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  • Writer's pictureMairin McCracken

The Huddle #46: Sift, Baby, Sift

Is it just me, or has the past week been the longest seven years of our lives? Needless to say, things are getting REAL- we’re showing our real eyebrows, our real hair color, and our real temperaments. It seems there’s a rawness to everything (and everyone) right now. We may be behind our walls, but make no mistake- there’s a shared vulnerability here that’s poignant and palpable. 

The first time this really hit me was finding myself in my first Zoom “class meeting” with my fourth and fifth graders on Friday. As we were saying goodbye, one kid, Sasha,  said “Bye… I hope to see you all again someday! “ The hope in his eyes was there, but behind it was a shadow of uncertainty that broke my heart in half. And then this morning, when I opened my livestream to start teaching and some of you shared how you were feeling and coping, well that just about sent me over the edge. Even with a screen between us, I felt you there. 

We have been given, as Glennon Doyle says, “the gift of crisis.” In her book Carry On, Warrior, she explains that ”The Greek root of the word crisis is ‘to sift’,  as in, to shake out the excesses and leave only what's important. That's what crises do. They shake things up until we are forced to hold on to only what matters most. The rest falls away.”  

I love this metaphor because it reminds us that, despite any sense of urgency, there’s a greater need to move slowly and tactfully. I went into ‘shelter in place’ with full steam ahead; I woke up Monday morning with a detailed schedule, an ambitious to-do list, and a whole lot of anxious energy.  Flash forward to Monday night when I went to sleep having accomplished one item on my to-do list and spent way too many hours scrolling mindlessly. Tuesday, I swore to wake up and hit the ground running. Then, you guessed it- one item: lots of yoga. More scrolling. 

I remember using a sifter at the beach as a kid. Sifting through layers of sand, my mom and I would find pretty shells, sand dollars, sometimes even sand crabs! I learned early on that you can’t just start tossing the sand around, sending your treasure (and lots of sand) into the high heavens. No. Here, patience and gentleness are your strongest weapons. 

For me, it’s been very tempting to recklessly throw the sand of my life up into the air with thoughts like “What am I doing with my life?” and “I need a change in career. Let’s get on LinkedIn and start applying NOW!” These thoughts have only brought me more anxiety. Instead,  I’m learning to sift- to prioritize little things to keep my life organized and create space- making my bed in the morning, journaling, putting my phone away while it’s time to work. In this space, what’s important has become clearer. 

Slowing down is hard. Pausing is hard. Sitting inside day in and day out is really f***ing hard. And on a personal level, we know there’s some treasure that’s going to reveal itself on the other side of this,  whether it’s in your relationship with yourself or others, in your career, or simply in the knowledge that you survived this crazy thing. We’ll get there. But for now, the magic is in the sifting- the gentle, baby step by baby step sifting. 

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