Smaller children squint and begin getting squished from the downward pressure. I yell to the boy at the top, a loud and screaming boy named Hernando, that he should back up. “You are crushing us.” I say. He can’t hear me.
I yell at a stout, strong-armed girl named Luciana that should should stop trying to climb up. “Go down the slide! We are getting squished.” She grins and redoubles her efforts to shove her way up the slide.
“Come on! Stop! Everyone! Stop! Someone will get hurt!” On and on we go with no one giving one inch. A feeling comes through that I must do what I can to protect the smallest and I must do what I can to protect myself. I begin to understand that I will die. Death by popping.
I am amazed throughout at how reasonable I sound to myself. I am, I believe, making perfect sense. What a rational conversation we were having. Surely you must see that these children, your friends, are getting hurt here. Then, as these words emit from my mouth, the first child pops, just like a water balloon. Then the next. And the line shoving up or coming down continues to grow, no matter how many pops occur up front.
Children on the up and down side yell. “Get out of the way! Move!” They insist on gaining the right to pass. An inch of the slide surrendered increases the shoving and the panic. Up-shovers find evil in the down-sliders and the same is true of the reverse. As my dream lingers, I see no end, no resolution, and nothing I can offer other than preventing a child here or there from popping, mopping up the juice that comes from each popped child, and coming to terms with my own inevitable end.
The dream does not end till I wake. And I wake with no clarity. What was that about?
I am that guy in the middle. I go there under duress and I go there every day. I surrender to a design and a set of outcomes not of my own design. A journey there can commence at any time. I seldom relish being stuck there
Yet, I learn there, in that place where I can’t win. The juiciest eye-openers come from the fact that I am stuck in the middle. How could this be true? I learn, kick and scream, in the middle. And though it’s not very ‘middle’ of me to say this: those who no taste for this journey are on a headlong course toward becoming cranks and shut-ins who have let their worlds shrink. They are missing out on some good stuff.
I feel confident in saying this.
There is nothing wrong with needing to be right. Nothing wrong with wanting my way. I can, on occasion, win and find joy in that fact! I can witness and appreciate the crusader in a colleague. But how we talk to one another when we are all getting squished – that’s another thing all together. When I surrender control and yield to that little bit of a punch line waiting for its equal opposite to arrive, I can expect an odyssey toward a place with more.
I hate it, and it works and we will see how tomorrow unfolds.