A few weeks ago, Ben asked Jim to show him how he could juggle. Kaitlyn had been telling Ben Grampa could juggle, after they had seen a picture of it in a book they were reading together. When Ben came over for a visit, he was curious as to what juggling looked like in real life. Don’t be so quick to want to learn, I thought to myself. Someday you too will have many things to juggle. Ben of course, was delighted with what he watched. Jim made a fine production of tossing the three balls in the air in a manner fitting a Vegas act. Or at least a driveway performance.
I can’t remember exactly what prompted Jim to learn to juggle many years ago, but I do remember him having a book, and a set of juggling balls. I remember him learning the first very basic juggling trick, and then day by day, expanding his repertoire until he had a good number of tricks in his pocket.
Juggling can be broadly defined as the ability to manipulate more objects than you have hands for. Juggling three balls is considered to be the entry point for juggling. With a bit of practice, four, five and even more balls can be added. The surprising thing about juggling is this, it’s not dependent on being ‘smart’. It’s one hundred percent a motor skill activity. In fact, thinking gets in the way of good juggling. The trick is to let your body memorize the feel and pattern. The body does all the work. You can simply enjoy being an observer of yourself and your skill, rather than a critic or worrier.
As you are learning to juggle, the actual item you juggle is important. Using bouncy balls, for instance, simply leads to endless frustration. After all, there is going to be some ball dropping in the early stages, and if you have to run around trying to grab your precious balls as they bounce away, the fun soon runs out. Jim began with squarish-shaped balls. They had the same feel as bean bags and they landed right at his feet if they fell.
As I relived this memory about juggling and thought about Ben’s fascination with it, I couldn’t help but think about how each of us is a juggler. Mothers especially, are fine jugglers. Almost every Mom in the world has said, or thought, ‘I feel like I’m trying to juggle too many things.’ Often this thought is followed by, ‘I’m afraid I’m going to drop something.’
Here’s the thing.
We do try to juggle a lot of things. Lots of times, we carefully think out exactly what we can manage, and then life happens, and we find ourselves with more balls in the air than we feel confident with. In keeping them all moving, which is the only way to prevent them from falling, we have not one second to consider which ones are the most important.
Some of the balls we juggle are pretty durable. These ones might land at our feet, but they don’t shatter. Most often, we can leave them where they lie, or we can pick them up once we have a free hand, or we can let someone else pick them up and add them to their cascade. But some of the balls we juggle are made of the finest crystal. These ones are irreplicable. If we should drop one of these, there is no turning back.
When we think about our life-juggling, the trick is not to pick all the balls out of the bag and try to keep them in the air, but to identify the most precious ones and make sure we keep those ones from ever hitting the floor.
For me, the most precious balls are my relationships with Jim, our children and grandchildren. I also treasure my relationships with my siblings, and friends and other family members. My health has been a precious part of my life, and I try hard not to drop this ball. At times my work commitments are precious, and in the years since I left teaching, dancing and hiking and singing have joined my precious-list. Once in a while, I have to set one of these balls down, but I pick them right back up once I have the others under control. Chores and doing things to please others have a lower priority, sometimes these balls not only drop, but roll away. I don’t chase them. An important thing I’ve learned about precious balls is it isn’t the amount of time they are in the air that is important, rather it is the way in which I handle them. When I toss and catch them gently and with care, they don’t seem to mind that they are not always part of my juggling act. On the other hand, when they feel like they are just lumped in with every other commitment and activity I do, they lose their feeling of preciousness.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I’m planning to only juggle my most precious balls this weekend. I know I’m lucky to have so many of these in my bag. My wish for you is that you recognize and make time to treasure your most precious balls too.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas! Grab your precious balls.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What balls are most precious?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to identify precious balls.