Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Above My Pay Grade

Suddenly, it seems I'm hearing this phrase wherever I go. It's a way to say "I'm not paid nearly enough for that kind of stress" or "I wish I had that kind of decision making power" or "go to them, they get to decide." Any way you translate it, it is a clear choice that whatever decision is made will be made by someone else.

The first time I heard the phrase, I chuckled. While I had almost always worked under people who had more control over decisions than I, I had always considered it my responsibility and my right to make at least some decisions myself, rather than defer to the people above. I might ask questions or follow directives, but I don't remember ever specifically deciding that my salary absolved me of decision making. I just worked on the team, whatever that meant on any given day. So, to hear someone buck that system, and in such a forward way, amused me.

Yet, after a few years during which I saw how many potential employers these days were expecting an awful lot of skills and hours for not a lot of compensation, I have begun to understand a little more how this phrase has become popular. Even dedicated people draw lines. Even great decision makers know that every decision is not theirs to make.

As many times as I've heard it, though, "above my pay grade" is not a phrase I'm likely to use too often. While I will frequently be bound by the decisions of people in higher positions, I guess I still don't quite believe that where I land in the hierarchy has to determine how much I can say, and how much control I have in creating change. If I consistently back away from making decisions, simply because my position doesn't pay enough for it, I am likely to find myself unable to make those decisions once I need to, not to mention resentful of the people who do make them. And what about all the decisions I make as a parent or as a volunteer, positions whose "pay grade" is ever-changing (or non-existent, depending on your point of view)?

"Above my pay grade" is freeing, to be sure. It's sometimes a lovely release from what can feel like a lot of responsibility for not a lot of reward. But when we write it all off to "pay grade," we risk forgetting how to make the hard decisions at all. We risk losing our ability to be in that other "pay grade." And we risk losing control over circumstances at our work and elsewhere. In the end, these are not risks I'm willing to take--at work, at home, or in a paid or unpaid life. I may not get to make all the decisions, but I'm not writing them off because of "pay grade." I'm taking them on, "above my pay grade" or not.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Tried

I tried to finish a project, but just couldn't.

I tried to give away everything that, as I often say, "someone else would appreciate far more than I," but was left with still over-full closets and many things someone else would definitely appreciate far more than I.

I tried to read the newspaper, but only got through the beginnings of a few articles before life and laundry and dinner beckoned.

I tried to trust my kids to do what they were supposed to without being asked, but still found myself asking and ordering and yelling (and I really don't like to do that).

I tried to believe that I could do just about anything if given a chance, but realized that I am really good at some things and not so good at others.

I tried to make a gourmet meal, but ended up serving spaghetti.

I tried to enjoy my weekend, because that's at least in part what weekends are for. And you know what? I think I succeeded.

Sometimes, the best we can do is try. It doesn't always work. We don't always succeed. But in a world where "can't" happens way too often, at least we tried.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Not To

Tonight, my daughter and I watched an episode of What Not To Wear. In each hour-long episode, the hosts go from having a person throw away her entire wardrobe to giving her $5000 to buy new clothes that are supposed to be more current, more flattering, and more along the lines of what the hosts deem perfect for her.

It's an entertaining show. The hosts' comments, harsh as they may be, make you laugh. Perhaps it's because you agree with their assessment, particularly when they make the guest look as bad as television can. Perhaps it's that you are just glad that they are not coming into YOUR home and throwing away YOUR clothes and assaulting YOUR look. Either way, you find yourself laughing, even if the subject of their critique is frighteningly similar to yourself.

I came out of watching both thinking that I should perhaps throw away everything in my closet (a little extreme, since no one's offering me $5000 for a new wardrobe) and extremely grateful that I am not a makeover subject on the show. I've seen them do wonders for people's wardrobes and self-esteem, but tossing out all the old, even if it would make for cleaner closets and a new me, is more than I'd like to do. It doesn't mean I won't watch episodes of the show--it's one of the better laughs out there. It simply means I'll take the advice without losing the real me. There may be a closet cleaning in my future--What Not To Wear will do that to you. But there won't be giant garbage bins or 360 degree mirrors or critiques, complete with unflattering close-ups, of my every choice and every non-perfect body part. I'll take some of the advice, but I'll keep some of myself, thank you very much, clothes I love and all.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who Am I This Time?

At 5am, I was head chef, putting up coffee and making breakfasts and lunches.

At 5:30am, I was friend, sending and answering emails to check in with the people who keep me sane daily.

At 6:00, I was alarm clock. The kind that chirps every five minutes until someone finally actually gets up so that the chirping can stop and kids can get dressed for school.

At 6:30am, I was transportation coordinator, making sure money and instructions were distributed to people who needed them for later.

At 7:00am, I was at-home editor, sending off my current progress from the computer, and book collaborator, typing up a document for the middle grade novel for which I've written.

At 7:30am, I was working parent, making sure that my supplies for my day, and my son's, were packed to make it out the door.

At 8:00am, I was bus guru, putting a child on a school bus and myself on a city bus.

At 8:30am, I was school parent, learning about clever ways to compare fractions.

At 9:30am, I was savvy city parent, using every inch of where I was and every minute I had free to run as many errands as possible.

At 10:30am, I was television AD, marking a script, checking out playbacks, and generally laying groundwork for (hopefully) a successful day. As it turned out, I would remain that, most of my other roles fallen by the wayside, until well into the night. I'm not so used to being one person for so long.

Who am I now? I'm not sure--I guess it depends on the time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Right Place, Right Time

I finished work just after 11pm--late, but not so surprising in the production of television. As I left to head home, I thought about a cab, but before I knew it, had headed to the bus stop. After all, how long a wait could it be? Practically the whole world is out in New York City at 11pm. There would have to be buses.

I quickly realized that the whole world out in New York City is mostly walking. Yet, as I registered the fact that I might have a long wait for a bus, I also registered what was happening as I waited. Across the street from the bus stop, behind cranes that are so common in the city that I hardly notice them, giant Christmas decorations began to appear on the facade of Macy's. Suddenly, a yellow mass inflated into a Spongebob wearing elf shoes. Moments later, elves and boxes of toys were hoisted up nearby. I'm not quite sure how long it took for the bus to come, because for some indeterminate amount of time, all I could do was enjoy being there, as one of those things that normally appear from out of nowhere materialized before my eyes.

Had I taken a taxi, I would surely have been home, perhaps even in bed, before I even got on my bus. Yet, to have been there, in on some secret middle of the night set-up, was worth the few lost moments of sleep. To have seen the group of people working late, climbing around a giant balloon, hoisting, and arranging, and doing whatever needed to be done to create this holiday setup that people would see for the first time tomorrow, made the cold and the tired and the "wish I'd been done earlier" fade away.

Sometimes, we think we're doing it all wrong--making the wrong choices, landing in the wrong situations, making the wrong use of our time. But sometimes, what seems to be wrong lands you in just the right place, at just the right time. When I walk past that corner today, there will be decorations that didn't exist yesterday. But I saw it happen. In the right place, at the right time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Minding The Gap--And Filling It

I get my kids off to school, then head home to do at-home work before heading to work-work. The time gap cannot be squandered, you see. I am up, have been for hours to get everyone out, so if my call is not till 11am, a world of things can get done by then. Right?

There are days when I fill all the gaps--it's hard to get everything done otherwise. Places to be, things to prove, homework to check, stories to hear, sleep to be had, so that you have enough energy to do everything else, and yes, more things to prove. Yet, there are days when the gaps refuse to be filled--when the at-home work doesn't work, when the sleep wasn't enough to support the energy of filling every minute, when the mundane tasks of life expand to fill those valuable time gaps. On those days, I wonder--was I cheated? Absolutely. Will my ability to get everything done suffer? Without question. But that's just how life is. Sometimes we get to choose how we fill our time, our plates, our lives. Sometimes, the world decides for us.

Today was a day when "minding the gap" didn't quite work the way I'd planned. Here's hoping that there are gaps to mind tomorrow. Because I've got a whole list of things ready and waiting to fill them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Occasion To Remember

Less than 24 hours after my post about looking forward, I am faced with the realization that three years ago today, I was part of taping the last set of scenes of the ABC version of One Life to Live. What's interesting is that after that day, when the "it's over" feeling first hit me, and after two years ago that day, when I looked back at a year that had not proved as productive as I'd expected, and after last year this day, when I had the feeling that a long time had gone by, this year, the day might have passed unnoticed for me, had I not read someone else's post about it. Somehow, the things you think will never fade just do. The pain you think will never lessen just does. The memories you think will control your life forever suddenly loosen their grip.

When I began this blog, more than two years and over 800 posts ago, it was to make some sense of a world that had been up-ended, an era of sorts that was over, and the landscape that was left afterward. What happened over two years and 800 posts turned out to be not just sense, but life. In those two years, I turned the hope of "not washed up yet" into a reality.

Today, I am not sorry that I was reminded of that sad day three years ago. But I'm not sorry that I had to be reminded either. Just as that day didn't define all the years of my soap career that led up to it, that day also doesn't define my life today. It is an anniversary, and a significant one, to be sure. But three years later, I can remember the hugs without feeling the emptiness. I can remember the people without watching them disappear. And I can be so wrapped up in other events that I almost forgot to remember that one.

Happy Last Day Anniversary, OLTL. I'll remember you. Maybe just not every day.