At an early meeting last week, a colleague pointed at a spot on my screen where colored boxes blended into a menacing hue: one of several points on my calendar where meetings were stacked on each other.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“THAT is where I figure out how to be four places at once,” I said, “unless an asteroid hits the earth and ends life as we know it. Which could also happen.”
My colleague is a very active community volunteer. He’s retired, kids grown, a prolific reader, an amateur woodworker, and blah, blah, sundry other stuff one does when one has spare time.
“Your week is more crowded than my entire month,” he said. “I’m going home to take a nap.”
I left him with the bill for breakfast.
Plans and schedules and lists are how ordinary working parents organize their lives, right? They’re how everybody around here gets to where they’re supposed to be on time (or close to on time) and occasionally manages to have dinner as a family.
Without a plan, stuff doesn’t happen. If our summer isn’t mapped by mid January, camp sessions fill up, reservations sell out, vacation time is elbowed aside by work and I’m stuck with a houseful of destructive hooligans for three months.
Without a plan, things that get pushed aside are MY things: running and reading and writing and sleeping. I LIKE my things. I LIKE sleeping.
No plan? No mom time. Grouchy, grouchy mom.
That’s why it was so weird the day the day before Thanksgiving to find ourselves with a menu and all the groceries, and – as of about four pm – no idea where the meal was going to be.
Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a rowdy gathering at our house. This year, we had tentatively planned to take the entire meal forty minutes North to Mike’s folk’s place. Then there was hemming and hawing and here we were the afternoon before without a plan.
But as my calendar can testify: plan or no plan, things are close to impossible just about every day anyway, so I might as well work on my coping skills.
Early in the week, I gave the kids a pep talk.
“Okay, guys, Thursday it’s going to be ALL HANDS ON DECK. We can DO THIS. Showers WILL be taken, musical instruments WILL be practiced and put away and crap WILL be picked up on demand, and the screen will stay OFF …. any screen … anywhere in the house,” I said.
“We will be healthy and well rested and prepared to go with the flow. We can be FLEXIBLE,” I said.
“And above all, there will be NO WHINING.”
“It’ll be okay, Mom,” Jack said.
“I’ll help cook,” Colin said.
Mike’s family is totally go-with-the-flow. Holiday or no, every time I’ve been there, they look like they’re set up for a convention of travelers to drop in after a trek across the Gobi Desert, ready to fall over dead if they don’t get a lamb chop and some potatoes.
Or his parents could just as easily pack up the trailer and leave for a month. With them, things can go either way, right up until the last minute.
Their flexibility is something I’ve admired, but have been slow to adopt. I’ve given it a shot, but when kids came along, spontaneity took a twenty-year hiatus.
Once we wrap up Thanksgiving, there’s December to think about.
…. And jury duty, starting Monday.
Maybe.… that’s how jury duty works. I may be available for car pool, piano lessons, violin lessons, swim team, and meetings with any one or more of the ten clients, three committees, two boards of directors and one service organization to which I’ve committed time.
… Or not.
I was actually summoned for jury duty last summer, and I couldn’t fathom how I would juggle summer activities, family vacation plans (with reservations made the previous November), and work.
The summons allowed for a one-time postponement “if you believe service would result in an undue hardship…”
Undue hardship? Oh, Hell yes, postpone.
A postponement to any other month within the year. December sounded doable. Even with holidays, there are fewer areas on my calendar where meetings overlap to form a vortex in the universe from which nothing, not even light, can escape.
And maybe December’s an easy month for the court, with all the holidays and stuff? I asked a judge friend of mine.
It’s possible, she said. Maybe.
So, flexibility is the ticket for Thanksgiving this year, and jury duty may sabotage my December.
Oh, and we have a foreign exchange student moving in on Sunday. Did I mention that?
Remarkably, I’m not crouched in a corner chanting “it’ll all work out it’ll all work out.” Nor have I started drinking (it is 6:49 am).
Because, despite any plans I make, Monday could be normal.
Or I could be canceling meetings and putting kids in a taxi to get to school.
Monday could also bring an asteroid, that right now is hurtling toward earth, ready to end everything. Then none of this will matter.
Not that I’m hoping for an asteroid, mind you. I’m just saying that’s as likely a scenario as me figuring this whole thing out.
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