Thursday, January 11, 2018

My Monday/Your Friday

When you work at a 24/7 news operation (or any 24/7 endeavor), as I do, there are people working all day, every day. And since no one person can actually work 24/7, there is a staggering of staff. My week may start on Monday, while someone else kicks off his or her week on what to others is Thursday. Which means that when I come in, whether at 8am or at midnight (and time of day is another story altogether), bouncing and energetic to start my week, I have to remember that for some of my shift mates, my Monday is actually their Wednesday, or Thursday, or even Friday. While I am coming off of a couple of down days to regroup and rest up, they may be counting the hours till their days off.

It's an interesting way to think about life. I recently talked to a theatre stage manager, who compared her first day on a project to the first day of school, with everyone walking in to a new space, with new "classmates" and new supplies. While she might feel first day excitement or jitters, she was inevitably surrounded by people experiencing the same, or at least, very similar, things.

In my 24/7 world, there may be overlap of experience or feeling. But there is also the difference that comes with shift work. My eagerness to start may be met with your eagerness simply to be done. My exhaustion at 8am may be met with your fresh-faced "hello" to the day.

And so, on a day-to-day basis, I am faced with the lesson that essentially faces us all every day--that our view of the world is really just OUR view, influenced by how open or closed our eyes might be any given moment or how many days are left till our next period of down time. So, I remember to calm my "Monday" bounce, just a little, when talking to co-workers for whom it is "Friday." I bear in mind that my extreme need for sleep at 8am after an overnight, or after a series of overnights, might seem odd to the 8am-ers. In work, and in life, you just never know when your Friday is someone else's Monday.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Just Another New Year's Ugh

I am not good at this New Year's thing. More so than even my birthday, the turn to a new year forces me to reflect on time far more than I'd like. I'd rather keep moving, rather than counting time that way. I'd rather be doing than thinking about what I've done.

Yet, forced by the circumstances around me, I glance back at the past year. I feel the exhaustion of twelve months of politics I'd rather not experience, much less immerse myself in with each work day. I feel the growing up of children and the aging of adults. I ache for the events that are over, and I dread slightly the ones to come. And yet, in the midst of it all, I glimpse the moments that shaped my year--the out-of-the-blue emails and coffees, and the opportunities that came from them, the instances when my kids and I really clicked, the new people who entered my life, and the new things I allowed myself to discover.

I would still rather be doing than thinking, still rather it be the week after New Year's than that Eve or day. But it turns out that I have a success or two to carry me into the new year. It turns out that the surprises of 2017 suggest that there will be surprises in every year, if I allow myself to see them. So, I happily forge into 2018. Now that the "New Year's" is over, let the new year begin.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Who Let Me Out?

I spent the holiday season taking the scarce non-working, non-sleeping moments to walk and shop in the city, darting in and out of both "old favorite" stores and "never get to" ones. I came home with bags of items planned for and not, and I gave wrapped and bagged and shipped and not-even-wrapped gifts for Chanukah and post-Chanukah, and post-post Chanukah. And all the while, I said I should stop letting myself out of the house, if all the shopping was what came from being out of the house.

And then, in those shopping moments and in the giving moments, I thought about the moments, just a few years ago, when being out of work meant I really, really couldn't let myself out of the house. When every purchase was questioned, every dollar thought through, every choice weighed in the context of whether I'd work tomorrow or next week or next month, or maybe not for a really long time. And I began to realize that this year's shopping sprees (which, in the scheme of holiday shopping, might not even qualify as sprees) were not just an expression of this year. They were a celebration of a multi-year journey filled with ups and downs and disappointments and discoveries. They were a celebration of a weight being lifted (at least temporarily), and of the recognition that it is sometimes overnight work that lifts the weight. They were a celebration of the opportunities that come along when you least expect them. And they were a celebration of the people who have hung in during the good days and the not-so-good ones.

As I enter this new year, I hold on to that feeling of letting myself out of the house--and I reflect on the journey that has made being "let out" such big deal. Sometimes, it's not so much about what you give, or about what you get. Sometimes, it's really about where you allow yourself to wander...

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.