Monday, October 24, 2016

A New Kind of Tiger Mom

                


Drinking tea while it's still hot but not too hot - victory!

Not because I'm so, so busy. Still on the epic climb out of The Busy Trap I'd been in for so many years. 

Usually I drink tea lukewarm, mainly because I make it and then get distracted. I'm so easily flappable. Pinging around. Multi-tasking even though it's not an the efficient way to work. It no longer has the panache it once did. It's still used, celebrated for moms--we have to do it, it's the only way to manage anything at all. But when it comes to work we all know slow and steady, focused, present, incremental steps forward--is the only way to really get things done. Multi-tasking is great for the appearance of getting things done.

This morning after dropping both kids then racing down to drop stuff off at Wally's school for the rummage sale w (and digging through the lost and found for the orange sweatshirt Wally lost like the second day he wore it - no luck), I was set to jog home along the river. On my way out the door the PTA president stopped me and handed me the Tupperware Alex had forgotten at the Halloween Party on Friday. Oh no! How could I carry it and run too? My perfect plan dashed. I couldn't refuse the Tupperware after the PTA pres had nicely taken it home and cleaned it out. I thought about trying to stash it in Wally's cubby temporarily, quickly rejected the idea of recycling it (too wasteful).

So instead I went running holding the Tupperware. It wasn't heavy, just kind of cumbersome, and awkward-looking for sure.

Today is not going to be the day you run fast, I told as I jogged along. Or very far. 

Not because of the Tupperware, but because I haven't been running at all. And when you haven't been running at all, your first few Begin Again runs aren't going to be fast, most likely. Just like after you haven't been writing at all, your first few Begin Again writing sessions aren't going to be particularly generative. 

I know now that pushing myself too hard when I run won't get me anywhere today. Not only that, it will set me farther back. It will give me a temporary satisfaction, like maybe the one voters for third-party candidates feel in close elections, sticking it to the mainstream, but, like that protest vote, it won't be productive. It will be the opposite. I'll be sore and tired and headachy the rest of the day, and there's a good chance I won't go out the next morning. Just like the entire country will be set much further back from goals of economic, racial and social justice if Hillary doesn't win. 

When I told myself today would not be a fast or great run, I started thinking about all the other goals I wouldn't accomplish today. 

Today is not going to be the day I finish my proposal for a book I've been proposing for years now. Or get much writing done on my middle grade fiction series. (Okay, okay, I lied about circling back to a rough draft for #NanoWrimo and revising it and I am in fact starting a new project but this one is with Wally so it is really mostly something we do together and therefore gets a free pass, right?)  

Today is not going to be the day I write the blog post that I've been wanting to write about my trip to the town of my proto-crypto dream house and the the home of a blogger whose writing I love but whom I've never met. I want to write about how I contemplated trying to meet her but couldn't (didn't) end up getting to arrange it.

Today is not going to be the day that I return to any of the many drafts of blog posts that are languishing, carcasses of posts now many of them, emptied out of whatever original meaning I thought they might reveal.

Today, instead, I'll manage to get the kids off, and even remember Petra's blanket for nap-time. I'll  drop off some items at Wally's school. I'll run, slowly, awkwardly holding an empty Tupperware container. I'll work as much as I can before I need to head out (now) to start picking up the kids.

Later

The afternoon felt so gloriously abundant. First I picked up Wally. I took my time with him, skipped the errands I was going to do and brought him to the playground. Somehow I felt lighter than I have lately. I watched him play, watched him so happily flit between a friend who wanted to play Pokemon and another who was asking him to be in a show and a young friend with a pink cat that was part of an elaborate chasing game. 

The wind was gusting and the Pokemon cards were flying about when Alex came and I went to get Petra and a friend of hers. It was a bit tricky getting two three-year olds back to the playground, but I told them Wally would be there excited to see them.

Instead, we came to a perfectly empty playground, one that just a half hour before had been teeming with kids!

The wind had calmed down and it was sunny and warm for just a little bit of the last light of the afternoon. "We caught the sun!" Petra cheered. Her friend asked for Wally. Alex called to tell me they were home, making dinner and playing piano. 

Other friends came passing through on the way back from after-school. 

At home Alex had a great dinner of baked rice and beans with cheese and broccoli ready to go on the table. The kids were splashing about in the bubble bath, singing and playing, when I headed out to yoga, from which I am just now back.

I had wanted to go campaigning in Pennsylvania yesterday. I was all set to go, in fact, leaving at 7:30 and returning after 8. But when I found out the bus changed, that we wouldn't even get back to Brooklyn (an hour away) until 9 or 9:30, I just couldn't do it. At that point it was eleven on Saturday night and the kids were both still up and I knew that the next day would be so rushed and pushed with Alex calling me looking for Wally's Kung Fu shirt and...it just seemed totally overwhelming. I went phone banking instead, at Hillary's field office. Calling people is harder than stopping by their door. On the phone, people can be incredibly rude. "How did you get this number?" In person, very few people are. 

My heart was kind of pounding the whole time. Shaky, the beginning of a headache for sure. The script they give you is so long! And pushy. Not just - Can we count on your support? But - Did you get your Vote By Mail ballot, did you fill it out, did you send it in? If not, when are you planning to send it in? Can you do it sooner? The room wasn't loud enough to cover up your conversation, so you're very much on display, too. So many people don't answer phones, and only a handful of people were there, so there is a lot of quiet. 

And yet the feeling of calling people in Florida, hearing such a range, from  "What about Benghazi and the emails?" to "I've already voted for her!" altered my feeling about the election. The feeling I get from reading the Times, The Washington Post, Huffpo, Immoral Minority, checking polls, watching speech clips or talking heads, is frantic, no matter how much I find, it feels like I am searching, searching. Talking to actual people, time slows down. The country feels much bigger in some ways than the election maps make it feel. But it all feels so more graspable, too. Like I can understand it. Listen to it. Here is a woman named Caroline, on her way to work, taking the time to answer a call from a stranger, assuring me at the end of the call, "We're going to win!"

[Alex interrupting. He wants me to show him some stretches from Yoga. He's interfered in the energy I felt finally just writing. How many times I feel so much better, it's like that sage ritual to clear out a house, once I just finally start to write? I can't stand the interruptions.]

I'm trying to tie this up, but I can't. On the other hand it's not like I've tugged at various threads and I'm leaving them hanging. I haven't really developed any complexity. I'm skimming along the surface. Too many days of not writing.

Yet I can feel how that extra time Sunday, the reasonable Manhattan phone bank instead of the bus to PA (I'll go Nov 6th) meant time could fill out, meant I could do laundry last night, remember what I needed to do this morning, not feel totally pulled and overextended, chaos leaking into today. Meant I could focus. Stay with one thing, and enjoy the expansiveness of this October afternoon. I had extra time yesterday because it was scheduled and then suddenly not. It had been protected by that original all-day plan. The trick would be to learn to protect every days for their own sake, protect not-doing, not-running fast, not-multitasking, to hold onto the ordinary days more fiercely. To to be a different kind of tiger mom, one who roars not at her children, but at the forces that would conspire to speed up their enchanted days.

8 comments:

  1. Love that last sentence, Rach! Roaring at the forces that would conspire to speed up their enchanted days... Beautiful thought, beautifully captured.

    :)
    d

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  2. Noooo!! Were you really in the neighborhood?? I'm so sorry I missed you! But I have a feeling we were away in Vermont when you were here. One of these days, we shall meet...

    I love this image of woman running with large tupperware container! Way to seize the morning! Petra's quote, "We caught the sun!" Guitar playing and delicious dinner and evening yoga, the details of a day well-lived. Just beautiful.

    Excellent decision to work the phones and not overextend yourself with travel. Your experience is heartening, those individual conversations, real people, time slowing, the country feeling bigger. It makes me feel hopeful.

    And your incredible last line, "To to be a different kind of tiger mom, one who roars not at her children, but at the forces that would conspire to speed up their enchanted days." I'm so in love with that sentence.

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  3. Sarah - yes! briefly - passing through - and wondered if we could meet up but second-guessed/hand-wringing about the oddity of reaching out to say - I'm here for 20 minutes - can you come right now and say hi? It just seemed too, I guess, demanding and disjointed or something to even suggest.

    Delicious dinner that night as opposed to the failed one last night! The soup I made was okay, but gluten-free sweet potato muffins a bust. Gluten-free flour doesn't always behave.

    I'm so glad that experience makes you feel hopeful, too. I realize I am in control of the way I see the election (which is a combo of frantic news article consumption, links that people send, and background noise in evenings of MSNBC that Alex has on) but I now also realize I don't *like* that view, for the most part.

    Oh, goodness, thank you about that line! I guess that's the main aim of my blog, really.

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  4. Wow - that is a great idea: a different kind of tiger mom.... and I am in awe of your day, in which you 1) ran with Tupperware and 2) went to yoga and 3) wrote a blog post with a stellar last line ! (which I am going to save and quote) not to mention all the other things. Bravo!

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  5. Thank you GretchenJoanna. (Save & quote! Wow - that makes my day.) That was an an usual day - I usually manage only one of those things.

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  6. So, I'm really far behind on blogging, reading yours and others I admire, and writing my own. And I sat down this morning to do all the things, and it's 11:30 and nothing has changed in four hours and I read this:
    "Today is not going to be the day you run fast..."
    And I think I let it go a little...the rush of the day and the push for productivity. It'll come screaming back, I'm sure, and then I will (hopefully) remember that it's ok not to run fast. And then I read your last line. And now I'm crying. (In a good way.) xo

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