The power of flexibility

There's a quote by Lao-Tzu that I love, “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.” 

I think about this quote often when I see the waterfalls and gorges in Ithaca. Look what can be accomplished with time and patience! 

But water is not always fluid, soft, and yielding. Sometimes it's jagged, solid, breaking apart rock from the inside. Sometimes it melts one day, freezes the next, and I basically do a split on my way to the car in the morning. This is the season of water in flux and it's everywhere I look. 

It has me thinking about flexibility and change. 

As a mom/woman/entrepreneur, I am always navigating the line between being firm and being flexible.

With two kids under 6, I spend some days using 80% of my words to set boundaries. The other 20% of my words I mutter under my breath or vent to my bestie on the phone when the kids can't hear. They are determined to find out if, where, and when I will yield. Whew, it's exhausting. 


In my work, I am also learning the art of boundary-setting, when to press forward, and when to yield. Between what mother nature is throwing at us and the immune systems of 2 young kids, my first 2 months "officially" in business have been a whirlwind of planning, canceling, and re-planning. I haven't accomplished as much as I wanted to, and that's hard for a goal-oriented gal.

This is where the yoga instructor in me comes in handy. I often tell my prenatal yoga students that I'm hoping to teach them to be flexible - not just in their bodies (which will hopefully stretch and strengthen as well) - but in their lives and plans. In 5 years of teaching prenatal yoga, and almost 200 students who have come through class, I haven't had one student tell me that their birth went 100% according to plan. Instead, they had to go with the flow. Welcome to parenthood/life! 

I have a related favorite quote, this one by the brilliant Ani DiFranco: 
Buildings and bridges
Are made to bend in the wind
To withstand the world
That's what it takes
All that steel and stone
Are no match for the air, my friend
What doesn't bend breaks
What doesn't bend breaks

I think about flexibility in my design projects as well. It's an art and a struggle to know which aspects of the design should be decided by the client and which should come from the designer. I've put a lot of time & emotional effort into trying to convince a client to NOT use certain fonts (Comic Sans & Times New Roman, I'm lookin' at you). Would you like to guess how it turned out? The happy ending is that I got paid and the client was pleased, and referred some other clients to me (who are more open to font suggestions).  


So, here I sit, reflecting on the power of flexibility. I'll admit it doesn't come easy to me, even though I teach it weekly in yoga classes. I'm more of a power-through-and-check-it-off-the-list person. I need to re-learn when to stand firm and when to yield on a pretty regular basis. 

When to turn down projects that won't pay my hourly rate. 
When to stay up late & crunch out a project, and when to sleep because the kids wake up before the sun. 
When to use the slightly grainy, low-resolution photo that the client loves instead of a nice, crisp stock image. 
When to pick up the phone and verbally nag someone to send me the files I need. 
When to shelf an exciting project that's not fully fleshed-out. 
When to cancel my work trip because my 4-hour bus ride perfectly overlaps an estimated 6-12" of snowfall (that happened this morning). 

I'm still learning, changing, freezing, moving, thawing, freezing again, melting, slipping, growing, digging, planning...