Everyone thinks I am a strong person. I am in most ways, except one: living in chaos. I am great with chaos, as long as I get to sort, order, and put things away into neat and tidy places of my own choosing. But when the chaos cannot be categorized, analyzed, and put into ordered piles, or when the piles just seem to multiply like Tribbles in a Star Trek episode, then my life gets out of balance. And I don’t handle imbalance very well.
I add rhythms to my life to keep the equilibrium—morning meditation (which includes devotions/solitude), daily writing, and nighttime baths. Each week I take a Sabbath. When I can get those, no matter how cluttered and chaotic my life is, I can stay in balance.
But lately, with our packing, moving and renovating, I cannot find balance. When I unpack one box, three more are found. When I get one room situated, we need to break it down for the sub-contractors to be able to work. Whenever I try to carve a day (or even a few hours) out for Sabbath, some emergency emerges that keeps my wheels spinning. Things just will not stay in their proper places, in their neat and tidy little categories, which bring me such comfort. So my weak spots show through in the form of anger, sarcasm, and general wretchedness. Luckily for me, I have an understanding husband, even though he has been on the receiving end of my tensile stresses.
Isn’t that how it is with life? People and events just won’t stay in the neat little boxes we try to keep them in. They wriggle or ooze out into the rest of our lives causing stress, which in turn reveals our weak spots. In our stressful state, we tend to take things out on those closest to us: our families, coworkers, and friends.
That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with sturdy people. Because when your weak spots are showing, their strength can carry you through, and vice versa. The sarcasm, resentment, and hurtful words I flung at my husband this week were met with his gentle balanced encouraging hugs instead of the rebuke I deserved. (I have done the same for him when he has been in darker hours of despair.) That is what living in community is all about. Our strengths fill in where others are weak.
In glassmaking, there is something known as Prince Rupert’s Drop. Simplified, you drop a piece of molten glass into ice-cold water and it creates a glass object, which resembles a teardrop with a tail. Because of the unique nature of glass, as it quickly cools, the outside layer compresses against the still molten core, causing high compressive stress. The inside has an extremely high tensile stress because it is still somewhat molten.
The amazing part of these stresses is that when they work together, they are almost indestructible. You can even whack the head of the glass drop with a hammer and it will not break. But find it’s weak spot–the tail–and it will shatter. If you twist the tail even a millimeter, the entire piece will not just shatter, but explode into thousands of pieces from the tail up. Prince Rupert’s discovery led to the invention of tempered glass—helping car window glass to shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces instead of one or two dangerously sharp pieces.
I will never be able to understand all of the intricacies of glass, but I learn from it every day. If life were a Prince Rupert’s Drop, I would prefer to be out on the tail—far away from the maddening crowd. It feels safer and saner there. But I have learned the hard way that I need to be surrounded by people whose stresses can compliment mine and vice versa. Together we create a tempering which not only toughens, but prevents us from shattering.
I can’t imagine my life without my family, my church or my amazing friends, who hold me together from the inside out. Their transparency, resilience, and strength, keep me inspired and coming back for more. Perhaps that’s why I can’t get enough of glass either—its strength is an anomaly, and there are lessons to be learned from it each day.