Perspective

In the maelstrom of activity marking the beginning of school it is important to keep perspective.

With the drumbeat of the urgent propelling us to work late into the night, we often miss the soft tap on the shoulder of the important.

There have been several life changing times when I have awakened by the cold bucket of water called perspective.

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Working in Atlanta as a market analyst, I was a newlywed. I traveled the country and was known as a person who could handle any difficult partnership. I'd leave in the waning hours of Sunday night and return on the red eye on Fridays My husband and I saw each other more in New York than we did in our home in Peachtree City. I acted like I was invincible and I guess I was at 23. Until the day I didn't feel so good. I was pregnant.

Initially, I wasn't happy because I didn't put that on my schedule. As soon as I started getting a little excited, I had a terrible miscarraige. My frenetic pace had caused me to lose sight of what was important. My health. My future. My unborn child.

Perspective.

We sold everything, bought a 3200 acre pecan grove and moved home to Camilla.

I remembered the importance of family. I learned the importance of pace and that the work-aholic perfectionist, driven, ambitious person that I am doesn't allow me to take a position in corporate American without eyeing several rungs up the ladder.

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Working as a general manager over a 13 county market in southwest Georgia, I prided myself on the motivation of my staff and the fact that I took a market selling 70 cell phones a month to over 450 a month within 3 months of arriving.

Consequently, I was the highest paid general manager in the company and I loved it. I worked from 6 am to often 10 am, hiring new staff, expanding, purchasing land to build an improved location, and more.

My husband farmed and picked up my 9 month old son from a lady's house where he stayed every day. She reported my son slept a lot in the daytime. I'd get home at 10 pm and he'd want to play with me, talk to me, or just cry till 2 or 3 in the morning. He just wanted to see his mama. My desire to have a title, money, and prestige had caused me to lose sight of what was important. My health. My child. My husband. My family.

Perspective.

I quit my six figure job, and became a stay at home Mom and had a daughter. I created lesson plans for my children, read 50 books a day to them, played outside, got a dog, and took them to the farm every chance I got. We mooed at the cows and talked to the birds.

I felt a little lost and many people in town called me “stupid” behind my back. for leaving such a prestigious position. I went from the town's favorite daughter to a dumb daughter overnight! I didn't get to buy new clothes and I struggled with a self esteem that had always been fed by my latest “conquest” but I was at peace with my priorities. My children, my husband, my emotional and spiritual health were important. (And meanwhile, I took a little time I had to learn something else people thought was dumb… HTML.)

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Last week I saved a bluebird. The poor bluebird had gone from a feline plaything to a doggie's lunch as the dog commandeered her delicate body. I took the shovel and scooped up the peeping animal. When I shifted the shovel, I saw that the bird was not going to live. I held the bird high above the jumping canines and yelled to them that this animal was going to die in peace. I could not save her but I could give her that.

As I watched the bluebird breathe her last, I saw her struggling for breath. Then the bird looked at me and we connected. Then, the next second, I realized that I wasn't looking at a bluebird but at a carcass of a bluebird. The bluebird was no longer there.

Perspective.

I recalled that God knew the plight of that bluebird. (The Bible says he knows when even a sparrow falls.) She was definitely there. And then she was not.

As we had the bluebird's memorial and burial (we all cried), my five year old delivered the eulogy, “He was a good bird. I love that bird.”

I have been awestruck since that July day of the difference between the living bluebird and the dead bluebird. I look at everyone in my family differently. I know that my children are truly more than skin and bone. There is something inside them that is important, eternal, and that is who I love. That makes them alive. Something that I must cling to, and hold, and love for every second that I have. That is perspective.

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So, as I go into my classroom today and apply my relentless drive to ambitious lesson plans I always focus on keeping perspective. It is the children behind their body that is most important.

If you are a “driven” person like me, you must keep this perspective or you live your life and check a lot of things off of your list without doing anything really important.

I have a ton of grading to do. But last night, I went to my son's first JV football game. He loves football and it was important to him. We drove over an hour there and over an hour back. So, although nothing on my list was done, the most important thing was. I was there for him.

My father in law is in geriatric ICU right now in Atlanta. My husband and I are changing our schedules to give him every chance with his ailing father. Although his father needs good doctors, he needs his family more and my husband is the light of his eyes.

Far too many have lost their perspective.

They do good work that is worth doing but they row ceaselessly to the drumbeat of the urgent. They cannot miss a step, they cannot put down anything. They miss the soft tap of the important that is just over their shoulder.

I like to explain it using an analogy I heard as a young woman.

We are all juggling. We are juggling balls of various types: work, education, children, husband, health, emotions, spirit, family, etc. and it is a tough balancing act. But when things get too busy, you must remember that some of the balls bounce and others do not. Some of the things you are juggling are glass and when you drop them, they shatter and can never be put together again: relationships, health, emotional health, etc.

So, as you are entering nutty days of September. Keep your perspective.

And when there is too much to do, drop something that bounces but keep your eyes on the things that do not.

That is perspective.

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9 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. Vicki, I loved this post not just because you share with me (and the rest of your readers) more about yourself and your life journey but it enables me to put a mirror up to my own existence. I turned 40 this year and have found myself more and more cursing myself for not being more ambitious, not seeking out career furthering opportunities and wondering if I should be “further along” in my contribution to my chosen profession. But when I read your post, I think that I should be happy with what I have achieved, high profile or not, that even if I don’t do anything more substantial in this field, it doesn’t really matter. I saw a job vacancy the other week – right up my alley, next step up the promotion ladder, interactive whiteboard expertise required and all that but I decided to leave it alone. The school I work at is less than two minutes drive (I should ride my bike more often!), the stuff we are doing is exciting and I have a chance to really cement some good practices in place. Plus with a young family nearby, there are plenty of reasons to keep the balance. Vicki, I’m not a driven personality as you describe yourself but you recognise the dangers of that path – there is danger also in my own pushing towards something that I “think” I should be doing as opposed to what I want to be doing. I don’t want to so busy or over-committed that I can’t get down on the carpet after work and play Thomas trains with my youngest son or read Dr.Seuss books to my oldest every evening. Vicki, thanks for sharing how you strive for perspective – I think balance is a really important message for us in this hyper-connected world.

  2. I never had anywhere near your potential or your earning power, Vicki, but I also made the choice to be at home with my kids when they were little. I freelanced and worked around their needs as much as I could. As a consequence, I will never attain the dizzy heights that I might have done but for those 11 years, but, when I think of the trade-off, I’m not sorry. We share memories no-one can take away. I saw their first smiles, and first steps, I heard their first words. I didn’t have these milestones reported to me by a paid professional. I think it very sad that our daughters are highly unlikely to have the luxury of choice on this.

  3. Graham –

    Thank you for your post. We all search for meaning and achievement, but honestly, I’m exactly where I want to be doing exactly what I want to do.

    If you are, be thankful that indeed you’ve found a calling and love your job! That is truly a gift! That is success!

    I often think that so many kids cannot name all of the presidents and that seems to be something that every kid wants to be. If the pinnacle of achievement cannot even be remembered, how much more important is it to leave marks on the lives of those who love us most, our family.

    You are indeed lucky, blessed, and successful, Graham, with the life you’ve described.

    And now for the contentment part, huh?

  4. Vicki
    I am so proud to know you (virtually thus far) and can’t wait to meet you face to face in Georgia to give you a hug and say “Well, done, good and faithful servant”!!

    You have a God-given gift and are using it in mighty ways on the internet and in your classroom.

    Thank you for inspiring us, for keeping our feet on the ground, but reminding us to still look toward the future.

    You do good things, girl!!
    Thank you for an Awesome AWESOME post.

    Jennifer

  5. Vicki

    I hit submit too early and wanted to add the following………

    I also wanted to say — that raising your kids, loving your kids, nuturing your kids, knowing your kids is and always should be a HUGE priority in your life. I think Loving your Lord and Loving your husband are the only 2 things that should have a higher priority.

    You have made MANY good decisions through your life — but being a good and “I’m here” mother has been one of the important and lasting decisions you will ever make.

    I am still single with no kids (and quite content) but if God ever opens the door for kids in my life, I will remember this blog on perspective.

    Thanks again
    You will touch many lives with this posting.
    Jen

  6. (Tried to post this earlier but school Internet went down just as I hit the send button!)
    Vicky, I just want you to know how much this entry resonated with my own life experiences. For ten years I stayed home with my three kids – a vocation many could not understand after so many years of ed. training. We moved around the country three times in that period and I never dreamed at that time that I would return to full-time teaching. Now that all my kids are in high school (wow! am I that old??), yes, it is a difficult balancing act to be a full-time teacher, part-time grad student and available mom. However, those ten years of motherhood have given me a true mother’s heart for my own students – no university degree can teach that!
    As we hurtle ourselves into September with meet-the-teacher nights on top of lesson planning and student introductions, it is important to keep perspective, get a good night’s rest and be the best we can be for our students.
    Thanks for the soft tap on the shoulder!

  7. What a great post! I love getting insight into the lives of those I respect and know ‘virtually’ so this post was fantastic for that.

    I learned the hard way that I’m not indestructible. Although I didn’t have the high-paid job like you I burnt myself out in the first couple of years of my teaching career. Thankfully, I decided (was guided to) resign and am now back on track with a baby on the way and a renewed focus in life.

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who’s gone through a rough time! 🙂

  8. Karyn and Sharon-
    You and I agree on that one. No price can be put upon seeing my child’s first steps or hearing their first words. One life to live! The richest experiences often cost us money but it is not in paid money but foregone money as we choose a better way.

    Jen W-
    Thanks for all of your encouragement. I look forward to seeing you in Alanta. Hopefully we can skype soon!

    Doug-
    I think we all go through times where we feel super human. And often what we consider as a demotion is actually a promotion, particularly if it brings us closer to those we love.

    Dr. Jan-
    Thank you for the encouragement.

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