime readers of my blog know that my mom has given me a Christmas ornament every year since I was born. These last few years, we’ve formed a tradition of shopping with my stepsister the day after Thanksgiving. Not big box store mob sale shopping, but at this lovely outdoor mall in Tucson. Our first stop is always Crate & Barrel, where I now get to pick out my own ornament(s).

This year I spotted these sparkly castles – just perfect to remember that this is the year my Twelve Kingdoms books come out. I’m so in love with them.

Once again, however (this make two years in a row – eep!), I’ve decided not to put up a Christmas tree. Jackson, though no longer a kitten, is still wild to tear up any and everything he can. He’s also become keenly interested in climbing.

Uh huh. Exactly.

Also, we’re going on a bit of an odyssey this year. We’ll drive to Tucson for Christmas, then drive up the western slope over several days to Billings, Montana, for my stepson’s wedding on New Year’s Eve. We won’t be home until January 2, at best. Maybe later if the driving weather is bad, since we’ll return down the front range.

(For those who don’t know the Rocky Mountain region, the weather on the western side of the mountains is typically much warmer and drier than on the front range, the eastern side.)002

Though we’ll have a house sitter, that’s still a lot of opportunity for Jackson to wreak havoc. And, by the time we get home, I won’t want to deal with TONS of clean-up. Last year, however, I found I really missed getting out all of my ornaments, revisiting all those Christmas memories. So this year, I plan to do a lot of garlands and suspend the non-breakable ornaments from those.

(I haven’t SEEN Jackson climb walls, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.)

One of my nephews has gotten into juggling lately, so we’re getting him a copy of Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle. It might be a bit dense for him, but he’s struggling with adolescence and I think the themes of being dispossessed and discovering who you are will speak to him. Plus, juggling!

I recall that book for the way his learning to juggle gave Valentine the keys to handling his problems. It’s been a long time since I read it, so forgive me if I get the details wrong, but I recall the concept that, while keeping the balls in the air is part of the point, dropping one isn’t the end of the world.

I think about this sometimes because I often use juggling as a metaphor for keeping up with everything I’m doing. We all do, really, referring to “dropping the ball.” (Or is that a sports metaphor? Brilliant, really – the metaphor that works for both sportsing types AND theater geeks!) The problem with that is, I get so focused on keeping those balls going, adding in more, concentrating on catching and throwing, that it’s easy to lose the sense of fun.

And yes, juggling is fun.

Also, occasionally dropping a ball is part of the game.

If there wasn’t the possibility of dropping a ball, then juggling wouldn’t be interesting. The real joy, too, is when you get them all flowing.

Like magic.

Juggling Tasks – and Keeping in Mind What’s Important

2_21_13Jackson loves to do everything I do – including laundry. If only I could train him to do it by himself…

I did the laundry yesterday because today we’re hitting the road to visit a sick family member. These things take precedence, of course, but it throws my careful schedule all to hell. With Platinum coming out on Monday, I have all sorts of extra promo tasks on top of my usual writing/day job/keeping the household going in a reasonable fashion tasks.

I’m not the first person to liken this kind of balance to juggling. The point is to keep all the balls in the air. Dropping a ball is a failure.

I’ve realized recently that most of my ideas about juggling are informed by a book I read as a teen, Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle. I think I’m spoilering nothing when I say that the core of the story is about the rightful heir to the kingdom traveling in disguise with a troupe of carnival performers. He has no useful skills, so they teach him to juggle. The philosophy of juggling infuses the story – and eventually informs his character as a ruler. It’s lovely stuff, about being peaceful and having focus.

And not dropping the balls.

But I think I can get more focused on not dropping balls than the true fun of juggling, which is the interplay of the balls in the air. After all, I’m doing this to create the best life that I can – to serve all the most important things to me – not to be preoccupied with meeting some standard of not-failure.

What this means is, I’m learning to be okay with dropping balls.

I just pick the ones that can be dropped. The dishes? Can wait. The vacuuming? Doesn’t REALLY have to happen today. Getting word count in? Keep that ball in the air and watch it soar, all shining and lovely.

Maybe this approach will inform my character, too. Peaceful and focused sounds like a good place to be.