Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Not So Delicate Balance

I emerge from the fog of late night work, a little sleep under my belt, into a world of pickups and drop offs and parenthood in general. And despite the fact that I probably look a little ghostly, I couldn't be happier. Despite the fact that I can't necessarily form coherent sentences in my conversations with fellow parents and the fact that I don't quite have the energy to play ping pong and video games with my kids, I revel in being part of the family world.

The balance of work and family is an ongoing challenge, not just for me, but for parents like me all over. For how many years have I gone to morning school events, sweating all the while about being late to work? For how many years have I ceded pickup duties to assorted babysitters and had to forgo midday parent events? Today, having worked in the wee morning hours and slept during school, I could be there for the rest of the day. Perhaps I was a bit unbalanced--let's face it, that idea of work/life balance is a myth, no matter what time of day you work. But when the seesaw shifts, even just a little, it feels good to be able to reach out and touch the things that might otherwise have passed you by.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Night In The Life of a Freelancer

11:30pm--I have napped wisely. When it is time to leave home for my midnight shift, I am awake. I am ready. Ready for heading out in the dark, ready for the taxi, ready for the night.

12:00am--I have arrived, and while the building may seem empty, I am welcomed by people who remind me it's not. Overnight is not a solitary endeavor. It is a lifestyle that others are clearly more used to than I.

1:00am--Hour one has passed quickly. Perhaps the wise napping has made this workable.

2:00am--Hour two was not quite so quick. But hey, I'm awake and alert. Maybe I really can manage this.

3:00am--Three hours down, but still two till my meal break. The (at least I thought so) caffeinated tea I'm practically inhaling seems to be somewhat lacking in caffeine.

4:00am--I must have blinked, because somehow, it became 4. Well, not really, but considering how long 3 took, 4 felt positively speedy.

5:00am--Meal break. As it doesn't really feel like breakfast time (though at home, I'd be rising and breakfasting right about now), I have a frozen Indian food dinner instead--a little protein, a little eye-opening spice. Perhaps I really am embracing this middle of the night thing (though a little drift off during the break reminds me otherwise). Even an hour "at lunch" is a long hour at this hour.

6:00am--Back from "lunch" and back to work, and what was 8 hours stretching out before me is now only 2. And anybody can do 2, right?

7:00am--The last hour has been full of deadlines, so has flown past. Just one hour left. One look in the ladies' room mirror reminds me my body is not used to this yet.

8:00am--Done, and headed home. The caffeine from the tea is finally kicking in (or is it just the fact that it is now light out?) I have made it, at least for one night.

Just a night in the life of a freelancer...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Big City, Small Town

I found myself at a quintessential New York City event, one that I attended on my own over twenty years ago and that I attend these days with my kids. Along the way, in the crowds of strangers (because that's how quintessential New York City events are), I encountered people from assorted parts of my life here. Despite being a very large place, New York can feel oddly small sometimes.

When I attended the event all those years ago, it was with the thought that I wouldn't be in the city long, so I'd better make the most of it. Now, over twenty years later, still here, it is just one of a number of things that make the city home. It is seeing someone you know just about everywhere. It is deciding to go somewhere and simply hopping a bus or the ankle express to get there. It is feeling a part of something, even when you are just part of a crowd. It is not having to look far to find creativity and art and performance. It is being able to share a twenty-something year old memory with people who are making new memories of their own.

I can't say if I will be a New Yorker forever, but today, it felt a lot like my very big, very small town.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Night or Day

I walked into my building after a late night of work, and the doorman who has been working nights in my building for more years than I've lived here, whom for years I barely saw, smiled as he opened the door for me. A few weeks ago, when he first saw me arriving home late, the smile was a confused one, and I explained that it was a new job with new hours I'd have to get used to. These days, the smile is a "welcome home, get yourself to sleep" one, and it is one of the best things I see after a late day.

While late night work is new to me, it is clearly not new to him. Overnight has been his shift for years, and I suppose his life is structured around it. He could easily just see my late hours as what people do. But his response, his smile as I'm walking in, reminds me that it's okay for me to be "just getting used to." And the friendly face reminds me that no matter what time you work, you can still come home to the rest of your life. Whether it's night or day.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I Guess I Can

I didn't think I could possibly go through our morning routine after a late night of work and before a return to work. But I had to, so I guess I can.

I didn't think I could make all the appointments and make all the phone calls and make all the lunches. But I had to, so I guess I can.

I didn't think I could cover all the bases, make at least some hits, and field balls from every direction. But I had to, so I guess I can.

I didn't think I could handle new schedules and new tasks and new expectations. But I had to, so I guess I can.

I didn't think I could manage parenting new ages, understanding new grades, navigating new schools. But I had to, so I guess I can.

Every day, we are called upon to face the new, the different, the challenging, the scary. Sometimes, it's too much. But more often than not, we make it work. So I guess we can.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Stepping Back

We are so conditioned to jump in, to forge ahead, to take a leap. But what happens when, by choice or by chance, we step back instead?

When we step back, we can sometimes see things a little more clearly.

When we step back, we sometimes allow our children to be the heroes that they can be.

When we step back, we stop trying to take responsibility for all the mistakes, whether they are ours or other people's.

When we step back, we have more room to breathe, more room to stretch, more room to grow.

When we step back, we can begin to forgive ourselves for what we can't control.

When we step back, sometimes we regain the energy to step forward next time.

When we step back, we may be going against everything we were ever taught. But perhaps we're learning something in the process...

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Sometimes, I would like things to happen right away--job progress, the effects of exercise, kids following instructions. Most of the time, things take longer than that. Job progress takes patience and working and networking. Seeing the effects of exercise takes days and weeks. And kids following instructions...

Today, as I fasted for Yom Kippur, trying not to count the minutes until I could eat again, I thought a bit about time--about how we want it to go faster, only to find that we have missed things along the way. If we see and feel the effects of exercise too soon, will we keep doing that exercise? If work progress comes too quickly, is it the right kind of progress? Do we rush our children through life, only to find that we have missed the high points in all our hurrying?

I was certainly not sorry when I could eat again tonight. Another fast is done, Yom Kippur is over for another year. I just wonder what I've learned. I may be a reasonably good faster, but have I learned when it's important to slow down? I may have learned how to "check the boxes," but have I learned which "boxes" really matter?

Perhaps "faster" only really matters if it helps us take things a little slower...

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Chalkboard And The Mirror

I race from work to services, eager to erase the effects of a less than perfect day. But this, I am quickly reminded, is Yom Kippur. Any erasing to be done requires a lot of reflection first, so my less than perfect day becomes just the start of reflecting on a less than perfect year...

I wonder...will feelings of confidence always be challenged by worries of failure?

Will opportunities to make a difference always be eclipsed by imperatives to make money?

Will a desire to build for the future always be crushed by the need to manage for now?

Will the intention of reconnecting always be postponed because the attention always goes to networking?

Will what feels good always take second place to what has to be done?

Will long-term plans always have to wait for short-term fixes?

Will what I can do today always depend on what I have to do tomorrow?

Will this time each year always make me feel as though I am just searching and never quite finding?

We can erase from the chalkboard, but the mirror still remains...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Managing The Trade

It is Monday, and I am home. I am not out of work, but I'm not working. This is simply the trade off in a work schedule that includes nights and weekends. On a day when the Monday through Friday world is heading back to the weekly routine, I am left with a day off. I talk to friends who are tired returning to work, and I realize that if I want to, I can take a nap today. I reflect on what I didn't do at home while I was working on Saturday, and I realize that if I need to, I can play catch-up on the cleanup today.

And suddenly, I realize that this freelance life I lead sometimes actually works. I may bemoan working on the weekends instead of during the week, but come Monday, I have the napping/baking/taking it slow time that my Monday through Friday friends can't fathom. I may feel strange leaving for work some days at the time when most people are heading home, but I am present for kid moments I would otherwise miss. I may have a hard time saying "no" to work days offered, but I don't have to say "yes" every time.

The truth is, life is full of trade offs. In order to direct at One Life to Live, I had to manage the stress of not knowing when it would happen next and whether the producers and actors would like my directing choices. In order to be part of "soap camp," the shooting of the soaps for the Internet, I had to manage a long daily train trip and often late hours. And while my time at ABC was wonderfully stable for a long time, I had to manage balancing my own expectations with those of producers and crew and staff.

So, on this Monday when I am home, not out of work but not working, I remind myself that this is just one of life's trade offs. One that I hope I'll remember when I'm working my next Saturday night.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Life, With A Side Of Coffee

I sit with my tea (okay, the coffee is a generalization), waiting for a friend who is stuck on a seemingly perpetually delayed weekend train. Having scoped out the prime "easy chairs in the corner" spot, I sip and watch as life goes on around me--families with small children, one parent up with a fussy one, the other parent trying to drink and talk and pay enough attention to the other child. Medical students with laptops and textbooks, taking notes as if their lives depended on it. Mothers reading the paper in peace. Singles relaxing after a run. Surrounding me is an odd microcosm of life, complete with coffee cups.

How often do we get to observe people whose lives are similar, yet so different, from ours? How rare is it that we stop and observe anything at all?

As my friend arrives, a survivor of the transportation madness that we all share, I return to my own little part of the coffee shop world, once again caught up in my own coffee, rather than other people's, once again fairly oblivious to the lives spinning around me. Most of the time, after all, our own lives are about all we can handle. Only once in a while can we sit back and observe life. Life, that is, with a side of coffee.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Getting In, Part One

As I muddle through the college admissions process with my daughter, I can't help but think of my own journey to "the college of my choice," which seems like a very long time ago. I remember only some of the "high points"--the days pre-common app and computer, when we struggled to make sure my typed essay would fit in the given box for each school, the campus visits and overnights, the rejections and the admissions (I don't actually remember all of these--just that I eventually got in where I wanted).

Now, years later, as my daughter ponders how her choices and the outcomes of the process will affect the rest of her life, I wonder how my life would have been different, had the process and outcomes been different.

Would I have been happy somewhere else? Probably. If I have learned nothing else in my life, I have certainly learned that we can adapt to just about anything. I would have had different courses and different activities and different friends, and because of all that, a different family now, but at the time, I imagine I would have adapted.

Would a clearer picture of what I wanted to do have changed my choices, my process, my path? As I watch my daughter, who seems far more focused than I remember being at the time, I wonder if I could have anticipated better, with courses and contacts that might have fit better for where I ended up. And then I realize that sometimes, where you end up is really all about the path you wander, rather than about the plan you originally had.

As we continue through the many month process, I'm sure there will be reflection and doubt, excitement and disappointment throughout. We can't always know where what we think of as successes and failures in the present will take us in the future. For now, it feels all about "getting in." But down the road, it's more than just the "getting in" that will ensure that we "get ahead."

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Laying In The Pieces

I have discovered over the last month that editing a news package is often not a straightforward, beginning-to-end endeavor. Often the necessary pieces come in one by one, so that, as with a jigsaw puzzle, the editor builds an outline, then fits together the inner pieces as they arrive. It is a new way to think, a new way to work--with a little predicting, a little guessing, and often a little scrambling once all the pieces are available.

What I am learning is that, in news packages, as in life, you don't really have to know everything in order to start something. You don't have to have all the answers in order to make a lot of progress. And you don't have to be sure about the whole road in order to take the first steps. In the absence of complete information, we learn to guess a little. We learn to estimate, using the knowledge we already have, so that when the rest of the material arrives, we are prepared, with spaces to put it, and ideas about how it will fit. We won't always know which "soundbites" will make the most difference to us. Our view may be affected by how our story is written or narrated. But by beginning to lay out our story, even before all its pieces are there, we can be more prepared to make adjustments along the way. So that making a good story--in news and in life--becomes as simple as just laying in the pieces.

Friday, September 18, 2015

When You Look Up

When you look up from your work, you may discover that you hear things that will help you with your work.

When you look up from your Facebook or your Twitter or your Instagram, you may discover that you have friends and followers standing right next to you.

When you look up from your video game, you may discover that the people around you are really happy to see your face.

When you look up from what seems important, you may discover some other things that are important.

When you look up from the "must do," you may discover the "should do."

When you look up from trying to handle today, you may discover that you can change tomorrow.

When you look up, you will almost always discover that you can see more...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seven Days of The Week

From a very young age, we are taught the days of the week. We look at them on signs in the front of our preschool classroom, we sing songs about them, and we quickly learn their order and the difference between the weekdays and the weekends. Weekdays are for school and work, and weekends are for play. On weekdays our parents get up early, and weekends they make us let them sleep late. With all of this learned as early as preschool, we are "days of the week" experts before we even learn to multiply or tie our own shoes.

Yet suddenly along the way, everything we've been taught about the order of days and the weekdays and the weekends is thrown up in the air. Suddenly, we find ourselves sleeping on the weekdays and working on the weekends. Suddenly, what used to be a sequence so simple it made up a song becomes a mishmosh of pieces of information that go against everything we learned. What day is today? I don't know. What time do I go out, eat lunch, see my family? I'm not sure.

The world doesn't always work like the song anymore. Maybe for some people, it never did. Those preschool expectations are from a time--at least for me--when things had more of an order. It doesn't mean we shouldn't be teaching three year olds the days of the week anymore. It simply means that we shouldn't expect every "Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday" to look the same. Because the days may sound the same. But these days, depending on the week, they can all look very, very different.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It May Be Early, But It's Never Too Late

Early this morning, I had the opportunity to observe a friend's television work. While there were familiar parts to what she did, I walked away with a whole new set of perspectives, and an accompanying set of questions.

As I recounted to some of the people I met all the places I'd been in my career, it almost sounded odd that I was observing. We tend to think of observing being for people just starting out, and I am certainly not that. But as I learned today, observing something new is not--well, shouldn't be--just for the newbies among us. No matter how much we know, we can always learn a little more. No matter how many places we've worked, we can gain insight from just one more. It's not just about new technology (though there was plenty of that). It's about seeing from a different vantage point, about looking in different ways. What I would have learned from observing the same place two years ago would not have been the same as what I learned today, because I'm not the same.

It's never too late to see a little more, ask another question, learn things we don't know. And whether we are doing, or just observing, there's always a new opportunity to discover things from a different angle. It really is never too late.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finding Meaning

As I look for the meaning in the traditions and rituals of today, I find it in the unexpected--

It is less in the words of the prayers and more in the reading them alongside so many people I realize I know.

It is less in the solemnity and more in the joy.

It is less in the dressing up and more in the going together.

It is less in the looking just within myself and more in the looking around me at others' faces.

It is less in the text of the speeches and more in the people who are speaking.

It is less about just reflecting on my own year and more about doing so in a room full of people doing the same about theirs.

It is less about disconnecting for the day and more about reconnecting.

It is less about observance and more about gratitude.

It is less about individuality and more about community.

It is a little about what is and what was and more about what could be.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Just Another New Year's Eve

I have the (perhaps funny) opportunity to celebrate the beginning of a new year multiple times each year. There is, of course, January 1st, the beginning of the calendar year, complete with little horns and dropping balls and sips of champagne. There is the beginning of the school year, perhaps the most earth-shattering new year of all, with its break from summer vacation, its set of higher expectations, and its re-introduction to tight schedules and logistical pressures.

And then there is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which started tonight. Like the other two New Years, it is full of traditions. But unlike the others, it is also full of reflection time. It is a restart button of sorts, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on what we want the restart to look like. And because it is one of three different New Years I get to observe, it is an additional opportunity to think about "getting it right."

I don't imagine that this new year will completely change how I approach life. For now, I'm just grateful for the moment--the day--to ponder it all. And to say, for one of several times this year, "Happy New Year."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

You Still Have Made A Choice

Among the songs that plays in our apartment quite often is a Rush selection featuring the lyric, "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." While I could hardly be described as a rock groupie, I do like the message of the song. Sometimes, we think that we have no power to make decisions or we spend so long making our decisions that they end up being made for us. There's nothing wrong with looking at the angles. There's nothing wrong with weighing the risks and advantages, so that ideally, the results of our choices are good ones. But ultimately, whether by action or by inaction, we are making choices every day, choices for which we have to take responsibility.

Over my time at One Life to Live, I watched as various people, both in front of and behind the camera, chose to leave to pursue other options. Some of them were moving on to something specific, others were just leaving because they figured it was time. I couldn't imagine leaving for nowhere in particular, so I stayed, for years. And while every moment might not have been perfect, those years left me with a set of memories and a sack full of experience and contacts to take out into the world. By decision or by not deciding, I determined, at least in part, what my life would be.

It's true, I guess, that when we choose not to decide, we really are choosing after all. Perhaps we give a bit of power to those who seem to make the choice for us, but ultimately, it is our choice that is made. And sometimes, that choice, not made, but made after all, can lead us in some of the most interesting directions.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

She's Got Skills

Having worked all night, I slept for half the day. I woke up to find a little renewed energy, an inbox full of (not necessarily important) emails, and rather significant disorientation about day and time and, well, just about everything.

Within hours, I had largely regained my balance, jumping into the kid pickups and making dinner normalcy of life. While not completely recovered from my all-nighter (one of several this week), I had succeeded in making it mesh, at least today, with the rest of my life.

I'm not saying that I've discovered that night work is the way to go. I don't know that I will ever be a night person. But today, I got a glimpse of some of the survival skills that make it work. And I suppose that is the case with anything new that we face--what we can handle depends largely upon how willing we are to learn new skills, whether those skills are new programs and applications or daytime sleeping.

I can't know what the coming weeks--or months or years--will bring. In the meantime, I'll be banking the sleep and the other new skills--because a few new skills are worthwhile, no matter where you end up.

Friday, September 11, 2015

New Leaves

Despite the Halloween candy that already fills the store shelves, it feels long from any time that would suggest leaves, falling or otherwise. Yet, we have tumbled into the start of a new school year. Somehow, this time of year is always like a "reset" button of sorts--new classes, new teachers, and the chance to turn over, well, new leaves. Will we have the same kind of schedule that we had? Will we have the same friends or the same interests? Will we face things in the same way, or will we find new and better ways--new leaves?

It's not easy to see the world in new ways. It's not easy to break old habits and embrace new ones. Yet, every year, around this time, we just kind of do. Sometimes, the result is that we are completely overwhelmed. But often, the outcome is our discovering that we can accomplish a great many things that seemed impossible not that long ago.

While it may be a while until the leaves fall, it's not too soon to turn over new leaves of our own. So that when we see the leaves fall, we'll be really ready to appreciate them.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Little Armor

Having read about a (highly responsible) friend's smartphone screen cracking, today I purchased a suit of armor for my own. It is not shiny and silver, but it encases my phone as if it were. It is not as cute or amusing or compact as my previous "melting ice cream" case, but as I hold it and type into it, its shape and weight suddenly entirely different than they have been for two years, I am reminded of the weeks after Hurricane Sandy, when I wore sneakers for days, because they gave me a feeling of security and solid ground in a time that was full of anything but.

I have no idea (besides the promises on the case's packaging) whether this new "armor" will, in fact, protect my little device from anything I or the world might throw at it. I have no idea whether it will really prevent the screen from ever cracking. What I do know is that right now, the new weight and the solid feel give me an uncanny sense of a bit of certainty in an uncertain world. The way in which the new casing fills my hands gives me a little confidence in a time that makes me nervous. And my having made the change gives me a feeling of control in situations that often feel out of control.

We can't always create security in an insecure world. But sometimes, there are little things--sneakers, a favorite pillow, mac and cheese, or a little phone-sized armor--that can help us stand, and walk--and type and call--just a little steadier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Losing The Remote

The remote in our apartment is often missing. As I am not the primary TV watcher there (staring at an editing screen all day can do that to a person), the remote's disappearance doesn't really phase me. The control of the TV doesn't matter so much to me, so the location of the remote doesn't matter so much either.

It is not the same with the other parts of my life. I like to have control. I like to know what I am doing and where I am going. I like to know what's for dinner and what I have to do to make dinner happen. Sometimes, however, my control, much like the TV's, goes missing. Suddenly, the channels and the programs and the volume of my life are not my choice. Suddenly, I find myself watching the show in front of me, wondering how exactly I ended up in this place with this point of view. And I can't change the channel, because I've lost the remote control.

And then I find the "remote." And I suddenly have the power to choose, both what I'm watching and the volume of the content. Suddenly, I have the power to stay or to walk away, to change the channel, or to settle in right where I am. And somehow, having the life remote control in my hand makes all the difference in the world. It may not mean that the programs to choose from are any different, but I can choose which to stop on, and I can choose when to turn the whole thing off. It may not allow me to make the picture any clearer, but it allows me to see the picture on my terms before I decide what to do with it.

I have no immediate plans to dig in the couch cushions to find our TV remote. As for my personal remote control, I'm going to work harder to keep hold of it. Because sometimes, having the control, remote or otherwise, is the most important thing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rulers and Straight Lines

It's no secret--I have never really been able to draw a straight line, even with a ruler. It's not that it has incapacitated my life. It has just made creating school project posters and hanging pictures straight slightly more challenging.

It occurs to me that my life is perhaps not so different. While some people make one-year plans and five-year plans and ten-year plans, and find help from rulers--the boss kind and the office supply kind--I find myself far more often simply following the not very straight line (somehow of my own making) that is set in front of me. If the line curves a little, I curve with it. If it requires me to work hard to keep my balance, I cling on for dear life. I don't look back much. Following a not very straight line is hard enough as it is.

Not "drawing" straight lines can be an adventure. It can be freeing. But every so often, I wonder if my life would be simpler if there were just a few straight lines. If you can draw a straight line, you know what the title of your poster will look like. If you can draw a straight line, you can feel as though your artwork will hang straight, your hems will be even, and your life will come with some sort of predictability. Sometimes, all those things seem pretty attractive.

So, every so often, I pull out a ruler, the office supply kind. Maybe I can draw straight lines now, and know where they will lead. Chances are, I just have to keep making the best of whatever lines, crooked or straight, that I can draw.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Let Us Eat Cake

There was a cake in a cardboard box, and there was a room full of cake-interested people. But there were no plates. And before I knew it, I had disassembled the box, first at its seams, then into even smaller pieces. "Nothing," I said, "should get between people and cake."

This did not take place at a gathering of friends. It did not happen at a family party, or at a parents' event. It happened at the job I've had for all of about four weeks. As I write about it, I can't quite believe I said what I said, or did what I did. It just happened.

Is it me? Have I suddenly, or gradually, gotten past my sense of decorum and hierarchy? Maybe. Maybe the years of reinvention have left me feeling that underneath it all, I just have to be myself, no matter where that might leave me.

Is it the place or the people around me? Have I happened upon a group where I feel that I make sense, with people who appreciate me, or get me, or both?

Because I jumped in, almost without thinking, and without second guessing myself, we all had cake. And in that moment, I had a little something sweeter--a moment in time when I was just myself.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Surprise, Surprise

Surprise, surprise--brownies made with applesauce don't taste or feel or anything the same as brownies made with oil.

Surprise, surprise--when you work nights, you're a little tired during the day.

Surprise, surprise--when you miss the dinner table conversation, you're almost sure to be playing catch-up at breakfast.

Surprise, surprise--an apartment doesn't get clean just because you want it to.

Surprise, surprise--time passes, whether you give it permission to or not.

Surprise, surprise--if you don't make the decisions, they just get made for you.

Surprise, surprise--most of the time, life doesn't happen quite the way you expected...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Labor Days

As I head toward a weekend of work, I can't help but think back to Labor Day weekends past, when there was certainly no work on the weekend, and no work on the holiday, because no self-respecting budget-conscious soap would pay holiday rates for an entire studio crew. So Labor Day weekend was part of time away, or simply time at home to prep for the start of school, or sometimes just like any other weekend.

But times change, and work changes. Unlike soaps, news doesn't just stop because a holiday is more expensive. And unlike the days when I knew where I'd be tomorrow, and next week, and next month, these days, as I have learned over the past few years, there's no telling where I will be, and no telling how that "where" will fit into some semblance of a life. So if there is work, I go. If there are new opportunities, I explore them. Because labor, and Labor Day, are not the same as they used to be. And some days, Labor Day or not, it's just about keeping up.

Friday, September 4, 2015

"What I Did This Summer"

My kids are probably long past having to write a first day of school essay on their summer adventures, but nevertheless, the topic comes up--with friends, with teachers, and for me, with other parents. There will be people talking about sleepaway camps and exotic vacations. There will be discussion of new skills and great accomplishments. The ten-week period called summer will be examined, celebrated, and then finally mourned, as we immerse ourselves in the rigors of school and the cool breezes of fall.

What will be said about our summer, the mishmash of days and activities that came out of uncertainty and changing circumstances? What will be thought of the ten weeks of very active and often not very active days? What will we say when we look back upon these few months?

I have often thought that what we would remember would be aimless hours, indecision, the inability to do because of too much uncertainty to plan. What we didn't, or couldn't, do, rather than what we did.

But as I reflect on these ten weeks, I think about the laughter when we, left to make it up as we went along, found ourselves enjoying each other's company. I think about the sleeping late when we didn't have to run somewhere, and the times when we each "rose to the occasion" when someone else needed it. I realize that while there may be things we didn't do, there were a great many planned and unplanned things we DID do.

So, as I begin to write my own imaginary "what I did this summer" essay, I feel good about the faces, and the moments, that I see in my head. I feel at peace about the sentences that will be written and about the conclusions that will be drawn. And even if it's not the most entertaining story to present to the class, it will be a writing assignment to keep in my drawer, and in my memory, for a long time.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

It's All--Or Is It?--In The Timing

I was determined to pace myself. Which, for a person used to springing out of the gate at 5am, is no easy feat. It started well--staying in bed until close to 8, sleeping off the night of work that ended well past midnight. I seemed to be "pacing myself" as my version of "cleaning up" was throwing away about three things an hour. I assumed I was "pacing myself" as I stayed inside with my kids, rather than running all over to do errands or grab some fresh air (an oxymoron anyway in New York City August). Yet, as midnight (at work again) approached, I became painfully aware that my version of "pacing myself" would have to change. That a sufficient version of "pacing myself" would require not just doing things slowly, but slowly adding some sleep along the way.

When I was a Booth PA at One Life to Live, I used to say that the timing of scenes (and we Booth PAs lived and died by our timings) could vary widely, based on things as simple as what the actors had eaten for lunch. We might try to predict the pace of a scene--emergency scenes going quickly, emotional ones going slowly--and we were expected to, but in the end, we could really only record what the pace actually was, and possibly take the heat for estimating incorrectly.

My version of guessing at pace is clearly not so different these days. I can only estimate what will be a reasonable pace for my set of scenes. My pace, and how it fits the show of our lives, will change, just like the actors' pace way back when, depending on what I've eaten and what I need to do, whether in my work life or in my personal life. For, you see, life, like soap opera, doesn't always run according to the stopwatch. So we'd better keep pacing ourselves, so that we make it to the next cliffhanger.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Small Baby, Big Stroller

As I made my way to a work shift that was to start just as the world seemed to be heading home, I found myself waiting for the bus next to a young mother who frantically tried to fold her stroller, baby in her arms, so that she could board the bus. While I couldn't manage to fold her stroller (has it been that long for me, or was I never good at that to begin with?), I carried the folded buggy on to the bus, and held it next to me while she held the baby in her arms. I wondered, would she get help if I had to get off before she did? Would any of these people heading home look up from their phones long enough even to realize that she needed help? And if they didn't, could you blame them, many of them carrying their own burdens, eager to get home to their own families?

As it turned out, she got off at the same stop as I did. Gingerly, I got the stroller down the bus aisle and off of the bus, bruising only a few knees. And as I hurried to make the train that would get me to work on time, I saw the mother working to unfold the stroller, baby in her arms, so that she could continue her journey.

As I finished my trip, I thought about how stressed I had been about my own journey, and how "babysitting" the stroller had allowed me to focus on something--and someone--else, just for a little while. The mother had to get somewhere with the small baby and the big stroller, and she believed that somehow, with or without help, she could do it. I suppose that we are all in that situation--we do what we have to do, and make the leap that we can handle it, either with help, or simply with sheer will. And every so often, there is someone to help us up the stairs, through the doors, along the journey. So that we can hold tight onto the sometimes very small things that are really important.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On The Right Track

I learned from my daughters that in the theater, a "track" is the path and set of actions that a particular character follows throughout the show. When an understudy jumps in, he or she generally follows that "track," so as not to upset the balance of the rest of the show.

Often, we think of tracks as something far more standard and defined, like train tracks that connect one city with another. If we want to get from one place to another, we simply follow the same track as anyone else making that journey. Right?

It turns out that the theater version of "track" is a whole lot closer to how life actually works. While all of the characters in a show may get to the curtain call at the end of the show, each character takes a different path to get there. Likewise, each of us follows a different life track, even if we all end up in some of the same places. Because of our separate tracks, we see things differently, experience the same moments differently, and arrive at our destination differently. It is only when we step off our own track, and onto someone else's, that we really understand the whole show, and the parts each one of us play.

I learned today that it is worth stepping off your own track and onto someone else's once in a while. It is worth seeing the "stage" from a different angle, and life from a different point of view. I may be back on my own track now--too much time on other tracks might cause collisions--but I am grateful for the little detour, and for the resulting big changes in my view.