Thursday, November 20, 2014

An Abundance of Whelming

I have recently taken on some new administrative responsibilities. It's been about a week and literally a thousand emails. (possibly more. there is a lot of email.) I'm really honored that I was chosen to do this work, I take it very seriously, and I want to do it right. Dealing with the idea of moving closer to being a full-time administrator is different than dealing with the reality of additional administration duties.  There is a lot of whelm involved.

I have great mentors, including our friend Jessica Olin from Letters To A Young Librarian, who are always there if I need a quick vent or a longer chat. I have faith in my skills, I know what I'm doing. There is this other level, like how I need a bigger container in which to store my whelm.  We all encounter it at some time or another.  Earlier in the week, two poems came to mind as thought devices for reflecting on my current whelm-excess.

The first to consider is Things to Think by Robert Bly. This is possibly the only poem by Bly I really like, as he's guilty of a lot of broetry, but I like this one quite a bit. Here goes:
Think in ways you've never thought before.
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard,
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large: tell you you're forgiven,
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.
This is for a feeling of yes, yes I can do this. I can do all of the things and do them well and make a real change. It is possible. Anything is possible. Anything at all.
I like the frame of impossible things as well: things you have never thought; impossible improbable things; important things.
A poem for when you've got a nice warm cup of whelm with room for cream.

But let's be honest, it's not like that. Not most of the time. It's like this:
Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
If Not Waving But Drowning by Stevie Smith isn't already one of your favorite poems, I am sorry for you and I feel like maybe you weren't raised right. Thankfully we've remedied that now.

I think about this poem every time I am overflowing with whelm. It says everything I feel and everything I need to hear.

What do you turn to in your times of stress, what helps you get through transitions? Let me know, especially if it is a modernist poem.

Keep Rockin',

P.S. also, this song is a good one for the subject:

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