Trust Disequilibrium

Atticus-8-wksTrust disequilibrium” was the best parenting advice I ever came across.  It invites us to believe that the inevitable breakdowns, regressions, and topsy-turvy times that occur while caring for children are useful, normal, and valuable.   It supports the notion that things might be going well even when all external evidence suggests otherwise.  It is advice formulated around the concept of ACCEPTANCE, rather than around the concept of CONTROL.

It is good advice all on its own, but it also stands (in my universe, anyway) as a somewhat stunning contrast to that OTHER more commonly dispensed piece of parenting wisdom (you know the one I mean):  “Be consistent”.

Be consistent.  Be consistent.  If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, why, I could buy myself a pair of UGGs (not that I WANT a pair, mind).

Excellent advice — it’s true — but it is advice often dispensed (by teachers, grandparents – and well, let’s be honest, by complete strangers in the grocery store) as a gentle or stern corrective.  I often felt that it was dispensed to me, in particular, because everyone in the world could see that I was too adaptable, too willing to make concessions, too willing to revise the contract.

All of this is on my mind again because of the little fella pictured above – eight week old Atticus.  I am reading the books on training (be firm! be consistent!) and have just finished the marvelous dog-centric novel, “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle“, a story that prominently features the benefits (and indeed, wonders) of the well-trained (i.e. consistently treated) dog.

This weekend, I had to step back from my doubts about whether I am up to the task of training long enough to remember my strengths.  I am fine with the house being a wreck (for awhile, anyway).  Poop and pee don’t do me in.  Punishment is not my first instinct.  As for the rest – can I learn it?  The hand signals?  The repeated phrase?  The sternness required to show who’s boss?  Holding ground and refusing to reward the half-performed task?

More to this morning’s point, can I trust that the pack WILL sort itself out, or do I need to take a stand on what seems, at this point (five days in), hopeless?

Of course, here I refer to the cranky, the crotchety, the beloved Jack – our 9 year old Corgi who likes nothing better than to sleep at my feet and walk to the corner to sniff the yew bush where other neighborhood dogs have left their mark — and, truly, not a whole lot else.  He has his routines.  He is used to having us to himself.  And, apparently, he is viciously opposed to having a new member in our pack.  I am presented with the question – is THIS the level of disequilibrium I need to trust as the ‘pack settles itself out’?  Or is this not a viable arrangement?

Quilts go through periods of disequilibrium all the time.  I hate it, I love it, it’s almost done, it’s miles from being done, can be heard in my mind in the space of days regarding a single rectangle of cloth.  Detaching from the opinions is a good practice, as is learning to love the process.  The wisdom that spills from Jude Hill in her online classes (SpiritCloth, sidebar) has supported and challenged me to let go of so many of the less useful approaches to creative product, and to adopt a broader spirit of inquiry.

Inquiry opens up the gate – and you never know what is on the other side.  “Is this the shape I want?”  “Does this block of color signal loss or remembrance?” “Have I considered the edges?”  Maybe the stakes are so much lower with the process of creating a quilt that I can go easy and go wide … But then again, maybe I need to convince myself that this spirit of inquiry is transferrable to the business at hand – that is, formulating a new pack, gaining new skills, and asking the hard questions.

Next post, it will be back to quilts, all quilts, I promise!  Here is a sneak peak at Barn II – which is VERY nearly finished (the applique and quilting, that is – not the truing, binding, sleeving, signing, and photographing).  It is roughly 33″ across.