… split but not crazy.

Dear Like a River — My life doesn’t fit the model of a stream channel! It’s more like maybe ten at once. There are my kids (homework, practices, fruits & vegetables, suitable friends, clothes that fit, feelings, dreams, and socks, oh the socks…), and my job (sometimes I actually bring the kids, depending on when, who, etc…) plus love life, work-outs, friends (I CAN’T do without them, luckily I get to see a couple at work and in yoga class), parents (my mother-in-law lives with us which is actually helpful), and this tantalizing little side interest that’s maybe, hopefully evolving into a true vocation. See what I mean? — Split

Dear Split,

I have two friends, Crazy and Sassy, who both flow through multiple channels every single day.  But any similarity between them ends there.


Mostly she’s crazy-beautiful, but at times she falls apart. Then Crazy Woman Creek is unable to carry her load. As you can see, she begins dropping rocks and dirt all over her bed. Her channel becomes shallow thereby decreasing her stream power so she’s less capable of doing work. Eventually an unnatural island forms right in the middle of Crazy’s life. It divides her energy between channels, further diminishing her power, then the additional deposition acts like a low dam and flattens her water surface, forcing the stream sideways. She erodes her own ragged edges:


Sassy does multiple-channel-flow in the healthy way: anastomosing. You can see she’s more like a system of many stable, narrow, deep streams. The sometimes twisting branches join, split, and reconnect in a continuous network across a super wide, very flat, extremely well-vegetated floodplain. The friendly plant roots stabilize her banks. The Saskatchewan River’s  whole environment is lush with LIFE: insects, mammals, and everything in between. Plus she’s super accessible. You can walk all over that flatness as long as you don’t mind being damp. It’s wet everywhere even though you’ll rarely find a serious “rapid” or any water deeper than your waist. And best of all, Sassy functions beautifully – she can do her work — which for a river means transporting sediment. As a result, her banks and bed are stable.

How to be Sassy:

• Each separate part of your life must be deep and narrow — focused enough to move a load on its own. But let some of those branches turn and meander almost tortuously. That’s part of Sassy’s charm and stability.

• Like Sassy, draw support from the roots of your friends.

• Those roots will depend, in turn, on your energy. Because of interconnections, if there’s any water in Sassy’s stream, those roots get it too. If one channel gets blocked, water flows another way. That’s why so many lifeforms have this same pattern – blood capillaries, leaf veins — and why you, Split, seem to be doing pretty well. Your mother-in-law helps with the kids who can also sometimes go to work where you also see your friends who you may see later at yoga.

• This life needs a steady and unhurried pace. Sassy, her banks, and her floodplain are all pretty flat, so everything’s evenly irrigated. Furthermore, the gradual slopes create very little erosion force AND allow plenty of time for water to soak in.

• Sassy can handle a flood for the same reason – lots of level space to spread out and slow down the floodwater. If you want to run in multiple worlds, be sure the overall cross-section of your life gives you room to overflow when inundated.

• Avoid building walls. Burying or filling any part of Sassy is the beginning of her end. Imagine elevated roads, railways, or “flood control berms” cutting off her channels.

When we’re part of a community, branching from and joining into others lives in our own healthy way — well, not much can disrupt that kind of well-being. Thank you, Split, for the reminder.

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