Monday, July 05, 2010
On the Care and Feeding of Hydras
You all know the story of Hercules and the hydra. He'd cut off one head, only to have it grow two in its place. He finally crushed the thing with a rock to kill it.
Sometimes, hydras are not evil monsters that need to be killed. Some have very useful places in society, but unless properly managed, they will overwhelm their owner.
I raise hydras. I never intended to, but they come into my life, and they're beautiful and important and needy and it seems I care for them or they'll either wither from neglect or someone (the Fates, maybe) will throw a rock on them and crush them.
The Catholic Writers' Guild is one such hydra. When I first met it, it was small and cute and so many people were interested in helping with it. In the past five years, though, it's become huge and frankly, the handful of people who are willing to help sometimes isn't enough. When I stepped down as president, I thought I'd rid myself of a head, but instead, circumstances have brought three more in its place--the secretary position, the membership coordinator position, and the changing of our bylaws--which I need to care for. I have help, but it's still three important heads. Frankly, we need more help, but I think people are intimidated by how big (and magnificent) our hydra has become. It's a lot of responsibility, but worth every effort.
Sometimes, heads come off by themselves, and more take their place. Writing is such a hydra. Each book is a head lopped off, but in its place are the marketing responsibilities--from book tours to fan reaction. Smaller, but important heads that need attention if they (and thus the book) is to stay alive. Even more, each book seems to breed other books, so it's not just new heads, but new necks that are developing.
Sometimes, you prune one head successfully, but a different one takes its place. The education hydra is like that. I stopped homeschooling because it wasn't working for us--the head was too big and too demanding. Instead, public (sometimes private) schooling took its place, and there are just as many obligations there, although smaller in scope. Sadly, it's also a little easier to depend on others to care for those heads, and when they fail, I really have to step in. I feel I'm in that situation now with at least two of my kids. Those problems will become separate heads themselves before the year it through. My fault for not keeping better watch.
Then there are the hydras that stay dormant awhile, only to reappear fully formed and fully demanding and often with several hungry heads. Moving is like that. I expect these, of course, but I'm really hoping that we can go a couple of years without seeing another.
Of course, family is a hydra of its own, but we all deal with that one. I'm just thankful I have a great partner there in my husband Rob.
Will I give up any of my hydras? I'm tempted sometimes. My arms get tired, my blade dulls, and I can only feed so many snapping heads at once. Just when I think I have them all under control, one sprouts a new head (or someone gives a head a nudge) and I'm scrambling to control the situation again. However, they are all too important and too dear to me. So I keep at it, swinging away at one head, tossing food to another, soothing a third. I call for help and take it when it comes.
Because there's one thing that Hercules didn't learn about hydras. When properly cared for, they reward your attention. With friends, with blessings, with the satisfaction of a job well done, with treasure, and sometimes with gifts you hadn't even imagined.
I raise hydras. It's tough, but I wouldn't give it up for the world.