Sunday, August 20, 2017

Multitasker/Dental Disaster

I sat in the dentist chair, after an overnight of work, for an appointment I didn't imagine would be good. After all, life's adventures had made me cancel, or never even schedule, a year's worth of visits, and an upside down body clock had unhinged any personal care routine I had ever managed to have.

And there, in the dentist chair, it was all that I imagined and more--the disappearance of the hygienist mid-cleaning, notes being scribbled, whispers behind my head, some pain, and far more than the requisite amount of rinsing. Oh, and firm words and an appointment to come back "sooner than later" to fix a series of problems.

I survived, and have focused on my teeth far more than normal in the few days since. But I can't help but think, as I did in the chair that day--isn't it enough that I fairly reasonably manage three children while managing overnight work and off-hour sleep and dinner for people who like meat and people who don't and projects at home and...? Isn't any of that enough, or does being a dental disaster mean that ultimately, I have failed?

After the dentist, I went back to the managing and the running and the multitasking that usually make me feel pretty accomplished. I will brush my teeth more. I might even floss regularly. I will attempt to make sure that my next dentist visit has a little less pain and a lot less whispering. But along the way, I will also try to remember that while being ANY kind of disaster is not ideal, having a little disaster sometimes, while having a fair amount of success most of the time, is actually not so terrible. I'm still a darn good multitasker. And in six months (no, wait, I am now required to go every three), I will be a multitasker with much better teeth.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Drove To Pittsburgh

I make my way, white-knuckled, along the narrow, winding highway to our destination. I am usually a passenger (generally white-knuckled in that seat too), but, circumstances being what they are, I am driving, knowing that I just have to make it happen--my vision, my stamina, and my eye-hand-foot coordination just have to work.

And then I remember--I drove to Pittsburgh. When, in the midst of college decision making, my daughter needed to visit a school in Pittsburgh, I drove her, 6-plus hours each way, with not much sleep under my belt, in pre-dawn darkness and full daylight. I drove to Pittsburgh, because no one else really could. I drove to Pittsburgh, because there was no easier or more affordable way. I drove to Pittsburgh, because, well, it had to be done. And while I may not have done it as fast as it can be done, or as well as it can be done, I did it. I did it.

So, as I prepare for and handle the narrow road and the tight turns and the impending twilight and the eventual darkness, I repeat over and over in my head, so that no one else could hear, "I drove to Pittsburgh." And somehow (though perhaps not in record time), I make it. We arrive, in one piece, my hands even recovered from the white knuckles.

Sometimes, doing what we worry we can't do simply requires reminding ourselves of the things we HAVE done. I drove to Pittsburgh. And with the thought of that in the back of my head, who knows what else I can accomplish...?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Turning On A Dime

As I found myself pondering how quickly life can change, I looked up the expression "turn on a dime." From the idea of a car being able to turn, quickly and accurately, on something as small as a tiny dime, the expression, I found out, is usually used to describe the capability rather than any actual action. I'm not actually so sure about that part--in my life alone, the announcement of the cancellation of One Life to Live wasn't just ABLE to happen quickly, it actually DID happen. My quick, and sometimes out of the blue shifts from unemployment to a new gig--and back to unemployment again--weren't just ABLE to happen, they actually DID happen. Changes in my friends' lives weren't just ABLE to happen, they happened. And so, because things actually do "turn on a dime," we, like quick-reacting cars, learn to turn the wheel, put all our energy into the turn, and change course, just when we might think we are destined to continue in a straight line.

So, what does this "turning on a dime" do for us, other than putting stress on our "wheels" and the rest of our bodies? It reminds us of the (perhaps not often used) capabilities that we possess. It opens us to new paths and opportunities that we would likely not have explored if not forced to. 

When we say that a car can "turn on a dime," we are appreciating its useful feature. Shouldn't we, then, appreciate our own abilities to do so, even if the world's ability to turn quickly can sometimes put us off balance? Sure, the world seems to spin us around like an unexpected u-turn, but shouldn't we celebrate our ability to right ourselves, rather than be buried in the difficulty of change?

Our lives can turn on a dime, it is true. Prosperity and security one day can turn to unemployment and uncertainty the next. But if we can view these changes as we do the origin of the expression that describes them, we can begin to see the advantages they give us. Who wouldn't want a car that can "turn on a dime?" If that is the case, we may as well celebrate when we learn to do the same.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Digging In

Anyone who has had a toddler knows how firm--no, insistent--well, annoying--such small people can be when they want--or don't want--something. As I was reminded this week, this is no different when those small people become bigger. Well, actually, it's a little different. They have a better grasp of language, and they tend to be tall enough to argue with you eye to eye, which can make you more than a little convinced (less of a risk with a toddler) that they actually know what they are talking about.

And so it was that this week, I almost undid a partial Summer's worth of plans that I had painstakingly worked to create. The child dug in, and I almost caved. The child dug in, and I began to question my thought process, my agenda, my parenting skills. The child dug in, and I found myself on the brink of digging us out.

Yet, somehow, I dug down deeper and dug in myself. And, in a way impossible to see from the hole we'd dug on Day 1, Day 2 was better, Day 3 better still. One might even say that the child is "digging it," or digging in to experiences he would never had experienced had I given in when he dug in.

Sometimes, digging in because of our fears or our preconceptions, or allowing our kids (toddler or otherwise) to dig in to avoid theirs, deprives us and them of digging in to the best things in life. So, sometimes, as parents, and as people, we have to dig in too, so that we don't miss digging in to the good stuff. Dig in to dig in. Dig it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Don't--Stop--Thinking About Tomorrow

Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone?

That's what I began to think, when work and life and new projects started to take every ounce of time and energy and creative juice I'd always managed to summon to accomplish a daily blog. Things change, I thought. Nothing lasts forever (nor, perhaps, should it), I thought. Sometimes, it's just time to move on.

Problem is, yesterday may be gone, and tomorrow may be here (better than before?), but today has to work too. And it turns out that, busy or not, I still want the opportunity--and commitment--to reflect on the past and how it affects my present and future--and maybe other people's too.

When I began this blog almost five years ago, there were many days of relative inertia--days when, even when I wanted to get things moving, the job world just wouldn't cooperate. There were far too many hours on the couch, far too many hours reaching into the online job abyss, far too many hours wondering if I was simply on the wrong path. Five years later, the world and I both look very different. But "not washed up" is not just about moving on from a soap life. It's about moving on, no matter what life throws at you. These days, happily, that's more balls than I can actually field in a given day. I am busy, and lucky. But busy and lucky don't mean that I, or any of us, should stop thinking--whether it's about yesterday, about today, or about tomorrow. Because that's how we can make sure that all three stay "better than before."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

It's Not About You

I nap. I could say that it's a treat in which I indulge, just like a hot bath or a weekly massage or a bonbon before bed (none of which--except the occasional bonbon--factor into my life). But for me, napping is not a treat. It is a survival skill. It is a device that gets me from one night of work to the next. While it might sometimes feel decadent to be snoozing while the world is moving, and to be in my pajamas while everyone else is dressed, my nap routine is less a choice than a necessity, less an indulgence than a part of my job prep. So, when I am home, but not available to solve every problem and make every phone call and do every errand, it's not about you. It's about me, and right now, it has to be.

I take stocking cheese sticks and apples and coffee very seriously. These are among the items that get me through the night, so that chocolate bars and tortilla chips don't, and if I don't have them, they are either tricky or expensive or impossible to acquire at 1am. So, when you eat the last cheese stick or the last apple, and I go a little crazy, it's not about you. It's about me, and right now, it has to be.

I like to see things that need to happen happen, so I push for homework to be done in daylight, and dinner to be eaten on time, and instructions to be followed the first time I give them, or at least, the second. So, when it feels as though I am interrupting your free time or your preferred schedule or the pace of your day, it's not about you. It's about me, and right now, it has to be.

We are not always used to doing for ourselves, standing up for ourselves, putting our own needs first. It's always about someone else's schedule, someone else's choices, someone else's needs. So, perhaps that is one of the greatest lessons to be learned from working overnight. Making it work--and making many things in life work better--requires the ability to say, at least sometimes, "it's not about you. It's about me." So, when I make dinner at lunch time and ask you to brush your teeth in the middle of the afternoon, consider me crazy if you like, but please understand--it's not about you. It's about me, and right now, it has to be.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nannies and Dragons

I recently found myself thinking about Pete's Dragon--the Helen Reddy version movie of my childhood, in which a ridiculously cute animated dragon befriends a lonely young boy. By the end of the film, the boy has found a loving home, Helen Reddy has sung one of my all time favorites, "Candle On The Water," and the dragon has gone off to find another child who needs his help.

It's a familiar theme. At the end of Mary Poppins, the title character leaves the children in the able hands of their newly enlightened parents. Basically, the children in question just need a little help on their path, and once they are headed in the right direction, the magical helper, no longer so desperately needed, moves on to another mission.

Now, few of us have an animated dragon or a babysitter with a lamp-holding carpetbag to help us. We do, however, have friends and family, who often prop us up and guide us along. And, perhaps just as important, we have strategies we develop ourselves to make our paths clearer. 

For me, those strategies have included writing (thus, this blog), daily (often multiple times daily) emails with a coffee pal, and new perspectives from my kids. Do I ever find that I'm ready to let go of my Mary Poppins, or my Elliott the Dragon? Sometimes, perhaps. But just like those kids in the movies, I can't help but appreciate whatever makes the path a little easier and a lot friendlier. And unlike those kids in the movies, I have the power to hold on to the things that help me through the rough patches. I just have to split my focus between "within myself" and "in the world (or maybe the sky) nearby." And when looking for a little guidance, those are--with or without nannies and dragons--two pretty good places to find it.