…or thinking about rivers
‘We are all tired.’
These words reverberate through higher education, no matter the country. We are all tired.
Normally in October I have a plan for the academic year, the next quarter and the month.
This is one of my key strategies to stay on top of the ADHD-fall out—being highly organised. This year I got nothing. No plan. No structure. Crickets.
‘Well is this such a bad thing?’ She asks.
‘Can you go with the flow without bursting the river banks?’
Oh she is mean setting a challenge I won’t be able to resist.
“Momentum of Allowing” is a phrase I am given to ponder just hours later.
This is how I ended up playing with a metaphor: The River
I have always struggled with productivity advice. When pondering the metaphor of the river I realised the main problem with most of these processes:
They assume every day is the same.
They assume life meanders evenly—a steady flow.
And so most advice assumes that all we have to do is schedule the same things (often at the same time, but at least for the same amount of time) each day. Day for day, week for week, month for month, year for year.
Now think about it!
Think about a river.
There is no steady flow along the whole length of the river.
There are water runs, white water, even waterfalls, there are areas that are wider and run slower, areas when the speed of flow picks up and runs through a narrow.
There might be whirlpools, the river might break the banks when there is too much water, or turn into a rivulet during the heat of the summer.
And so is our capacity—it changes day by day.*
You might have more energy during summer when there are long hours of daylight; or you might have more energy during long dark evenings, in the silent space.
There might be boulders in your river, or periods of so much work that the flow carries you along and all you can do is a frantic doggy paddle to stay afloat.
This is why the structures and processes that assume a steady even baseline just don’t work.
Once this realisation smacked me in the face like a tidal wave (there are tidal rivers so don’t diss my analogy), things fell into place.
I could go with the flow, embracing the momentum of allowing, to permit the water to carry me along.
We just were hiking in the Cairngorms and several water crossings happened with the aide of boulders we used as stepping stones.
The stepping stones could mark some points in time I am going to use as a boulder, which sits steadily in the midst of flow, using it as a space for pause and reflection.
Schedule time to look around and orientate myself again.
These moments of reflection can help to check if the river breaches it’s banks, if it still flows in the direction I want to take.
I was just pondering that I might permit myself to stay in this momentum of allowing, when I received an email from colleagues I hoped to work with more closely. They asked if I would be interested in joining a project.
Now this request coincided with one of my main aims for this academic year.
So maybe, just maybe, going with the flow is save after all?
*even more so for fellow rainbow brains, or people with chronic health conditions