When my daughter mastered walking, I thought that “pulling yourself up” would make a good column. The grit of the idea lodged in my mind, but as I chewed on it, I realized that, though my daughter works hard to pull up onto her feet, her real challenge lies in getting back down.
When my daughter was first learning to walk, she would pull herself up using anything that would support her (and some things that wouldn’t, but that’s another essay). She would stand and explore a little, going from sofa to table to chair, navigating the edge of the room.
Then she would spy a favorite toy and want to sit down and play, but down was a lot further away than it used to be. At first she would cry for help; then she learned how to let go and fall gently into that bliss where she could play with all of her toys.
For most adults, down is a lot further away than it used to be, and falling into bliss is hard to do. We can pull ourselves up to new heights personally and professionally, but remembering how to get back down is difficult.
We work hard to be the most that our talents and gifts will allow us to be. Even now, I strive continually to be better than I am. We don’t do things because they are easy; we do them because they are difficult, and when we complete a difficult task, we are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment. All of this hard work lifts us up, much like my daughter worked hard to pull herself up.
Earning my Ph.D. in cell biology is one of my major professional accomplishments. I pretty much kicked and screamed my way through graduate school, but in the end I had a large piece of paper with my name on it emblazoned with the letters Ph.D. Shortly after I received my degree, I was introduced to a minister who related his story about getting his doctorate in theology.
“When I received my Ph.D., I was taking myself a little too seriously. My wife refused to call me ‘Dr.’.” I begged her, “Just once, can’t you call me Dr. Smith?”
“Alright,” she said pulling out the wastebasket from underneath the kitchen sink, “Dr. Smith, take out the trash.”
“I never had so much fun taking out the trash.” He winked.
He had pulled himself up and achieved. Fortunately, his wife reminded him how to come back down, and he found bliss in a menial task like taking out the trash.
Sometimes, when we stoop to do the menial things, we find that down really isn’t so far, and that all the things we have learned on our way up, and the skills that we have gained will serve us well when we come back down.
A common guideline for conducting yourself at a professional dinner recommends that you not stoop to pick up dropped silverware or napkins. You should let the wait staff get them because you should never let a potential business partner or employer see you stoop. I simply can’t abide by that advice; it seems so rude and disrespectful of others.
When I think about the people I most admire, I have seen them all stoop at some point for some kind of menial task. In that task, in coming back down to earth, they find some piece of joy or bliss that informs the rest of their life.
As a college professor I would work with ecology students to weed prairie remnants, wading through muck and mud, stooping to pull a noxious weed. When I was an undergraduate part of my work study time was spend cleaning the bowels of the science building—a dusty, musty, dirty job, but oh the treasures I discovered!
As a mom, I don’t find my bliss when I tower above my daughter and tell her what to do. I find my bliss in playing with her on the floor. I can use my education and life experiences to guide her when I am sitting beside her, on the floor, where we both manage to fall into bliss.