Blogger Liza Purdy

Changes: Turn and Face the Strange

We’ve had a lot of changes in the past year, haven’t we? Changes in lifestyle, in government, in health. In our work lives, we’ve had nothing but change! It looks like there’s more change to come for all of us as we creep back, ever so cautiously, to something that looks like a life and work pre-pandemic.

I had some big changes this month. I was promoted to Senior Children’s Librarian, which meant I moved branches and completely changed the scope of work that I do. A lot of it scares me, to be honest. I have to know DETAILS. DATA. There are EXCEL SPREADSHEETS involved. People expect me to know things. Is this my strongest skill set? Not even slightly. However, I have the opportunity to work in brand new and really exciting ways that do build on my existing skills.  I can stretch and grow, and that is thrilling and nerve wracking.

And while my job is changing, the work of children’s librarians in general is changing once again. I live in Los Angeles County, which has been hit very hard by the pandemic. Our library buildings have been closed to the public for almost a year now. All of our programming is virtual. However, we’re starting to envision and dream about ways that we can open up again, little by little, while keeping the health and welfare of librarians, staff and the public at the forefront. Other libraries around the country are already in this hybrid model. It’s exciting to ponder and plan, but it surely isn’t normal.

All of this change has left me feeling a little lost at sea. I keep saying to myself, “I’m sure to catch up on everything next week! I’ll get on top of it! It will be smooth sailing after this project is done!” But I think I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m never really going to get on top of everything. I’m never going to get a handle on all the work, all the relationships, all the everything. As soon as I’ve cleared one obstacle, another inevitably rears its head and demands my energy and attention.

I’m trying to find comfort in this place of change. I’ve recently started seeing a spiritual director once a month. It is the loveliest hour of my month. I sit. I breathe. She reads me poetry. It’s glorious. One poem that she shared with me this month is called Patient Trust by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I loved it so much that I printed it up on Canva and have tacked it to the walls of my new cubby. One bit struck me in particular:

“And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.”

All of us, every single human being on the planet is experiencing some “stages of instability” right now. However, we know who we are as children’s librarians. I have yet to meet a children’s librarian that was not brimming with good will. (Okay, I can think of one, but she was definitely the exception to the rule). We are good people! We love children! We love stories! We love art and music and making people happy! We are helpers! Let’s trust that as time marches along, circumstances will act together with our own good will to bring about good things!

Good things will happen particularly when we offer ourselves GRACE. It’s not going to be perfect. It’s not going to be normal. It’s going to be weird. But as David Bowie says in his song Changes, we need to turn and face the strange. We can bring goodwill, and bring grace to ourselves, to our colleagues, and to the beleaguered public.

David reminding us to turn and face the strange. Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Let’s try not to be in a hurry. Let’s take a deep breath. We’re not going to have a solution today to all the issues facing us in our lives and work. But we can face the circumstances and challenges and changes of today with grace and goodwill. And slowly, slowly, we will become what time will make of us. It is my sincere hope that we will be made into something beautiful and good.

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