Calamity Jennye

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mirror, mirror

Today I paddled on a Dragonboat team.
Dragonboat is one of the big festivals here in Grand Marais. Last year I got to watch a little, when I was able to get away from my shift at work. This year I walked my friend over to the team's practice section and got drafted to be the team drummer.
I followed the team over to the boat and then I had to climb up on the tiny little chair, suspended backwards from a platform at the very front of the boat.
My face betrayed my sense that this seemed like a very bad idea. But there I was and there was not a lot of choice with a whole team seated in front of me and no way off the boat.
Our practice session yesterday went pretty well. The team started to get the hang of it, got into sync and started to make some progress. Then we had our first race today, and everything went to hell...
No one could seem to paddle in sync, there was no rhythm, I tried to focus on getting everyone to follow me, then I gave up and tried to get myself to follow them. Nothing was working. We were a mess.
I realized my worst fear...I am the least qualified person these days to pull a team together. I know nothing about what everyone in the boat is doing and I am no longer qualified to be a good leader.
So then we had a long break between races, a long break turned even longer by a really big thunderstorm moving through like a freight train. And in that break one of our team members went out and found out what we didn't know, what we needed to know to be a better team.
We moved people around, we practiced our moves, we came up with some great team cheers, figured out the word that would that would best motivate us all. I think everyone felt ready for a second chance.
As we got to the starting line we paddled slowly and sang row, row, row your boat. The juxtaposition felt perfect for our team. We were the only team out who didn't take themselves seriously and it felt great to get in the lineup singing a happy song and having a great time.
Then we paddled, and it was a brave new world. Everyone was in sync, the boat swooped forward just like it was supposed to. We shaved 7 seconds off our first time and it felt great.
One of the team members came up to me after the race and said "it was inspiring to watch your face." My only response was that I was simply reflecting what they were all working so hard to achieve out there on the water. It felt great to be a reflection of their teamwork and passion for something we had all built together.
It makes me sad and a little bit worried at the same time to feel like I'm no longer capable of building things on my own...but maybe it's just more of a break. Maybe I've spent so many years building things on my own that it's okay to lay low for a little bit.
Maybe it's okay to be a reflection of what's around me. To work really hard to channel the good, to support it, nurture it, and reflect it back to the world. Maybe that's how I build the good back up in me.
Maybe goodness and joy are like energy, you can really only have so much in yourself and when your savings account is spent you have to spend a little time building it back up. Focusing on that goodness and joy in others, reflecting it back to the world in every space where you find it seems like the best way I can think of to build my own energy back up.
So maybe I'm not a terrible leader, maybe I'm just what our team needed and in time I'll get back to being the leader I used to know so well within myself. In the meantime I'll relearn who I am when I'm not leading; when I'm participating, focusing on others and feeding the collective joy.

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