Thursday, December 5, 2013

My Life is a Circus, But I am not the Clown

I've been dreaming about clowns, probably because I've seen a lot of red noses strapped to the front of cars lately. I've only been to the circus a few times--like I could count it on two fingers--but something about the phenomenon of circus performers fascinates me. As I watched young girls hula hoop with seemingly hundreds of hula hoops I wondered: how on earth did they come to be in the circus? Did they run away from home? Were they born into a circus family? Who would want to travel to a new city every few weeks to endlessly swirl their hips? I guess the circus life just isn't for me, and I'm not a big fan of the circus because it's so . . . odd.

And then there are the clowns, who dress in bright colors, paint their faces, smile profusely, trip on purpose, and wear cherry red noses. And the juggling! Who could forget the juggling? To me, the juggling is the important part, at least for the purpose of this post.

For a long time, I felt like a clown, like someone who was constantly juggling a plethora of objects (some of them sharp), and could not stop because if I did, something would fall and someone might get hurt. I remember days where I had literally double or even triple booked myself because I couldn't say no to people. It's like I let people throw things at me and I'd say, "Okay, I got this. I can handle one more bowling pin, or one more knife, or one more flaming stick. I'm good. Look at me juggle!" But inside, what I felt was, "Why are you throwing things at me? That's not nice!"

One day, I walked out into the soft spotlight, the rest of the arena dark so the lion tamer could prepare for his act, and something happened. I realized I had left all of my juggling equipment in the dressing room. Anticipating faces stared back at me from the audience. My husband was there, and each of my daughters. What should I do? Pretend to trip? Smile? For this clown, it became a moment of self discovery. It's a big circus. I don't have to be a clown. I never did like these big shoes anyway. I ran back to the dressing room, changed into a t-shirt and jeans, and scrubbed all that greasy makeup off my face.

Timidly, ever so timidly, I came back into the arena while the other clowns continued to entertain, but instead of walking into the spotlight, I stayed to the dark edges, creeping along until I reached a ladder. I began to climb, higher and higher, never even tempted to look down, but always in awe at how high I had to climb to get there. The platform fit only my two bare feet, but the rope looked bigger from close up, and sturdy. The first steps were slow, and so careful, but after learning I could keep moving without falling, I gained confidence, and soon found myself on the other side.

After a few lengths, I learned that I could even carry a thing or two in my hands as I scurried across, or do a jump or bend. If I dropped something, it was caught in the net below. And if I fell, I could use the ladder to get back up. "Take me!" one of my children shouted when they finally noticed me.

"I can do better than that," I said. "I will teach you how to do it yourself."

I find that my life lately is much of a balancing act. I'm constantly weighing the importance of things and trying to choose the things that are best for me and the ones I love, always considering God's will and hoping for the strength to follow it. It is taking practice, and I fall sometimes, but then I get back up and try again. I love trying again.

Being a clown is for the birds. I'd rather be a tightrope walker.

Photo courtesy of Used without permission. But hey, I'm advertising for you so cut me some slack.