Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

In the Absence of Plans

The cold, clear mornings are a shock after days of drizzle and fog; the city bustles in poofy jackets and turns her heaters high. The long winter has begun.

Indoors, it is shorts weather, accompanied by the cheerful hiss of our leaky radiators. I stay long in my bed in the mornings, answering email and working with my feet propped up.

Tomorrow is my hospital follow-up visit for my foot. Although I'm back in normal shoes now, my body remembers too well the sensation of injury. I feel my limp has become a part of me. At night, when I am trying to visualize my routines, it seems that my imaginary body belongs to someone else. How long does it take to forget how to dance? 35 days. I admit that I feel afraid to come back, knowing things won't be the way they were. Over time, I hope I will be even better, but the return feels so full of expectation, as if I'd be able to pick right up where I left off. I'm having to learn to walk again. And soon I'll have to learn how to dance again.

And so when I walk, I walk slow, thinking about rolling the same way on my left foot that I do on my right. Master Li told me yesterday that I need to keep my foot particularly warm during this time of year. That the intense cold will make it more painful, and more difficult to heal. "Forget about fashion, forget about any high heeled shoes, just wear the warmest boots that you can." And I'm still soaking it religiously, at least 20 minutes every night, in water as hot as I can stand. I try to pass the time by reading magazines, they curl a bit in the steam, and I find that I enjoy the forced downtime.

Last weekend I went to Atlanta to visDSC01723it my best friend Steph. It was wonderful to see her in her own space, upon seeing her lovely apartment I exclaimed "You're a real person!", to feast my eyes on an entirely new city. We went to the HIgh Museum for Cezanne, and to the Center for Civil and Human Rights to learn about the bravery of men and women fighting for equality. And of course, we consumed large amounts of biscuits. I felt so happy just to be there, to see Steph's workplace and her life, and this made me somehow more content in myself.

I read an interesting article yesterday about the Dalai Lama and have been thinking a lot about this excerpt of the story. In it, a waitress has come up to the table where this particular report and the Dalai Lama are sitting:

She spoke with complete seriousness. “What is the meaning of life?”

In my entire week with the Dalai Lama, every conceivable question had been asked—except this one. People had been afraid to ask the one—the really big—question. There was a brief, stunned silence at the table.

The Dalai Lama answered immediately. “The meaning of life is happiness.” He raised his finger, leaning forward, focusing on her as if she were the only person in the world. “Hard question is not, ‘What is meaning of life?’ That is easy question to answer! No, hard question is what make happiness. Money? Big house? Accomplishment? Friends? Or …” He paused. “Compassion and good heart? This is question all human beings must try to answer: What make true happiness?” He gave this last question a peculiar emphasis and then fell silent, gazing at her with a smile.

Yesterday, someone asked me, "Can you have it all?" and left it up to interpretation what "all" really meant. At some point during B-School I decided that yes, you can have it all, but not all at once. We must design our lives to have the things we want to have in the times when they are most appropriate to focus upon.

Master Li says the imbalances and bad habits of our youth only manifest themselves as we age - we cannot feel them now. His words encompass both emotional and physical imbalances. He says it is the responsibility of our parents, coaches and elders to guide us away from such habits so we can live better future lives. That is it our responsibility also to seek that guidance (aka "mentors" in the business world).

I am still thinking about what I have learned from my foot injury. I learned quite a bit about future injury prevention (entry coming soon on nutrition!) It has certainly "taken me down a few pegs" and given me some sorely needed humility. But despite all my thinking, I haven't been able to come to any conclusions yet about where my happiness comes from. One of our goals out of the COLE Leadership program at Fuqua was to find ways to live a more deliberate, thoughtful life - to always be planning how we would get from point A to point B. In my life, I have become an expert at this method of attacking problems, of clear-headed planning.

I cannot plan for everything. So what is left, in the absence of plans? More plans? Contingency plans? After a while I think it is impossible to consider all possible events. I posit that the only things left are:
The guidance of and my love for those around me. My connection with who I am and what I believe in. My confidence in whether I can rely on my ability to uphold my values. And, my ability to maintain that which I have defined as happiness.

I think the next weeks will continue to be dedicated to healing, but also to understanding what I have discovered in the absence of plans.

Tags: dance, leadership, life changes, metatarsal, stress fracture
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