Working at a college or university in September is demanding; working at a college or university in April is out of control. Every student, staff or faculty member with any remaining budgetary dollars hosts a significant speaker, complete with the requisite pre-talk dinner, post-talk reception, and ample cheesecake and coffee to go along. Despite lots of cries about the early run-down of most of the campus-wide funding sources, April is keeping true to its reputation. It is the cruelest month.
In the midst of the intellectual marathon at work, we went once again to Auntie's house for the Boston Marathon. Though she has been in two different apartments in recent years, both have offered easy walking access to the marathon route. (The first year we went, Kyra had learned to clap just the day before. She was just in time, as true fans take seriously the charge to cheer on the strongholds and the stragglers alike--hours worth of clapping!) After too little sleep of late, I was dragging as I drove up for the marathon. Despite that the kids had been with my sister overnight, I hadn't slept enough (again!), and I found myself grumbling and asking why I really go to the marathon. All I could see was the hassle--the traffic, the closed down streets keeping us locked into place for hours longer than comfortable, the occasional vomiting runner coming a bit too close for my puke phobic self (too close being within a mile or two). At the end of the day, all I could remember was the triumph of watching people stretch themselves to physical, mental and emotional capacity not previously thought possible. It is the perfect space to talk about human diversity with the kids--it's rare to find such a colorful display of diverse national identities, skin colors, and physical abilities. I tear up each year when I see Dick and Rick Hoyt, a father/son pair running now for 25 plus years. When Rick was asked via facilitated communication what he would do if he had the ability to run and walk (he is profoundly disabled), he said that he would push his dad. Mere words cannot capture the emotion of the moment. The roar of applause as Dick comes running through, hours and hours into pushing his child in his wheelchair, is palpable. They are both actively engaged in the competition--the pursuit of the finish line--and every heart surges toward that line with them. (As a side note, the Hoyts also participate in triathlons. Try telling yourself you can't squeeze in that half hour walk when you look at their achievements!)
My sister's latest apartment is near a college, and a mere handful of miles from the finish line. Students in off-campus apartments line the street near her home, and their energy is palpable. (Her previous apartment was about 7 miles further back; the race had a completely different feel from the mid-point.) One brave crowd set large speakers in their open windows and set the CD player to repeat Eye of the Tiger by Survivor....for six hours....with the only interruption being brief forays into "Another One Bites the Dust" and "We are the Champions." You can guess which of those was better received! There was something to the driving Rocky III beat that had runners looking skyward, lifting their arms, pressing on despite the pain of the hills just behind them. I will always feel that beat when I think of this year's marathon run. I loved it--every minute of it. Made me want to run again....sort of....maybe....or at least remember how much I enjoyed when I briefly did so.
Other April ventures? I attended the Power of Dialogue training offered by the Public Conversations Project, and was again reminded why this is an organization I someday hope to work for and with. Their thoughtful, considered approach to crafting dialogues across polarizing differences gave me hope again. Part of the three day training is participation in a simulated dialogue around a constructed case study. This particular case was a church divided over homosexuality, and I had the fortune of playing a character role in the simulation. I have strong personal feelings based on how I identify and my wish for my faith community, and was able to channel some of these feelings to really play my character. Though my role was different enough from my own life to stretch me in new directions, there were some shared core beliefs. I found myself not so much acting, but dwelling within my character, listening with her ears, and speaking so others with very different views might be able to hear her voice. Loved every minute of it. No matter your views, get to know PCP. The exposure is life-changing.
Who said anything about March Madness? Around here it's April, and we're rounding the corner toward the much-desired May. I've been invited by Kara over at Cape Buffalo to participate in a collaborative blogging tribute to mothers and mothering throughout the month of May. Look for more coming soon. I love the ways blogs open new doors, conversations and friendships.