Monday, September 6, 2010


I am my family's historian. It is a self-appointed position that I love. I am the keeper of the family tree database, a process that began over 35 years ago on scraps of paper and index cards and is now tracked on an elaborate database. I scan old photos that are then appended to individual records. I get mysterious documents and photos translated from their original languages (usually handwritten Yiddish or Old Russian). I search for vital documents on web sites and in libraries and court houses. This past summer I spent two weeks in Poland on a genealogical trip of a grand scale visiting the villages of my ancestors. I track down distant cousins on the Internet and make visits and telephone calls to collect information and solve mysteries. I am really serious about this project. My hobby is my passion.

And what I am deeply aware of when indulging this passion (almost daily!) is the depth of my passion for this hobby. I am totally committed. I am in it! When I am in pursuit of a genealogical fact, I can get lost in my effort for hours...the world is blocked out...I am in pursuit of something important...a resolution...mystery solved. I notice my focus is clear and directed. I also notice, depending upon the fact-chase I am on that my heart begins to race and I my body speeds up (I type faster on the computer keyboard). It feels very "hunter"-like, as if being in pursuit of big game. Adrenaline. Hunger. Goal.

This project has been a powerful metaphor for many aspects of (my) life. And today I am aware of how my individual efforts (daily research, collaborations, dedicated pursuits) have created a body of work. Years of research tasks have begun to show a full picture of a family. There is something very individual, singular about the work with something very collective in the result. In the same way, there is something very individual about life in a family while also being a very collective, group experience. Big picture. Goal. Eye on the prize.

So, the learning for me today is to remember the small pursuits--tasks, efforts, achievements, ideas--can add up to something bigger, richer, more complete. Research becomes a body of work. Raising many small donations becomes a new facility at a wildlife sanctuary. Making multiple employment inquiries leads to a new job. Falling repeatedly on the snow leads to mastery of jumps, grinding rails, and a half-pipe on a snowboard. Attending years of school leads to high school (and college) graduation. With each birthday, there is wisdom (hopefully) and some gray hair. The challenge is to execute the individual efforts with a conscious nod to the collective goal.

What are you passionate about, so passionate that you get lost in it? What do you notice about your body when you are indulging this passion (heart racing? focus?)? Think about your individual or daily efforts and how they contribute to a larger collective goal. What is easy, familiar to you? What is difficult? What motivates you when the goal seems so far away or incredibly difficult to achieve? It isn't only the successes that leads to the goal; what does it take to be okay with the collective failures that lead to growth and learning? What are your doing today, or this year, or for years in service to tomorrow?

Enjoy the day!