I dropped my kids at school yesterday, then high-tailed it for a cafe, wasn't sure which one. I have the luxury in my neighborhood of choosing from so many, and the choices just seem to grow every day. I decide between the coffees themselves--levels of bitterness, amount of froth on top, etc.--between atmospheres--chatty or plug in and get your work done--and, of course, between barristas, knowing where and with whom I can banter.
It wasn't an easy choice yesterday, Monday, because I'm never sure on the first day of the week what I'm doing, who I want to be. Do I want to be the chatty, confident gold star-giver? Or do I need to curl up, quiet, in a corner with my At-a-Glance calendar and get things organized? I opted for the latter, helped in my decision by the fact that I had forgotten my gold stars, and walked the relatively far distance, through Detective Mayrose Park, to Southside. It is filled with parents I don't know from another school, with a range of barristas who, even when they offer slight banter, leave me alone. I am not enough of a regular.
My to-do list was long, filled with things to do for my kids, ways to promote and pitch my blog, things to buy, tasks for my writing workshop. It just seemed endless. I set about working on my blog-pitching plan, and, after not long a period, my cell phone rang. It was a friend I hadn't seen in a long time, a woman I love to talk with, who makes me laugh and think and see things in a different light. I had proposed we go on a walk in the park, and she, amazingly, had the time. In a flash, my At-a-Glance was shut, the pitch I was putting together tucked away to finish another time.
I met her with her baby, a sweet, smiling, calm redhead (an oxymoron, I should know, I'm married to one), picked up her dog and headed into Prospect Park. It was an absolutely glorious day and the dragonflies were swirling all around as we walked, confirming I'd made the right decision.
She is a yoga instructor, a former art therapist, a painter, a new mom, a wife, and she is trying always to strike a perfect balance. She totally understood my own problems balancing, figuring out how to keep my creative head in its place, to ensure my ideas kept flowing by doing things like taking walks, taking the time to blow dry my hair and working out but still having the time to do the business-side tasks, to promote my blog. She fully related to how difficult it is to stay true to what you do and also give it mass appeal.
"The best yoga instructors, the really inspirational ones, aren't necessarily the ones with the videos," she said.
"Right, but just because you have a video does it mean you've sold out? Shouldn't you try to reach as many people as possible if you feel you have something to offer?"
We both were quiet, thinking about it. It is the classic artist's dilemma, one we weren't going to solve, even on a mindful meandering through the urban woods.
We came out of the dense brush, the bird sanctuary, back on the far reaches of the lake, behind, it seems, most everything, and we saw, in an open field, a man, high up in the branches of one of the highest trees. We strained our necks to see him.
"What are you doing up there?" I asked. He had a harness, there was another Parks person on the ground, watchful, but still. He was very high up.
"I'm looking for Japanese beatles," he yelled, "and luckily, I haven't found any."
"That's good," I said. "How amazing to be up there, what a gorgeous tree."
"You should see it from up here..." he said, then immediately apologized for what amounted to a kid-like 'ha ha, I get to do this and you don't.' But, hey, better him than me. Much as I would love the vantage point, not sure I'd be climbing to the tippy top of any tree. I'd leave that to the squirrels, and to him.
I had no gold stars, which was a crying shame, but I offered a meak, "Thanks for your efforts on our behalf!"
See, I couldn't take the day off from acknowledging other people, with or without a star. It is in my nature, it is what I do. I am amazed at the heights people will go(pun intended)to do good work. But now that I've made it the closest thing I have to my job, it's hard to segment my time, to know when giving out appreciation is something I should just do for doing it, or if I do it and then use it in my blog.
It is something I have always feared, really loving what I do for a living, really integrating it into my life, because then, I knew, I would make time to do little else. And there is so much else to do, so much on the to-do list, things I want and need to do like spending time with my kids and my husband, having time for extended family and friends, cooking and yes, even cleaning.
Our walk came to an end, we stopped in at the local diner for some lunch, and then I had a mere couple of hours left before pick-up to accomplish something. A friend needed me and I called her but I was clearly distracted, self-centered, and she was miffed, unused to me in work mode. I haven't been there in a while, would rather chat endlessly, but there it was. I wasn't really available. I'm not she understood.
I went to pick up my kids in a funk, angry at my inability to balance, and delivered them to their respective activities. After swimming, waiting for Oscar to appear out of the boys' dressing room, I overheard a mom talking to her young son.
"We're going to eat dinner out, kay? 'Cause mommy didn't get to the grocery store today, she got very involved doing a project, cleaning all the wood in the house very carefully with a special cleanser and a cloth."
"Does it look different, will I notice?" the boy asked.
She pondered that, head to the side for a moment and then answered, "I hope so."
I couldn't help but laugh. "I'm not sure kids totally appreciate these kind of efforts we make, not yet," I said. "Of course, it would be nice if they noticed, since they take up our entire day but..."
She nodded in agreement. "I know. But my husband has allergies, and it was so dusty, it just needed to get done. I actually enjoyed it, and I enjoyed appreciating it in the few minutes I had to sit there before I had to come here."
"Of course," I said, "if it hadn't taken you away from doing everything else you needed to do, it'd be great. I used to love to spend a whole Saturday cleaning, before I had kids. And then sit down with the paper and revel in my work."
I wanted to give her a gold star, she definitely deserved one, but I still had none on me. I told her that I give them out, that she would get one if I had it to give, that she had done a good day's work. She smiled, grateful. Balancing is so very, very hard. I pondered that as I hit the grocery store then hurried home as fast as possible with Oscar on and off his bike with constantly-loosening training wheels to make dinner.