to be or to do

To be or to do — is that the question? For reasons perhaps found in the stars, this thread has run through no fewer than four intense conversations I have had in the past 48 hours with thoughtful, creative, middle-age women.

The specifics are less important than the shared tug-of-war within. Between feeling a need to be ‘out there’ offering proven gifts to others, tugged by a sense of generalized obligation; and a vague sense of being called by a very different need, the one that lives deep ‘in here’ at the core of who we in fact are.

Universal? You bet! And I could ask a whole host of additional questions, such as ‘why do we only ask this question in our 50’s or 70’s?’ ‘What has our culture DONE to us that we no longer value our BEING?’ Or ‘what about the moral imperative to make the world a better place?’ Apparently us Vermont women are not the only ones poking around in the hearts of ourselves; Parker Palmer recently wrote, in part:

. . . Who we ‘be’ is far more important than what we do or how well we do it  . . We pay a terrible price if we value our doing over our being. When we have to stop “doing” — e.g., because of job loss, illness, accident, or the diminishments that can come with age — we lose our sense of worthiness.
– Parker Palmer, On Being March 26, 2014

For my part, I come by this struggle honestly. One parent ‘just wanted me to be happy;’ the other wanted to know ‘what I had done to justify my existence today.’

Perhaps, after all, the question is NOT whether TO BE or TO DO. Perhaps, it is how to truly live a balance between BOTH being AND doing, such that one is nurtured sufficiently to be able to give well.


fall song

On the rise of wind she sniffs,
nose twitching as it follows what I cannot
though I see excitement,
lithe leaps into frosty air, her shadow
dance among leaves that crunch crisply
beneath my feet – nearly silent under hers

flying gazelle-like over log and under branch
squirrel-bound – as I, earthbound, walk
my spirit soaring free with hers; the brilliant
orange about her neck gleams leaflike
flitting free in circles, swirling, entire
treefall tumbling at once, twirling
down; yet she runs, runs circles,

returns, fleet and frisky, impatient
for each new moment as if she could swallow
entire seasons in one gulp, she glides, gallops
points, returns, endless and effortless in her work,
this work of play in mid-autumn woods,
midway between summers’ light
and winter’s dark, in this late afternoon
glow of setting sun settling
into calmer pace, one she’s not yet
ready to receive; while I recall my
younger Self, revel in remembered bounce
of youthful vigor and delight in autumn’s
edging amber light.