Wednesday, November 22, 2017

On Balance, Off-Balance

It is the flight back after a whirlwind vacation.
It is the day home with the kids after a lifetime spent at work (what felt like) every single day.
It is the return to school after summer.
It is the re-entry to the overnight after enough time dayside to get adjusted to, get used to, get addicted to, working days.

The landing is a little rocky. It is quiet, and a little lonely, in the apartment at midnight. It is dark, and just slightly unsettling, on the street at 1am. It is different to dress for the hours when others are sleeping. It is deserted when I approach the building--the same building that I left at the end of my day shift less than twelve hours ago.

But I have survived the return from vacations to reality, and the stares of both stay-at-home moms and nannies who didn't quite know what to make of my being around, and the start of every school year, so I will survive this too. There will be days when the darkness will be peaceful. There will be days when the daytime freedom will be useful. There will be days when the morning sleep will be glorious.

And just when I have completed, or completely accepted, my re-entry, my journey will likely change again. There will be days--and nights--when I can't help but feel washed up. But thankfully, also ones that remind me that nope, I'm not washed up yet...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Still About Time

I've been working a lot of day shifts these past few weeks. It's not that I have a new job, not even a new shift, really--just a little filling in and helping out when and where I am needed. My kids are thrilled to have me around for morning wake-up and school prep. And I am thrilled to have time in my bed in the wee hours of the dark night.

My body, however, has not been so quick to follow suit. It doesn't want to give up going to sleep right after dinner (part of my prep before an overnight). It still wakes me up after about four hours of sleep (thankfully, not terrified that I've overslept and missed going to work!), reminding me that maybe a solid four-hour stretch is enough. It still has me eating little meals all day, rather than sticking to the traditional breakfast/lunch/dinner hours.

Maybe the body is just not as quickly adaptable as the brain. But I have a feeling that they are both pretty adaptable. And perhaps, even more important, they are both pretty protective. Turning one's hours upside down isn't easy. So, maybe all of these little quirks are simply my entire being protecting me from becoming so comfortable with day shifts that the (inevitable) shift back is a complete (and completely unsettling) U-turn. Maybe my body and brain are actually working together to keep me prepared in ways I could never manage on my own, especially once I am caught up in the schedule I am living today.

So, I manage the middle-of-the night wake-ups. And I crash sooner after dinner than I probably need to. But I go back to sleep, and I gobble up whatever extra hours I get with my family. Because it won't be long until I am back to being nocturnal. And I will be grateful for my body keeping me ready.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Paper Airplane Parent

I go to meet-the-teacher, and curriculum night, and parent/teacher conferences (well, most of the time).

I make (or order) dinners, make (or leave options for) lunches, make (or text advice about) breakfasts.

I remind kids to brush (when I remember to).

I encourage kids to read (though probably not enough).

I proofread homework, but don't rewrite it, listen to speeches, but don't restate them, hear about problems, and try to analyze them rather than jump in to solve them.

I look for the best schools, and then scramble to work toward them, look for the best opportunities, and then help my kids prepare for them, hope for the best grades, and then waver between yelling and crying when they don't happen.

I care as much as most, but am involved only as much as some. I plan my time to do as much as I can. But sometimes, there's not enough time to build a helicopter. Most of the time, I find, there's about enough time, and enough energy, for making a paper airplane.

Now, as we all know, most paper airplanes, even the simplest of them, fly at least a little. Their path may not be long, or high, or beautiful, but they do cover distance, and require little more than a piece of paper and a few minutes of folding in order to accomplish their mission.

And quite often, in life, that's all we really have time for. We fold the best we can. And then we put our creation out there, sometimes with rousing success, sometimes with straight-to-the-ground failure. We may not have changed the world, but in that moment, we have tried. My paper airplane won't be able to pick up my kids when they fall flat, but its flight will wake them up enough so that maybe they won't fall at all. My paper airplane won't give me a constant view of their progress, but it will land me in the middle often enough for them to know I'm there. My paper airplane won't fix much, but it will remind my kids, and me, that sometimes fixing is simply about folding a little differently.

So, I keep folding, hoping that the effort that I send into the air will be enough. Let's face it, even from a helicopter, enough isn't always enough. So, if I can maintain a good view, and keep from being crushed, I guess a paper airplane, at least some days, will do just fine for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Still Getting In: Looking and Finding

When I was graduating from college, I found myself trying to figure out--was I to be a psychologist or a writer?  Was I to be a theater person or a TV person? When I landed at One Life to Live shortly after graduation, I soon found myself trying to figure out--was I to follow a writing path or a production one? Was I to ride the waves of where I was or move to other shows to get more varied experience? In each case, I made choices that created my path. And I suppose that with each choice, I little by little found myself.

Now, years later, I watch my kids beginning to find themselves. They are neither close to graduating from college nor several years into their careers. They are just kids. Yet, as we negotiate the current "getting in" process, I can't help but wonder how kids just beginning to find themselves are supposed to find the path that is right for them. They are just beginning to figure out what matters to them, yet, they are called upon to write and talk, with passion, about what matters most to them. They are just figuring out what is right for them, yet they are supposed to know, or at least guess at, the places and journeys that will be the right ones for them.

I know that they will "find themselves" many, many times over the years. And, while the "getting in" path we are walking now sometimes feels as though it requires that the self-discovery happen now, I remind myself that finding oneself is an ongoing process--it certainly has been for me, and it will be for them too. So we keep looking. And we work on the "getting in." And we hope that the "finding" will find itself somewhere in between.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Lifer For Life

I ran into a former One Lifer in Central Park this weekend. It's not particularly surprising--there were quite a lot of us over the years (and I was there for quite a lot of those years!), and despite assorted retirements, moves to LA, and untimely deaths, many, many have stayed in New York. I see some, not regularly, but when someone organizes a gathering, or when we network through the crazy world of NYC production. Yet, the surprise encounters, whether on a street I always walk, or in a place I rarely go, always manage to make my heart skip just a little. There is a connection, both in the history, and in the loss. There is the feeling of it all being just yesterday, and a simultaneous feeling of it all being very long ago. There is an elated feeling about how far we've come, and a winded feeling about the effort it sometimes took to get there. But I guess that's what history and memories are all about--they force us to look just a little farther down that street that we might walk every day. And they let us see not just where we have been, but where we are going, just a little more clearly.

I ran into a former One Lifer in Central Park this weekend. And, as always, that little step back is helping me move forward.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Still Getting In: Along For The Ride

I admit it--being up all night for work makes me a little over prepared (translate: obsessive) about school admissions processes. During the day, a person can act on seeing schools, asking questions, bouncing ideas off others. But overnight, a concerned parent is left to her own devices (translate: hopes, fears, paranoia). The results can be miraculous--registration for a tour before the rest of the world even awakens, discoveries on a website I've viewed and re-viewed, ideas that simply wouldn't come about in the noise of a busy day. I have learned a lot of things about a lot of things. I have made lists and plans and calendars, and I am ready. The problem is, while I can create the agenda, while I can draw the road map, I am really not the driver. I may be the travel agent, but I am really just along for the ride.

Getting in starts quite early for a New York City family. When we explored schools for two year olds and four year olds, and even 10 year olds, I actually was the driver. While I might interpret a child's behavior as like or dislike of a certain school, and take that into consideration, I was the one writing the essays. I was the one determining what time we would have to start our days and how far we would travel. I was the one deciding which way to turn.

This trip is different. I can suggest, even push for, a different route. But in order for us to get to what is really the right place, I have to respect the driver's opinions. I can bring all the maps and program the GPS, but it is not my foot on the gas pedal. I can reach for the steering wheel, but if I do, I will mostly just create chaos.

So, this time, even if I have laid out the trip, I am mostly just along for the ride. It's a little young, perhaps, for a kid to be "at the wheel." But I suppose it's never too soon to start learning what it takes to sit in the driver's seat...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What Would Viki Do?

I sometimes wonder whether the Viki multiple personality storyline on One Life to Live was popular simply because it made for good drama, or also because it was so relatable to those of us trying to survive being different people every day.

It's not that I am making less of the mental illness or trauma involved in the story. Clearly, the plot line was about far more than balancing the different aspects of one's life. Yet, on a day when I spend the early morning working (but also texting home to check on my kids), the afternoon pursuing a creative endeavor (but also grocery shopping to make sure we have dinner), and the evening trying to prepare for the early morning work (and my family's following day, week, month, and future), I can't help but feel a little of that headache Viki used to get when she was crossing from one personality to another. I can't help but forget, at least sometimes, who I was at one part of the day when I have moved into another. And I can't help but let things slip through the cracks as I transition from one "me" to the next.

I am a fairly regular person, leading a fairly regular life, one not nearly as dramatic as Viki's (or, frankly, as that of ANY soap character). But once in a while, when that regular life starts to feel like SEVERAL regular lives, I remember a little bit of why we loved Viki so much. Whether her life was regular or not, she muddled through, for years, and somehow, managed to keep it together (often quite literally). So, if all I have to do is play a few different people each day of my life, I figure I can handle it. Because, hey--isn't that what Viki would do?