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  • Janyne McConnaughey, PhD

My Life in a Slingshot


There are times that we can actually see into the future. We can see what is coming our way. We know that we need to prepare—and that is what we do; but as hard as we try it is never quite enough. Be it saying good-bye, moving, changing jobs or changes in your job, it is headed our way and we are bracing ourselves. Our lives are about to be launched from a slingshot.

Have you played the game Angry Birds? Confess. You pull back on that slingshot and you know it is an electronic game but your muscles are clenching as you try to pull it back as hard as you can. Confess. And then, you aim. That is the key. It is the trajectory that is essential. Can you get just the right angle? Can you aim it exactly right? Your muscles tighten again. Confess.

In the same way that I prepared to launch that angry bird, I saw several life events headed my way and I knew how I wanted it to happen—I felt myself pulling back on the slingshot and taking aim. I imagined the boxes and furniture just kind of floating over to the new place, landing in just the right spots, and miraculously unpacking. OK, that wasn’t really possible, but my version of coming through unscathed was probably as impossible. The reality is that I was an angry bird in a slingshot.

When I got my first iPad, I was obsessed with angry birds (the game) for several months. Sometimes that bird flew through the air with the greatest of ease . . . but missed the mark. Sometimes it was a dud. My finger would slip and it would just fall off the platform. Embarrassing. Sometimes, on the first try, BAM! It was perfect! One thing I noticed though was that the bird was always the loser. BOOM! Feathers flew everywhere.

That brings me to my point. When you are living in the slingshot, even if you can see what is coming, even if you prepare the best you can, ultimately you are going to lose some feathers. I lost a bunch of them, but I (we) also did so much right. We finished a school year, moved two families (including two children, a dog, and a very old cat), and my 98 year-old dad into two different homes, helped friends move, planned and took a two week vacation which involved taking my dad to Arizona, had a fabulous time in California, and came home to a house that we had completely set up before we left. That is hitting the target!

We planned well, we released the slingshot and we hit the target, but we lost feathers. Lots of them. In fact, by the time I moved (yes it was in town, but it was so multi-facetted it was like the angry birds that multiply and go in a hundred directions), said goodbye to a wonderful friend, and tried to deal with my ever-changing job challenges, feathers were flying everywhere. The slingshot was released and I was propelled across time at warp speed. Life was flying by in a blur-- packing, moving, first night without grandkids in the house, graduations, birthdays, good-byes, grandkids spending the night, work challenges, baseball games, unpacking, organizing, painting, taking care of four houses (long story), etc., etc., until I landed in a featherless heap.

I have heard it said that we only post the good moments on social media. Maybe so. So, this is the not so pretty truth. We are all living real lives and sometimes it is difficult. At times we all live in a slingshot and no matter how much warning we have and try to prepare, we may crash and burn. Sometimes the angry bird lands on the edge and teeters there. In the game you hope that bird will fall, in life I hoped I would not.

So this ruffled angry bird went on vacation. I left work behind. I left this blog behind. I left the house that I worked so hard to set up behind. I left my daughter and grandkids behind (just for a little bit) and I tried to leave the sadness behind. Who I didn’t leave behind was Scott. For 35 years we haven’t left each other behind. We have been in the slingshot more times than I care to remember, but when our feathers explode and we lie in a heap, we have each other.

Well, I won't give up on us

Even if the skies get rough

I'm giving you all my love

I'm still looking up

(I Won’t Give Up—Jason MARZ)

No we won’t give up. It has been 35 years and counting. We are blessed beyond all measure, we are missing a few feathers; but we went on vacation and put ourselves back together to prepare for the next slingshot. This time we are going to aim really, really well and try to keep more feathers in place.

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