I’m frustrated. I really want to get more balance in my life–to have the life I imagine on a daily basis, where there is time in the afternoon for a cup of tea or time in the morning to sit and read the paper. But I’m starting to think that my problem may not be mine. It may just be a matter of mathematics! Let’s consider the numbers!
If you figure there are 7 days in a week, and each day has 24 available hours, that’s 168 hours allotted to us each week. If you take away 40 hours for work, minimum, you get 128 left, but I would have to add in an extra five a week, at least, for the extra hours that go into work each week. So, that brings us to 123. Then, if you figure tht most normal people (myself excluded) spend at least 40 hours sleeping during the work week and 20 on the weekend, that brings our remaining hours to 63. (And I have to take off the same number of hours here, since I never do a damn thing in the middle of the night that could be considered either balanced or productive–and I would be sleeping, if only I knew how!).
Next, if you take off 21 hours/week for meals (3 hours/day, since I’m including prep time, eating time, and cleaning up time), that brings us to 42–(or, 44, if you add an hour or two back for the mornings where your daughter is eating her bowl of cereal and bananas in the car on the way to school!).
If you figure you drive at least an hour per day just going places–school, work, the grocery store, to pick up someone somewhere–plus there’s got to be at least another hour per day spent doing stupid stuff that you have to do to get through life, such as calling to make doctor’s appointments (or to apologize for forgetting your doctor’s appointment) or working on your taxes or filling out the damn FAFSA or answering some stupid survey on the phone that you picked up because you don’t have Caller ID and then felt sorry for the poor college student asking the questions, you can take off another 14, leaving 28. And then, you might try taking off an hour a day for exercise, if you are really driven, but let’s say you’re normal and average only about 4 hours a week, on a good week, so now you’re at 24. And you’ve got to take about five extra hours off on the weekend to catch up on everything you couldn’t do during the week, so you end up at about 19. Continue reading Not Enough Hours in the Day→
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the passage of time, in these weeks leading up to July 7th, when my first-born, Lizzie, will be getting married. I know I’ve written about this before, but did I mention how hard it is for me to believe that the baby girl who came struggling into the world after 30 hours of labor, breaking her collar bone on the way, is old enough to get married? Did I happen to say how it makes me feel like I must have stepped into a time machine and swooshed through several decades, landing, almost without breathing, in the present? After all, if it came right down to it, and I had to describe my own awareness of time, I’d have to say that it seems—really—like only a few years ago, ten at the most, that she was little. There is no way—absolutely none—that she could really be twenty-four, due to turn twenty-five a week after her wedding!
I keep having this weird feeling, where I kind of expect her to finish this game she’s been playing. After all, when she was five years old, she loved to pretend that she was a singing and dancing Senorita named Conchita, and she had a father named Miguel, so maybe this whole wedding deal is really just another one of her fantasies, after all. It could happen!
The weirdest part is I can remember when she was a baby—when I was doing a lot of nursing and rocking and diaper-changing. And I can remember the most recent five years. But I really can’t remember too clearly, except in a vague, fog-brain sort of way, the years in between. All I know is that they involved lots of Halloween costumes, lost permission slips, and school supplies that required frantic trips to K-Mart at five minutes before closing.
I have something to say to new parents: write everything down that you can—because, believe it or not, no matter how fresh it all seems now, there will come a day when you can’t remember the stuff your child said or did at 2 or 4 or 10. If, like me, you have more than two children, and if you are lucky enough to have a few cute stories still in your head, you may even have trouble sorting out which cute story belongs to which child! But, no matter what, there will be a few memories that won’t quit. And some of those came up tonight—as I sat here, drowning in my proverbial beer—and wishing I could stop time in its rotten tracks.
For instance, I remember vividly when Lizzie said her first word, pointing to a vase on the table of a little neighborhood restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee and saying “Flou–ah.” I remember one of the first times we took her to church—since we were sadly negligent, she was 3 years old—and she looked up at the cross over the altar and said, “Mama, why is there a “T” up there?” And I can really get blubbery when I think about the time she was tested for Kindergarten “readiness” and asked by the principal to say the letters “ABCDE.” She whizzed right through that part. “Now say them backwards,” he said, at which Lizzie turned her back to the poor dumb fool and said, “ABCDE” again!
Finally, I keep thinking about the way, at four or five, she loved to sing the story of her life—and mine—as she came down the stairs in the morning: “Now I’m walking down the stairs, and my Mama’s in the kitchen, and she’s cooking me some food,” she would sing, “and I’m happy happy happy ”—all to her own, made up tune.
I’ll stop, before I get maudlin. I just warn all of you out there who haven’t experienced it yet: this wedding business is no piece of cake. But the stress of planning a wedding doesn’t come only from all the details that are involved. And it doesn’t even come from the worry that you won’t look good in your mother-of-the-bride dress (although that is one of the more difficult parts).
And, finally, if you are really lucky—as we are—it doesn’t come from worry about your new son-in-law, who, in our case, is a sweet and wonderful guy. Nope. What really gets you, in the end, is realizing that, maybe for the first time since that baby came into your life, she really is actually walking out that door, on her own, into a place where you are no longer needed, in any sort of absolute, parental duty sort of way. To all intents and purposes, she is actually choosing to be on her own now, living in her own, brand-new little family. Partly, that makes you want to bust with happiness for her. And partly, it just makes you feel a little worn out by the shock of arriving so quickly at the end of this particular road you thought you were going to be running on forever.
I guess, if we are lucky, this exciting new life of hers will occasionally involve her “aged P’s”—the term my mother stole from Dickens to describe herself and my father and which I now proudly give to myself and my husband—but, still, in the back of my mind, there is that clincher: from now on, it is no longer our shared life story that Lizzie will be singing.
Time really does go faster as we age. It has been a year since we moved to the mountains of Western North Carolina, but it seems like we just got here. The year has been quite a whirlwind of change.
The biggest change – leaving the Washington, DC area, a place I had lived over half a century, (did I really say that?). It’s my entire life. Though we had planned to move to Asheville for years, it was still a big deal, and happened far more quickly than anticipated. With a beautiful full moon and all the planets apparently in alignment, our house sold in two days.
Thus began the whirlwind. Three full moons later, we would move to the mountains, and there was much to do.
There were many people to say goodbye to, knowing I would never see most of them again. I closed the psychotherapy practice I had worked years to establish, bidding farewell to clients and colleagues. The local pottery studio, my hangout of kindred spirits was toughest to leave. Well, other than my sister, but that’s too tender to write about now.
We headed South on a cold December day, cars crammed full of stuff and our two beagles along for the ride. Not long after we arrived, a snowstorm followed, leaving us with no electricity and lots of tree damage. It was a tough winter, especially since we knew almost no one. Our holidays were non-existent, as we were busy moving. The day I found myself strolling through Walmart for entertainment, I knew something had to change. Facebook provides an illusion of a social life, but it’s not reality. The North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement at UNCA was my lifeline during that long winter, feeding my brain and giving me a connection with other people.
Molly Beagle, my best bud for thirteen years, slowly wound down and passed on to the Rainbow Bridge. Our last day together was a sacred time – we cuddled up, and I talked to her about the good times we shared together. At the end, I sang the Golden Girls theme song to her. I’m grateful Molly had some time here in our beautiful new place. We buried her next to my studio where she will have her own garden of the flowers she loved.
Living here feels like I’ve finally come home. I love the spirit of this place, the creativity, the energy. It’s been a year now, and I feel like I’m finding my niche. I’ve made good friends and know many of our neighbors. I have an almost-finished pottery studio, a dream-come-true.
I’ve given in to my craving for a hammered dulcimer and have begun music lessons again after a 45-year hiatus. Maybe this time around I’ll practice.
Most of all, I love the magnificent mountains. I cannot even think of adequate words to describe them. May I never take them for granted or stop seeing them.