Monday, January 11, 2016

On Watching the Tower Fall

When I was about ten years old, I can remember one particular Christmas. My family and I had all driven to Hanover to spend the holidays with my grandparents.  The traditions that we established each year remain as some of my fondest memories.  There was lots of snow on the ground and I remember having the most beautiful Christmas tree that year…filled with what seemed like a million white twinkle lights.  There were more presents under the tree than I could count and homemade sweets by the plateful.  But, what I remember most about that particular Christmas, was the night that my Aunt, mom, and cousin stayed up until all hours of the morning playing Jenga.

Do you remember that game?  You start with a tower of wooden blocks and for each turn, you’re required to take one block from the middle and move it on top.  The idea is to build your tower as high as you can…until eventually, it comes toppling down…and it becomes time to build a new tower.  The intensity of that game almost made me crazy with anticipation.  And I remember us laughing!  The 5 of us – my family – laughing until our stomachs hurt.  Laughing until we just couldn’t take it anymore.  Laughing until we accidentally knocked the kitchen table and the tower came falling down!

That was almost twenty-five years ago now and every year – around the holidays – I find myself thinking about it.  Remembering it.  Wondering about it. I find that life, in so many ways, is just like that tower; we have all these blocks that shape our reality; work, family, friends, home, hobbies, and countless others.  Together – they create this beautifully strong structure.  Solid.  Balanced.  But, individually, if moved to the wrong place or at the wrong time, they can throw everything off and bring your whole world crashing down.

I would know.

I work really hard to keep my tower stable.  Really hard.  I always have.  Over the last few years there have been more blocks added to that tower than I ever imagined possible…and all the while, it remains standing.  But I have watched it crash on more than one occasion and trust me, it isn’t pretty.  It’s loud.  It’s messy.  And it’s incredibly disappointing when you stop to consider how long it took to build in the first place.

I have recently been recovering from such a crash.  Pieces everywhere.  Dents in the floor. As I pick up the pieces again, it seems that they fall again. More crashing.  More dents.  More shattering.  And honestly, watching the pieces fall out from under me was devastating.  It used me to make me feel like a complete failure; to myself and everyone around me.  The recovery from that feeling alone was enough to make me want to put all the pieces back in the box and hide them in a closet.  But in the aftermath of this most recent mess, I did something that I had never done before;  I actually took the time to look at the mess.  To look at the pieces scattered around my feet.  To look at the infrastructure that clearly wasn’t working.  And as I sat there, with all of these wooden blocks staring back at me…I began to notice that it was the same blocks that were knocking my tower over every single time.  Furthermore, they were blocks that I had never intended to build with in the first place.  They were blocks of guilt…disappointment…expectations.  And they were just too heavy.  The weight of them was constantly throwing everything off balance and destroying everything I had worked so hard to build.

This wasn’t an easy realization for me to have.  It was rather heartbreaking actually.  But it was also an incredible blessing because in order for something new to be built…something had to fall apart.  I had to fall apart.  And once that happened, I could start the process of putting the pieces back together again…and this time, I could leave out the ones that didn’t fit.  Ideally, to be replaced with blocks of acceptance…

And so…I built.  I continue to build. 

Today – less than a month after Christmas…and almost half a year since I began to pick up the pieces…I can’t help but remember that little girl inside of me; our tower fell that night.  The pieces strewn everywhere.  A loud crash came with it. And yet, what I remember is the laughter.  I remember the company.  I remember building the tower…not losing it.  In fact, that little girl screamed with excitement as the blocks came crashing down. I think because deep down, that little girl knew.  She knew that our towers inevitably fall.  She knew that, sometimes, things just can’t help but give way.  And she knew that maybe – just maybe – once you’ve gathered up all of the pieces, the best part is actually starting all over again…

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