August 23, 2012

Lane changes

It’s sometimes difficult to be honest with ourselves about who and what we really are.  If I’m honest I would say that I’m a solid writer, a trying-to-be-great mom, a passable cook, an awesome laundry doer, a slightly-better-than-average housekeeper, a hard worker and I’m loyal. I’m also a poor decision maker. I do it slowly and agonizingly. The process is usually not a model of efficiency in my life, where I am in so many ways quite efficient.

I was a reluctant student driver. I didn’t want to learn and driving scared me. There’s a lot to keep track of and I can still hear my mom telling me that it’s an awesome responsibility to operate a car. I believed her wholeheartedly (she was right) and I was completely overwhelmed. I was teased relentlessly by my family for my slow pace at stopping, starting and everything in between in the car.
Eventually I became comfortable enough with the wheel, and wanted to be able to drive to my job, that I prepared to get my license.  As was typical of my 16-year-old self, I passed the written test with flying colors. The examiner then took me out for the driving test and things were going well. We were returning to the DMV on a long straight stretch of a four-lane divided road and he asked me to make a right turn at the next street. My immediate reaction was that it didn’t feel like enough time to properly change lanes, signal and make the turn. I needed more time. Everything suddenly slowed to single frame motion and I slowly – painstakingly slowly – signaled and then sort of drifted into the right hand lane and fluidly drifted right into the turn. I knew that I hadn’t fully changed lanes but I had signaled and I hoped against hope that it would be alright.

It wasn’t. When we returned to the DMV he told me that I had done well except for where I made a right turn from the left lane. I wanted to argue. I wanted to tell him that he hadn’t given me enough notice to make the lane change properly. I wanted to say that I just needed more time to plan, but I didn’t. Instead, I went back the next day and took the test the second time to get my license. How embarrassing to have failed my driving test for making a right turn out of the left lane.  I wouldn’t let that happen again.

 I’ve made many actual unsignaled turns in my car since then, but I haven’t made many figurative ones. I’ve played it pretty safe in most ways. I’ve betrayed my generation’s reputation by working in the field in which I earned a degree, staying in the town in which I grew up to raise my own family and generally living in a way that’s not above my family’s means. I’ve had two jobs in 17 years and a nasty habit of driving cars until they fall apart rather than go out of fashion. I’m a real wild woman; the life of a party.  
Tomorrow, however, I’m making a right turn from the left lane. Tomorrow is my last day at my job of 11 years. Tomorrow I’m leaping into the world of part-time employment in a position that’s not likely to keep me awake at night. Tomorrow I’m walking away – at least temporarily – from a “career.” On Monday I’m starting a “job.” It doesn’t pay very well and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing there. It feels reckless, lazy, terrifying, irresponsible and like a complete relief.

I didn’t get to this decision in a way that I would recommend to anyone. I got here like I usually do -  through tons of unproductive agonizing, lots of frustration, loads of guilt and a little counseling. (The counseling was actually a new touch.) I got here kind of like I changed lanes so many years ago. The signal’s been on but it’s been a slow-motion drift across the road.
I don’t know where this turn leads. It may lead to a roundabout that brings me right back where I started. It may lead to a dead end. (Please hope it doesn’t lead to a dead end.) With any luck it may lead to a whole new set of streets where the map is easy to read. I know for sure that it feels bittersweet. I’ve had an amazingly good gig in most ways and there are people lining up to take the job I’m leaving. I’ve been “in the know” and I’ve worn big girl clothes and people (some of them) have respected what I do. I know without doubt that I’ll miss much of that. And yet, I know I probably should have done this five years ago and it’s high time to go.

It’s time to actually sleep at 3 a.m. and it’s time to put the phone down and be in the moment with my kids. It’s time to be home when the boys have days off from school and it’s time to go back to cleaning my own toilets. It’s past time for my kids to have some downtime in their summers and some margin in their days. It’s also time for me to stop feeling guilty about what I’m not doing at work or what I’m not doing at home and just embrace whatever I can do right. Guilt’s a crappy emotion.
Tomorrow I’m going to finish cleaning out my desk and hand over my office keys. A part of me feels like that’s waving the proverbial white flag. It’s like I’m surrendering to the fact that I can’t effectively have it all; like I’m still the sixteen-year-old who is overwhelmed by the responsibility of being on the road and just drifts out of panic and not knowing what else to do.

 I also think that perhaps it’s actually the first time in a lot of years that I’ve made a conscious decision to do something that even requires a turn signal. Maybe it’s not a white flag but a green flag, marking the start of an open lap. Whatever it is, it’s happening and I feel strangely at peace about it. In the 23 years since I had to retake my driving test I’ve learned that more often than not you don’t get a second chance and you better seize it when you can. I haven’t done a good job of that to date but tomorrow I’m turning the corner.


August 13, 2012

You be the judge

Thomas' summer camp announced way back in the spring that they would be closed today so the school's entire staff could attend traning together. August was so far away, but at the time I checked the calendar what stood out to me was that it could be like a last hurrah day before school started. I boldly noted it on my work calendar as a vacation day and didn't think much more about it.

As the day rolled around, we toyed with the idea of going to a waterpark today and when that wasn't going to work out I felt like I should let the boys plan some sort of adventure to make it different than any other day at home. After a summer of 100+ temperatures more days than not, today arrived with a high of 75 degrees and cloud cover that made it almost chilly until mid-afternoon. After much discussion we decided to head to a miniature golf course and hit the links.

We drove 25 minutes to get to a "Gooney Golf" locale and we were all three in good spirits. Andrew was, in fact, in high spirits. He had to be reminded more than once to stop pretending to be at the driving range and to stop slamming his club into the dirt like a hammer. My patience was, admittedly, a little thin after having to ask him to please keep control of his club (conservatively) fouteen times before we reached the third hole. 

On the fifth hole, Andrew hit a patch of rough luck and had a hard time getting the ball past an obstacle. Adding insult to injury was that his brother had not had the same trouble. After finally getting the ball in the hole, I asked him how many putts to record for him. He paused a minute and tossed out a number that I knew wasn't quite accurate. I looked at him and asked him if he wanted to try again. He didn't. He was sure that his first three putts didn't count because they were "bounce backs." I let it go. On the next hole, I had a "bounce back" and when I asked him if it counted, he assured me it did. We went back and forth like that for a few holes. Him shaving points off his total, me grumbling about it.

At about hole 10 he became very excited because apparently the last time he was there with Grandma and Grandpa, he got a hole in one. He confidently hit it off the tee and it richocheted all over the place. Three putts later he got mad and took his ball off the green. I stepped up and, miraculously, hit a hole in one. He lost it.

That's when I did this:

I still can't decide which one of us should be most embarrassed by our poor sportsmanship. Him for cheating or me for freaking out about it. Actually, I know the answer. Just don't judge me for it. It's tough to learn how to raise an emotional copy of yourself.