I just got out of my last therapy session until September. My therapist, who shares my name, has steered me through anxious waters for over a decade. One "theme" is that the expectations I have for myself are ridiculously high. I think most moms feel this way-- I'm trying to soften the conversational floggings I give to myself.
In getting ready for this trip to Paris, I've realized that being organized and being a perfectionist are not the same thing-- and yet being organized seems to alleviate my unrealistic perfectionist self-flogging. When I'm not organized, I feel like everything is getting away from me (which it is), and so the pressure mounts and I can't see things task for task. I bubble over into overwhelmed and unrealistic visions of what I'm capable of doing. Joan of Arc only without the helpful God voices? On the other hand, when I can plan far in advance and steadily chip away at trip planning, research and stories, not write a syllabus at the last minute but pull it out from time to time, organize a closet here and a drawer there, I'm much happier. So in the spirit of Holy BeJeezus there's just one week till we leave for six weeks, I'm going to acknowledge a few things I've taken care of far, far in advance. I still have a full week! Except for Saturday, which has sacredly been turned over to a wedding which is being held one day before we depart. Mail will be stowed at my post office for two weeks over the maximum time limit because Jimmy, the mailman, will have his palm greased when I see him next. The bank account that doesn't charge extra fees for every transaction abroad has been open since last summer. Housecleaners are coming on Thursday so I can focus on writing this feature for Parents before I go instead of... scrub the grout. Our house swapping French family is coming over tonight and we shall meet and have a glass of vin rouge (or rose? it's hot again). Did I lose twenty pounds and become fluent in French before this summer? No. Did I complete a semester of teaching three courses, publish a couple of handfuls of stories, get my orange belt in karate, work on starting a business with a colleague for the last six months (check out our beta site, a work in progress wordcitystudio.com), deal with my emotional misgivings and gently help Jamie embrace his cultural Catholicism to feel at one with his class in their year of First Communion? Yes, and I also found an Episcopalian Church with the same mass, practically verbatim, some booming Bach on their new organ, a priest named "Mother Shelley", and a diverse population who's "25% gay, at least-- we even hand out water bottles on Pride day!" (or so the coffee server Michael explained to me before I got a chance to ask). All the stodgy formal hymns from my childhood are coming back to me and Jamie can feel like he's doing his Catholic thing. A book may be born from this experience, and it's stewing. Oh, I even treated myself to my favorite cute summer dresses by finding a wholesale clearance sale at a Casino in the Poconos. I took a Casino bus from Port Authority, got $30 in gambling money, gambled away the $30, shopped, ate a crappy sandwich, and came home again. The quiet! It was lovely!
I have so much work to do, but it will get done because it always does.
On a bright note, I have an essay that's coming out in an anthology this July called Welcome to My World. It's written by moms who write. Some are working moms, some stay at home moms, some (like me) are work from home moms. Should be an interesting look at how women are finding balance (or not finding it). I can't wait to link to the book once it's out. It's an eBook; odd, since I don't have, nor do I want, a Kindle or nook. But that iPad... there's the rub...