Running the Ragged Edge

Scripture says it, coaches say it, and a lot of pop psychology makes comments about it. We are in a race. Sometimes the reward or goal is tangible, other times it is about values and what we hold as important or central. Always the emphasis is on the goal, target or end-point. Rarely do we talk about the process of getting to the goal. Oftentimes it requires running a ragged edge between stimulation and exhaustion.

Raising kids in this day and age is about balance: many things at once. There are few stay- at-home moms. Economic necessity, real or perceived, drives partners in marriage toward a workday outside the home and the rest of life.

“Who’s on deck?” is a common query. Being on deck means who has the idea for supper, given competing culinary preferences. Who has time to go pick up three kids all within 15 minutes, in different parts of town, and who can fit the time required by
churches attempting to reinforce parental values?

We all need stimulation. Without it we die. How much stimulation is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes it is in our control, other times it is a matter of responding to events as they unfold. Most modern parents are torn between the competing demands of work, kids and time for one another. There is little leeway in most young family’s lives for spontaneity. While we all like to think we have things under control, it is that one unexpected event that pushes parents toward a ragged edge, away from stimulation and towards exhaustion. The flat tire, the late appointment, or forgetting someone at a crucial pick up, rattles routine and has a ripple effect on family life.

All organisms try to reach a state of “homeostasis”, that is, a balanced state. Psychologically the harmonious existence is one in which thought, feeling and behavior are in a fine tuned relationship.

Thought drives feeling and behavior: here is where we start trying to maintain a sense of equilibrium. Having goals is a good thing. It is the setting of priorities and not having all goals equal that gives direction, focus and symmetry. Each family understands their communal life differently. Practically, children’s activities may be the central aspect of daily life.  For others, church and church related endeavors are the focus. Still for others, work linked to surviving as a unit takes precedence.

When priorities are articulated clearly, decisions about how life will be lived becomes easier. The squeaky wheel of popular culture or consumerism does not then drive it. “This family will eat one meal a day together no matter what the time,” or “Sunday breakfast after church is what we do.” No apologies for a decision made about
what is valued.

The type of priorities we set dictates what little power we have over our lives.  With this thought in mind, we can run the edge between stimulation and exhaustion.

Author: Doug Lewandowski

I have walked a varied path. I was a Christian Brother, an English teacher/counselor and Licensed Psychologist. I have a twice monthly column in the Duluth News Tribune and have had a story published in the Nemadji Review and placed third in this year’s Jade Ring contest of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. I was a commentator for KCRB, Minnesota Public Radio in the 90s. I transplanted to Duluth to be closer to grandchildren.

1 thought on “Running the Ragged Edge

  1. Sherry says:

    Wow, can I relate to this post! I’m afraid my quest for stimulation frequently leads to exhaustion. Still trying to find the balance…..

    Reply

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