Thursday, October 30, 2014

What You Wish For

People are always saying "be careful what you wish for," so I started thinking about what it is we wish for...
 

To be wanted...by the people we WANT to want us.
 

To be working...but to be available for every special event and kids' milestone.
 

To be paid for a week's worth of work...but to have an extra day off here and there to get everything done.
 

To go to work without having to leave home in the dark...but to come home early enough to have family dinner.
 

To be healthy...but to have a day once in a while just to stay cuddled up in blankets.
 

To be successful...but to choose how and when our success plays out.
 

To be successful...but to be able to choose what that success means.
 

To be trusting...but not so trusting that we are naive.
 

To be available for whatever is needed at home...but to be working, as much as possible.
 

To be around to drop off and pick up our kids...but not to have to fight with them about their homework.
 

To produce accomplished, successful children...but not to have to listen to complaints about practicing whatever it is they might become accomplished and successful in.
 

It occurs to me that our "Wish Lists" could go on like this for a long time. That doesn't mean we should stop wishing. It just means that maybe it's true--be careful what you wish for...you just might get it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Laughing All The Way

I worked hard today. I did the employee thing and the mom thing and the household manager thing and the educational consultant thing. It was all very serious--things needing to be done, goals needing to be met, and not really enough time to do it all. I am tired, but I made it through.
 

In the midst of it all, I wrote a few emails that were not so serious--okay, they were downright funny--that gave both me and their recipients a good laugh. And perhaps that--even more than all the hard work--is what actually got me through today.
 

We think that it is the hard work, and the dedication to our tasks or our families that keep us going. If we just work harder, squeeze more into a day, prove ourselves just a little more, we'll be more successful. We'll be happier. But is that true, really? Of course, it takes stamina and determination (and creativity and grit) to do everything we need to do in a day. But what does it take to survive at the end of those days? I think that the survival part has a lot more to do with being able to laugh a little in the midst of it all--at something our kids do, at something crazy that happens on our way to or from work, at an email with a friend, or at how we look at the end of a frazzling day. There's a lot of serious to be handled each day, but there's a lot of funny to be found too, and I find that the days when I'm able to enjoy the funny are the days I end up not just satisfied, but happy as well.
 

So go ahead, work your hardest, get it all done. But don't forget to put a little laughter in it. At the end of the day, that can make all the difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Balance

I begin every day looking for balance. Will I work hard enough at work, but not so hard that I am too tired to be worth anything at home? Will I leave home at home enough to focus on work when I need to? Will I set aside my kids' needs long enough to consider my own, and put my needs aside enough to make sure I am meeting theirs? This balance thing is tricky. I may begin every day hoping for it, but how many days do I really achieve it?
 

I suspect that most of us walk around off-balance most of the time. There are days when we do really well at work, and those days, maybe we aren't aware of every little thing going on with our kids. There are days when we really feel like Supermom, but have no time for the long, hot shower or trip to the gym that we'd like. There are days when we get a glimpse of what we really want for ourselves as people, but are off to the next thing before we can make anything happen. So, while we can start every day hoping for balance, what we get on most of them is just a tightrope--the challenge of balancing, without the tools for accomplishing it.
 

I have a feeling that my search for balance will be a forever one. If I can give my all at work, yet leave a little of me available to my family, if I can make a living, without making that my life, if I can walk away from most days feeling as though I have accomplished something, not just professionally, but personally as well, I guess that is all the daily balance I can really ask for.
 

Perhaps just a pole and a pair of sticky shoes to go with that tightrope...

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lip Balm and Laundry

Just about every Sunday night, we set out to turn three large laundry hampers into clean clothes for the coming week. It can be an arduous job. Between the sorting and the schlepping and the folding  and the fitting back in the drawers--let's just say that it's not anyone's favorite activity of the week. Yet, we barrel though, and sometimes, now that everyone can help with sorting or folding or distribution, it becomes a way to spend some quality time together. Okay, maybe the "quality" part is debatable, but it's definitely "together" time.
 

Sometimes, we laugh over how tricky it is to tell these days what belongs to whom. Sometimes, we grumble about the food wrappers or tissues that have been left in pockets and have gone through the wash. And once in a while, when what has gone through is a lip balm, we find ourselves doing much of the laundry again. Lip balm can do a number on laundry.
 

Luckily, this doesn't happen often. After all, in a busy life, it's hard enough to do everything, and nearly impossible to fit in re-doing anything. And finding you've missed things (whether it's in sorting laundry or in doing any task) can be demoralizing. But these things happen. They just do. And what I've learned is that we move on. If it takes re-doing, we do it. If it takes some apologizing, we do it. If it takes spending some of our time not exactly the way we want to, we do that too.
 

Kind of like life, isn't it? We don't just stop doing the things we want to do, just because they might cause a difficulty down the road. We can be more careful, sure. Careful to put the lip balm somewhere else, careful to remove the candy wrappers and the tissues and the quarters and the dollars and the earbuds from our pockets before loading the washers. But things happen--dollars get washed, and wrappers get dried, and lip balm does what it does, and life bumps along, and we deal with it. We don't stop our lives because we've hit a snag. We learn from it, of course. We become a little more vigilant perhaps. But when we stop carrying snacks or spare change or lip balm because of what we fear MIGHT happen, we might as well throw in the towel.

And let's face it--who really wants to wash another towel?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Catching Up and Out

There are Saturdays when I wake up refreshed from a different kind of sleep than I've had all week, and there are Saturdays when it seems that I won't possibly be able to make up for the sleep I missed out on for five days. And there are Saturdays when, either way, I'm up and out the door. Today was one of those days...
 

What did that get me?
 

A walk in the clearest air we've had since it started raining days ago.
 

A chance to talk about my week with friends and with potential new friends.
 

A little more knowledge and a little bit of music.
 

Perspective only gained by stepping out into the world.
 

The right to take a nap later and feel justified in doing it.
 

The knowledge that, whatever I did the rest of the day, at least I'd done something.
 

Sometimes, Saturdays are about catching up, and sometimes they are about getting out. And sometimes, it's worth managing a little bit of both.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In The Audience of Life

When I was done doing the work that, it seemed, might have kept going had I let it, I race-walked (dressing for the day, including high-heeled boots, doesn't lend itself to running) to see my daughter in a show. Having made it in time, I settled in to lose myself in what was happening on the stage, which I did for a large portion of the two-plus hours I was there. While the day had sent my head in all sorts of directions, sitting in the audience forced me, just for a moment in time, to put all else aside and focus on what was right in front of me.
 

Now, my day was unusually event-filled, but when I think about it, almost every day presents me (and many of us) with more things to think about and more things to do than might be humanly possible in a 24-hour period (particularly when ideally, at least six of those hours are devoted to sleeping). We get good at multitasking, and we try desperately to split our brain to be able to consider and manage the tasks of work and life and present and future all at the same time. Sometimes, that makes for a sharper, more active brain, other times, just an overwhelmed one. And almost all the time, a great deal of race walking.
 

What's great about being part of an audience, however, is that it forces us to set aside what we need to do, and focus simply on what we get to see. To set aside, even if just briefly, all the things that require decisions and choices and taking responsibility, and just absorb what is set before us. It is a rare opportunity, and one that we do well to seek out and take.
 

Watching a show or a movie, or even a sporting event, doesn't remove our responsibilities--it simply puts them on hold. Processing and handling what happened in my day will likely spill over into many days--that's just how life is. But for a moment, I put it all aside and sat in the audience. And that gave me lots of reasons for applause.

Friday, October 24, 2014

From School to Work

I visited multiple schools today. If you are a parent in New York City, that's just what you do. And if you are the parent of more than one child in New York City, you do it a lot. At a variety of stages in your child's life, you are called upon to choose (I use this term loosely, since you may "choose" what you want, but someone else actually "chooses" whether you get it!). You visit, you compare, you prepare for tests, you take them, you discuss, and discuss, and discuss, and then you fill out a form and wait to find out what happens.

It is a long process, and today was just an early step.

I learned a lot of things in just one day, things that I have probably learned before, things that, as I think about it, are remarkably similar to looking for work...

1. It's difficult to know for sure what something is until you see it. No amount of reading and asking around can really prepare you for "being there." And just as you can't be quite sure how a job interview will go, you can't quite be sure how a school visit will go.

2. Wanting is important, and waiting is hard, but both are unavoidable parts of the process. In both job-hunting and school searching, it is important to be invested--to figure out what you want, and to do your best to go after it. Unfortunately, after you've done your part, and become suitably invested, the rest (and that "rest" may take a while) is not necessarily up to you.

3. You may think that there is one "right" place for you--or your child--and that you will have failed if you don't get in to that one "right" place. Despite appearances, this is as untrue in school searches as it is in job searches. We are adaptable people, really we are, and often, we find real satisfaction, and growth, in places we never thought were the "right" ones.

4. When job-searching, you dress the part, set up all the logistics for the part, study for the part, put your very best foot forward, and play nicely with others when you're there. Not easy, right? On the school hunt, add to that making sure your child does all these things too. Suddenly, the job hunt sounds a whole lot simpler.

5. Ultimately, in both processes, even if you start out thinking you can control your destiny, you quickly learn that "control" is a very, very relative term.

Like job searching, school visiting (if you are a parent in New York City) can happen a lot more often than you ever imagined. Pace yourself, on both fronts. Chances are, you've still got miles (and interviews and days of waiting) to go.