Thursday, August 04, 2016

planning, not-planning and recalibrating

I’m doing a few unusual things right now.

1) I am writing (an uncommon enough occurrence in itself) in our home office. This is notable because a) we have a home office—at our old place, half of the office was Dash’s bedroom and the other half was packed too tightly to do much in—and b) I am writing in it. Long before Dash set up his crib where our file cabinets used to be, I was a coffee shop kind of writer. Home was both too quiet and too distracting. Even now, I hear the siren call of a dishwasher that needs unloading. But new house = new habits, so I’m trying to start one today. Don’t worry, I’ll still spend approximately 73 percent of my disposable income on lattes, but I am determined not to let our lovely, light-filled office become a storage room.

Right now I’m enjoying a truly idyllic view: front porch, little yard with drought-resistant greenery, quiet street, small teal house belonging to the second neighbor we met, a filmmaker named Diane, who brought us a giant bag of oranges and gave us a few tips on dealing with the first neighbor we met, a mentally challenged woman who likes to abscond with our trash cans for several days at a time.

I just posted a picture of my blog on my blog. So meta!
2) I’m taking a mental health/self care day. Dash has been going through an 18-month sleep regression for the past couple of weeks. Google “18-month sleep regression” and the first thing that comes up is an article called something like “Why the 18-month sleep regression is worse than all the others.” Oh good.

It’s not actually worse; it’s just that his sleep is effed up because he’s going through some sort of developmental leap that is yet to be revealed and he is also simultaneously being a toddler.

Earlier this week my boss gave me some constructive criticism that really stung because it was accurate, and while my long-term response needs to be to work harder/better, I guess, in the short term I felt like I just really needed a nap. So I took a long one this morning after dropping Dash off at daycare. It was glorious.

3) I made a plan.

Longtime Bread and Bread readers will know that the last time I made a Big Life Plan it was shot to hell, and in recent years, I’ve really become an advocate of not-planning, at least if you’re a person who, by disposition and upbringing, tends to believe that planning will save your life and your soul. It won’t. I learned that the hard way.

As a parent, not planning is one of my greatest triumphs and anti-strategies. I don’t mean that, if we’re going to the beach, I don’t pack sunscreen and six changes of clothes. I do. (Between you and me, going to the beach with small children isn’t the funnest.) I mean that for reasons having to do with both privilege and its jaded opposite, I don’t spend a lot of time obsessing about developmental milestones or preschools or organic food or college.

This is good sun protection right here. If the Trumpocalypse doesn't get us, we're gonna need to prevent skin cancer.
I really believe that the best thing I can give Dash is my presence in the present. If I pay attention to him and love him and protect him from large pointy objects, the rest will fall in line. And if it doesn’t we’ll cross those rickety bridges when we get to them. And if we fall into the rushing waters below those bridges, we will do our best to climb out and dry off. And if we can’t climb out and dry off….

See, it doesn’t take long for me to get to a place of catastrophizing, even in metaphor. I’m superstitious that even writing about my impressive go-with-the-flow mothering will ensure that I’ll find out tomorrow that Cheerios (54% of Dash’s diet) cause brain tumors.

All of which is to say that not-planning doesn’t come easy, but neither does planning, anymore. I highly recommend not-planning to Cheryl types. Or rather, plan your day, but not your year. And expect that you’ll have to recalibrate about ten times a day. But like actual GPS maps, I’m getting faster at doing that.

Been there, driven that.
The other day, though, I made a veeeerrrrrryyyy tentative three- to four-year plan in my head. I was thinking about the things one considers: work, family, creative life. How to make sure that I prioritize the right pieces at the right times.

The only piece of acting advice I ever got, right before going on stage in a Cal Arts production in which I played a duck, a bartender and a transwoman, was: Don’t rush things, and don’t be lazy. When it comes to planning, I always want to rush things. If I really want something (a second child, for example; although I still don’t know if/how much I want this), I must want it right now, right? Sometimes this impatience has paid off. Other times it has led to sloppiness, settling and disappointment.

This duck's all "Rub mah belly. Bring me a beer."
In the microclimate of a day, I can be lazy. I don’t want to work out. I don’t want to initiate a meeting. I don’t want to read hard things. I procrastinate by telling myself that I will be my true, amazing, over-achieving self tomorrow. A healthier and realer statement would be As a regular human, I need both rest and challenges. How about I do one challenging thing and then one resty thing? (Ugh, who wants to even hang out with a person who is so well adjusted as to have that for an interior monologue?)

Today I did a resty thing. Now I’m doing a blog thing, which is, okay, maybe not a huge challenge, but it’s helping me think through some stuff. Thank you for bearing with today’s navel-gazing.

I just wrote and deleted a paragraph about Donald Trump. I was going to say something about how the demographic he appeals to most is blamers. People who like to watch other people get fired on TV. That’s a lot of people, myself not necessarily excluded—I just also check myself before I wreck myself/the country. But then I realized that the fact of a psychopath holding up scapegoats unconvincingly is not exactly new.

I really don't understand why Hillary is the one with the "likability" problem. Because screaming Cheetos are so charming?
So I’ll spare you a predictable rant. Even my own head is a more interesting and hopeful place to be than Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Amy Poehler for VP!
Needless to say, I’m With Her—a person who has been both patient and ambitious, and who has seen her plans shit upon periodically and who has recalibrated accordingly. Beyond the fact that she has the chops, sanity and compassion for the job, it would also be pretty sweet to see her hard work pay off. That’s not to say that our political system is even remotely a meritocracy. But the part of Hillary Clinton’s personality I love most is the part Amy Poehler has played up on SNL—the hair-tearing, un-concealable ambition of the smartest girl in class. And even though I don’t believe in a world where hard work, patience, impatience and flexibility always pay off, it’s the world I want to live in.


Jonathan said...

The unfortunate thing for the US is that most of the rest of the world has started watching the political coverage because it's more entertaining than any of the fictional shows - which isn't funny really, is it...

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