Michael Perry: Feeling smaller than usual
ROUGHNECK GRACE

Michael Perry: Feeling smaller than usual

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World events have conspired to make me feel smaller than usual, and I wasn’t feeling that big to begin with. I feel even smaller when I look at my children. Sometimes we speak of walking on eggshells, forgetting we live within one.

My job here is to turn in a story a week prior to it being published, leaving me at risk for looking more of a fool than usual. Last week I wrote a goofy piece about football and by the time it came out much bigger fuses had been lit. We have yet to learn how they might flare or sputter.

Here at ground level there is constant tension between maintaining awareness and maintaining our lane. This morning I lay in bed an extra 15 minutes listening to a retired United States Navy admiral parsing various possibly pending scenarios related to current events. He spoke in measured cadence and steady tones. He said there would be trouble ahead, but he also sounded like the sort of person you’d want in charge should trouble come. I note he is retired.

There came a commercial break, after which he was to speak for another 15 minutes, but the kid needed breakfast and so did the chickens, so I slugged out of bed and set about accomplishing the mundane.

I have never been grand. In neither my design nor my mien. I know a few big words and can sometimes arrange them prettily, but I am by definition a plugger, doing the best I can with a small toolbox containing mostly blunt objects. There are times when this feels useless and pointless. When I feel ashamed for not chucking it all and trying for something huge or loud or fiery. Then I look back in my toolbox and realize it is best to leave the billion-dollar battleships to the four-star folks.

That last line can be read as an excuse, or an exemption. I don’t intend it as such, although it is the sort of statement worth pondering with a mirror at hand for the sake of honesty. One can self-deprecate oneself into obsolescence. I am speaking more in the moment. More as someone with a few basic skills and a family to feed, which puts me in the company of billions. More as someone putting a little lunch together for my daughter to eat between classes and play rehearsal, knowing that in 10 minutes we will literally drop her off out there in the world, with even less than the usual eggshell in place.

This is one of those where I reach no grand conclusion. Where there is no ribbon of wrap-up. Where I am grateful for those whose toolboxes are stocked with remarkable implements of change or repair, and how I will put my shoulder to our little wheel here in hopes it will make it through the ruts and lend momentum to the larger carriage. Where we go about our days and go about our works, at once mindful and pragmatic, knowing history is rarely kind for long, so we must work our soft fingers into the hard cracks wherever we can, not to plug them but rather to pry them apart so the light flows through.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.

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