There’s a number between 3 and 13

I have never really understand the meaning of the word moderation.  I do know how to moderate a panel; I’ve done that many times and it’s built on being able to moderate a discussion in a classroom.   But be moderate?  Do anything in moderation?  Absurd!  Anyone whose known me for any length of time knows that I don’t do things in half-measures.  Truly I’ve never even really understood why anyone wouldn’t give 110% to the things they were passionate about; families, principles, work.  How have I practised a lack of moderation in my life until now, and why am I worried about its impact when I retire? 

There are lots of examples I can easily use as evidence for living a life fairly devoid of moderation.  I’ve been married three times; the first time I was just too young and came out of that marriage believing that perhaps marriage just wasn’t something I’d be good at.  Being a social scientist I needed to test that hypthesis, and so marriage #2.  Having done that “action research” I determined to wait until my children were grown before even considering entering that particular position in life again.  I waited.  Life unfolded; not as I planned it, but as it did.  When I knew I was ready I was lucky enough to meet the man I’ll spend the rest of my life married to.  Took me a while to get this right, but nobody said along the way that it was so hard because I was afraid to throw my heart into a relationship.

Indeed, my tendency is to completely throw my heart into anything that really matters to me. 

When I travel, I seek for places where I’ll be confronted with as many astonishing things as possible in any given day.  Not for me an all-inclusive beach holiday, although I will admit that when my children were younger there was nothing I yearned for more than that one week in March when we could spend our days, in the company of the kid’s piano teacher, lazing on a Florida beach.  I want to hike.  I want to explore.  I want to be amazed at the extravagance of beauty in the world.


In work I’ve also done that by doing more, by looking for ways to contribute more.  As a teacher, it’s an easy thing to do because you’re surrounded by students who need things; they need teachers who are passionate about learning, they need relationships with teachers who really care about them, they need guidance in their learning, they need baseball coaches and they need choir leaders.  A principal once asked me to think of a way to raise the level of happiness in the hallways at our very small, inner-city, transient-population elementary school.  And thus was born the CHUM program, which included the theme song (hum a bar or two of “Be A Clown” and you’ll start to get the gist of it I’m sure) .  It involved a class that would earn the designation of Chum-of-the-week at a weekly school assembly, in which students who had been nominated by their peers for Chum-points would be given Chum-t-shirts.  Did the atmosphere within the school improve?  Enormously!  Were we on the verge of needing to hire a squad of book-keepers because keeping track of the points that fueled the Chum-plan was so complicated?  Well, you see … not a moderate plan.  Of course, I was running CHUM at the same time as I was teaching a behavioural class, raising three children as a single-parent, working on my doctorate, and teaching a Special Education course to other teachers. 

When I searched for a way to celebrate turning 50 I decided to climb to the top of the highest mountain in Africa .  I’m now thinking about what I might want to do to celebrate turning 60 in another year and a bit and a month in Dharamsala  just meditating.  A journey to Antaractica would be nice too and I just read about a kayak adventure in the Panama Canal.

I’m guessing by now you’ve figured out why I’m worried about not knowing how to find the number between 3 and 13 by now.  That was a phrase that my mother-in-law, Sonia, used to use a lot … truly, nobody really understood what she meant but we got the jist of it!  I’ve mostly lived at 13; at the max.  Every so often I am so exhausted that I need a little bit of 3-time, and then I’m off to the races again. 

The big questions are:

  • How many things can you plan and do in a day?
  • How much is enough?
  • How do you find balance without the natural boundaries that a busy job – not to mention a busy family – provide?

One response to “There’s a number between 3 and 13

  1. I don’t think you have to be moderate. You can pick paid work that has tight deadlines. I like volunteer work that involves events so that I can work flat out and then forget about it. This spring I moved from Extreme Gardening (to get ready for a garden tour) to Extreme Reading (a book a day). Last week before I went to see Under Milkwood at Soulpepper I read the poem and listened to a radio version of the play. Maybe this afternoon I’ll listen to it again. You can be as intense as you want to be ….and travelling that involves living by your wits can be much more rewarding when you have time to rent a flat and be part of a community for a while.

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