The Beauty of the Pivot

In the midst of all of this mess, my sleep patterns have shifted. I come from a long line of sleepers – 10-12 hour a night folks – and have always loved my sleep. But right now I seem to be waking up at ungodly hours with more energy than I know what to do with.

I fall asleep easily enough but 3, 4, 5 a.m. roll around and my body starts waking up. I’ve never been an early bird, so my mind is not in agreement with my body over this one. Since a divorce or trial separation between the two isn’t feasible, my mind has decided it’s best to go along with my body…or maybe it’s really my mind that’s in control and my body is just complying. Either way, I’d love it if they could get together and grant me a crash day soon; the kind when you burrow in bed and alternately binge watch favorite shows and nap.

I chalk it up to an overabundance of nervous energy in the air. As an extreme extrovert (I know you’re shocked to hear that) I suck in every ounce of energy around me that other people give off. While my introverted clergy friends are exhausted at the end of a Sunday morning church marathon of services and classes, I usually am bouncing, ready to fly to the moon. There is too much adrenaline and anxiety particles floating through the air along with oxygen and it all lands in then courses along my nervous system.

The result is early mornings such as this one. A little before 4 my mind was buzzing and pushing my body to follow. By 4:30 I had surrendered. By 6:30 I had baked chocolate chip muffins, had cheddar rolls on their second rise, and had a fresh batch of white sandwich bread working on its first rise. All the while my mind was ticking along about ants and the beauty of a pivot, which led me to this 7 a.m. writing session.

I once read about how you can interrupt a line of ants by dropping a twig across their path and immediately made it a goal to test the theory. Sure enough, when I finally did stumble upon said line of ants, I dropped the stem of a leaf in the middle of the march of tiny legs and watched as the ants in front of the stem happily marched on while those behind began to scramble in confusion. I had interrupted their known path, one laid down by scent and instinct, the one they took for granted, and they had to pivot.

Turtles are another favorite of mine to watch. If you’ve rescued one from the middle of the road, I’m assuming you placed it on the shoulder in the grass and waited to watch what it does. Sometimes the turtles are more anxious and immediately pop out (if they ever turtled back in their shell) and begin to assess the situation. Still others will remain firmly tucked in their homes until they think you’ve gone. Either way, it’s not a terribly speedy process. They seem to think about what’s happened and what move to make. Rarely do they simply move their double-wide in a forward direction, but push hard with those clawed feet to pivot.

I’ve been thrown from horses who decided to pivot suddenly without informing me of their plans and cows and pigs have to be among the least graceful at making the sudden move.

Of course, to write or say “pivot” will, for some generations, call to mind a funny episode of the show “Friends.” Younger generations have “discovered” this show thanks to it’s brief reappearance on Netflix. I was very amused by my middle schoolers two years ago when I overheard them talking about the show and I chimed in. “Chaplain Mary! YOU know about Friends?!” they replied, wide-eyed and mystified. It was a revelation to them to hear that I watched it AS IT AIRED on Thursday nights and we all had to wait (and wait and wait) to see if Ross and Rachel would finally get together.

Anyway, there’s a classic episode when two of the characters are trying to negotiate carrying a sofa up a New York City apartment building stairwell. On the landing, one character keeps shouting at the other, “Pivot! Pivot!” Now that the show has found a renewed popularity, I keep seeing swag with “Pivot!” emblazoned across it.

My morning consideration of the ants has me realizing that we are built to pivot. It is part of our design. Life happens: a twig falls across our path, something spooks us, we find our well-considered plans aren’t that brilliant after all and we have to renegotiate. So, we have to pivot. We have to change direction suddenly and make a new path. The ants will find their way around the twig surprisingly quickly and will lay down a new scented path for those that come after. The turtle will find true North by its internal compass and will continue on its way, not as it intended but will make it all the same.

We all react to sudden interruptions differently. Some of us will panic like the ants and scurry about, appearing frenetic and lost, scurrying about until we find our way around the obstacle. Others of us will turtle into ourselves for a bit until we can find our center, our compass points, then will resurface to redirect and continue on. Still others will shift suddenly with great purpose and intent, potentially throwing a few others off in the process, but will successfully shift with great determination and (seemingly) wisdom. Finally, there are those of us like the pigs and cows who will be way less than graceful, moving our heavy bodies in ways they don’t appear to be designed to move, nearly hurting ourselves in the process.

But we’ll pivot. We’ll change direction. We’ll respond to the sudden shift with our own sudden shift and will continue on our way; perhaps not in the same direction we originally intended, but forward all the same.

We are made to pivot.

My friends, whatever your pivot looks like in this time of COVID-19 uncertainty, this massive twig thrown in the path of all humanity, I want you to know that you’re doing great. Trust that you were designed to manage such changes as these. My pivot apparently includes lots of baking and early mornings, and that’s ok. Apparently it’s how I’m meant to manage at the moment.

Your pivot is unique and yours; it’s beautiful and perfect because you are beautiful and perfect.

Enjoy your weekend, my perfectly beautiful friends, and keep marching on in whatever direction.


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