Thursday, September 13, 2018

In-betweens

Between the moments are the "in-betweens"... 

The in-betweens are those things we don’t share on Facebook, post on Instagram, capture in 280 characters on Twitter, or brag about at the water cooler.

In-betweens, we barely even share with our friends, we dance around the topics in our online mom groups, but we joke about them because they seem to be too embarrassing to share.

The shared moments range from food pictures to selfies, kid’s achievements (who knew 3rd grade graduation was a thing), a happy couple smiling for the photo op, and the triumphs of daily life. The shared moments can also include the death of a loved one, some tragedies are considered shareable, and asking advice for the mundane.

The in-betweens, however, are not sexy. They are not congratulatory, not advice seeking. They are the things that keep us from social media, that keep us from breathing, that drown our daily lives.

The in-betweens are the mornings that you cannot get your kids to get ready for school because “nothing is right to wear,” the days when you hit every red light that makes you late for dropping the kiddo off, the things you forgot at home that you have to go home for...

The in-betweens are the fights you have with your spouse, where you wonder if you are insane or if your spouse is insane, but either way, you feel that you are the only one who has ever lived through this insane lame fight.

The in-betweens are the mountains of laundry (how many times a day do they change clothes?!), the never-ending dishes (I swear we don’t eat this much), and picking up the same shit day in and day out.

The in-betweens are the long work days full of a thousand decisions, long meetings, silly people, and an inbox that never ends. As you cross off one thing on the to-do list, five more creep in. 

The in-betweens means that no matter how rough of a day you had at work, you still have everyone to take care of when you get home. 

The in-betweens are when you wonder how you can have a wife to help take care of everything,  even if you already have a husband.

The in-betweens are when you wanna throw all the toys in the trash. When you wanna take a torch to the whole house because you don’t want to pick up after anyone anymore. 

When you lock yourself in the bathroom, just for a few moments alone. And then someone starts knocking on the door, “Mom, Mom, Mom...” That is an in-between.

The in-betweens are when the people who need your help outnumber those who don’t. And your sense of worth is tied up in how many text messages you can answer in an hour, but no one asks you how you are.

The in-betweens are lonely, which is why no one talks about them. They aren’t glamorous, they don’t sell books, they don’t write scripts, and they don’t feed our souls.

The in-betweens are the sicknesses that last for weeks and months, but no one knows, as you wait for the fateful diagnosis, which may come... but more likely you are left with mysterious symptoms and no answers that you cannot even share for sympathy.

But the in-between outnumber the moments often - the mundane overtakes the interesting, and the drudgery overshadows the celebrations. So when my social media feed comes stale, it is because the in-betweens are so many I cannot find the moments. And no one wants to know about the in-betweens. We ignore the daily pains of each other, we struggle alone, we hide in our embarrassment. 

Some people are better at negotiating the in-betweens--they take the humor of the in-betweens and make them cute stories that we all find relatable. But most of us, forget those cute moments in an instant because so many more in-betweens happen before we can get to social media. 

I’ve been living in the in-betweens, a lot more than the moments lately. They overtook my world, quietly, and I couldn’t stop them from coming. It was just a few at first, but then a hundred a day, like tribbles that keep breeding. The moments are still there, they are just strangled by the in-betweens, so much so that the moments never fully develop. The moments are beautiful blossoms that never fully emerge, struggling for water and air, as the in-betweens take my minds resources and create more in-betweens.

Even the writing of this is an in-between, fighting its way into a moment.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fixer

I'm a fixer.
I view the world as a place with solutions, not problems.
I see life's imperfections as challenges to fix.
And the imperfections haunt me.

The peeling wallpaper in a restaurant just needs some glue.
The crooked blinds in the doctor's office just needs some adjusting.
The grammatical mistakes in an advertisement just need an editor.
The failing AV system on the airplane just needs a system reset.
These daily minor annoyances scream to me that someone needs to care.
There is not judgment in me. I just know I could easily fix them. And wish I could.

I'm a fixer.
As a writer, this is a blessing and curse.
It means that my heart-felt written words are read over and over before being shared.
It means months and years between blog posts.

I'm a fixer.
It means watching a loved one suffer and seeing a solution to their pain.
Even when they are not in a place to hear a solution.
It means biting my tongue over and over, and often failing.

It means I keep trying.
Not all solutions work the first time.
It means I don't believe in failure.
It means a different approach is needed, not the one I tried the first time.

It means I'm good at my job.
Give me the facts. I will provide you at least one solution.
And let's roll, onto the next issue.
No problems, just challenges. We tackle, we fix.

I'm a fixer.
Most people appreciate the "me's" in the world.
They realize I'm needed.
They may like me because I handle things.
They may not like it when I challenge them to handle things.

Many people don't understand me.
They think I have too high-energy.
They don't understand that my brain doesn't allow me to rest.
That I cannot live in a world where things need fixing, that I could help with, and I want to help with...

It means my brain rarely shuts down.
I lie awake thinking of things I need to do.
Things I should do.
Things I could do.
The possibilities are endless. The list is long.

It means I struggle with perfection.
Not because I want to be perfect, but because it can be always be better.
And there is no need to settle.
But as a fixer, I know quite well that fixing everything will burn me out, so I learn to let things go.
It is hard.

I'm a fixer.
There is a committee that needs me, a project that needs me, a worthwhile cause that needs me, a house that needs me, children that need me, friends that need me, a spouse that needs me.
It doesn't leave a lot of time for me to have needs.

But don't worry, I'll fix that too.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chaos

The airplane surges up and down as an amusement park ride without a track, my stomach tries to keep up with each dip, and my head is filled with life insurance policy questions. While not truly afraid, the anxiety rises as the turbulence seems to drone on and on, not breaking as it normally does.

F*. This is like my life. Somehow the chaos and the bumps never seem to stop. Oh this weekend, oh next week, oh next month, those will be better. I'll have less to do, more time, fewer demands, and some room to breathe. But I didn't count on that illness happening, or that storm, or that part of the house to break, or that work problems, or that crazy person, or whatever... The uncontrolled part of life rapidly outweighs the small part that I get to claim ownership on. Even my sleep obeys some clock that is not my own.

This is the definition of chaos. I am the definition of chaos. Random occurrences that happen all at once, in no particular matter, with no discernible reason. Why does the car break down on the day when I cannot miss a meeting? Why does my kid sleep in only on days when I cannot be late? Why does she wake up early on weekends?! Why does my computer break when I am writing an important report?

The more anxiety one feels and feeds into the universe, the more the universe seems to laugh. The more in control I am, the more out of control things spin beyond my grasp. Oh, and I know better.

Don't lecture me about what I can and cannot do. I have given that lecture plenty of times. Don't remind me of the healing elements of yoga, massages, and exercise. I cannot find even find enough time to get my hair cut. Don't dare mentioning how a better diet might help. I'm proud of myself for eating anything. I know about priorities.

All those cute little memes that come across my Facebook feed about making sure to keep the first thing first, and to feed your heart... those things are lame. I could write them - I'm all cute and poetic and shit. See, all this chaos is because I love life. Because I drink it in. Because I cannot stand to miss a moment. And because I'm a fixer. Because I do wanna suck the marrow... there is little time for rest. Because I cannot change the world if I'm not in it.

So this is my chaos. It is bumpy. And sometimes it makes me nauseous. The plane levels out for a few minutes long enough for me to write this. And that is just long enough.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Heroes

Mimi Ito gave the keynote address at the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning (#ET4Online) in which she challenged us to think about our "Learning Heroes," those people who have help shape our learning in some ways, clearly articulating that connected learning happens within relationships. Beyond the obvious immediate people who came to mind, I began to ponder what it really means to be a hero to someone. In my world, there are two kinds of heroes I encounter: Everyday Heroes and Life Heroes.  There are, of course, "extraordinary heroes” that make the news; viral videos are full of them, history books and wikipedia chronicle their lives. I don't know that I have personally connected with any of them, but I certainly know a lot of heroes.

My everyday hero is that person who does something unexpected at just that moment when you need it.  When I was 12 and traveling across country by myself, before cell phones and overprotective parenting, I was delayed in the Chicago airport for six hours. My everyday hero was a guy who let me use his credit card to call my folks, bought me lunch, and told me funny stories.   When I was 17, before cell phones and overprotective parenting, I worked until 2am in the mall engraving Christmas presents by myself because all the other workers had quit. My everyday hero was the security guard who brought my coffee every night and walked me to my car.  

As I got older, the everyday hero incidents seem to come more infrequently, but have more lasting effects. When I left my cell phone in a taxicab, my everyday heroes were the security guard who tracked the cab down and the driver who came all the way back without an extra fare to return it.  When my husband and I were stranded in Paris, my everyday hero was the taxicab driver, “Michelle Schumaucher,” who braved Friday night traffic going up sidewalks and going the wrong direction on streets to find our passports and get to our train on time. 

Everyday heroes come as the young man who actually holds the door open when struggling with a toddler and bags in my arms.  Everyday heroes sometimes change the course of a day with a smile, or a few words. Sometimes, an everyday hero is a friend who sends that text just at the right time.

My life heroes are closely tied to Ito's "Learning Heroes" but to me they are even more than that. They are the people who changed the course of my life, who challenged me beyond my own imagination, and who made (and still make me) me.

My early adulthood was full of them. The Youth Group pastor who reminded me often, there is always time to do the things you want to do. The Journalism Professor, "Coach," who used my age as weapon to the community college class, when he realized I was only 16. He challenged me beyond my years, and never doubted my abilities.  The speech communications professor who keep me so late after class that she would drive me to my car on the other side of campus where we would just talk into the night about what i could be and do with my life.  The gay university professor who was a Catholic Republican and challenged everything I thought I knew about politics and religion.  

Career ultimately trumped school and my life heroes showed up as bosses. The boss who said told me I would go far, but needed the doctorate and said he would do anything he could to make sure I would get it.  And then did.  The boss who was gracious when I told him I was leaving after only a few weeks, who taught me about pride in your people. The boss who took a chance on my ability to lead an organization and gave me all the tools to do it. And never doubted me, even when I screwed up, gently correcting me. 

My life heroes certainly come close to home as well. My mom who was tenacious about everything she took on, going back to school when I was in High School. She hasn't met a challenge she cannot handle. My dad who's positive view of the world, shaped me into believing that I too could make a difference.  Then of course, there are friends. Those special ones who have challenged me, loved me, shaped me. 

As I take stock of the heroes in my world, I am both in awe and further challenged. I am in awe of the great people who have been there to support me, and they certainly exist today. But I was also concerned, that in my privileged life, how few there really are - and I wonder, do other people have enough heroes in their worlds?  Are we so engrossed in our own worlds that we forget to be someone’s else hero?  When was the last time I was an everyday hero? When was the last time I changed someone's life for the better?  Would someone count me on their list as their life hero? 

Be a hero. It isn't that hard.



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Waiting

Waiting.The pain in my chest.
Heart pounding, blood pressure spiking.
Peace, a fairytale almost forgotten.

Waiting. Moments that stand still.
Watching minutes tick with glacial speed.
Work, piled as concentration wanes.

Waiting. Mind obsessed with possibilities.
Hoping the universe knows.
Home, that place of neither here, nor there.

Waiting. Clash of emotions.
Laughing at the anxiety and dread.
Anonymous, undefined by the in-between.

Waiting. Sleep is a lost friend.
Fought with, and make-up sessions fail.
Medicated, only makes her more angry.

Waiting. Cleanliness surrounds me.
Sense of loss and loneliness.
Sterile, this place is not familiar.

Waiting. Friends promise goodness.
Doubt, uncertainty looms larger than hope.
Unwritten, new chapter, blank pages.

Waiting. Out of my hands.
Ran, and passed the baton.
Cheering, my invisible relay team.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Applause

A room full of brillant women. Their bios are complete with impressive degrees, coveted positions in universities, and interesting lives. We were asked to share one thing that wasn't in our bio; something unique about us. The stories awkwardly flowed, and we shared feats of scaling the sides of mountains, spending nights in caves, writing books in a month, learning to swim as an adult, among dozens of unique and admirable accomplishments.

Near the end of the introductions, one woman shared that she had just become engaged.

The room broke out in applause.

She had found love. We were sharing in her joy. It did not bother me that we shared in this joy. What did bother me was that we didn't share in the joy of anything else. We did not applaud for anything else.

Often times as successful women, we struggle to share our accomplishments. We forget to tout our joys. We hide behind our pride of others; often our children. Sometimes, we forget that we ARE successful women.

So, to those women, I want to add some additional clapping.

I applaud you. For putting your lives on hold for a few days, putting your phones on silent, and not answering emails, while you learn to be a better leader.

I applaud you. For managing 50+ hour a week jobs, while juggling your kids' needs, your partner's needs, and somehow still managing to keep clean clothes on everyone's back.

I applaud you. For being amazing mothers, whose children do see your brilliance and may not understand it now, but they will be positively changed by it in the long run.

I applaud you. For running marathons, hiking mountains, writing books, performing speeches, giving to charity, and helping others.

I applaud you. For not sleeping, getting up while it is still dark to run on the the treadmill to keep your sanity, staying up late to answer emails because of all the meetings, and using your sleeping power to come up with new ideas.

I applaud you. For still knowing how to laugh, finding the humor in the insanity of our jobs, and not taking it too personally.

I applaud you. For being willing to open your hearts up to each other, and share your hopes, and dreams, and fears.

I applaud you. For changing the world.

 I applaud you. For being you.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Contradictions


Do more in life, change the world, make a mark
Stop trying to do too much, smell the roses

Work hard, be your best, strive to be better
Don't be a perfectionist, do what you can

Early bird gets the worm, don't delay
Burn the candle at both ends, exhaustion

Princesses, lovely, femininity
Equality, sameness, feminism

Highly sexualized, always be interested
Mamas are not sexy, never be interested

Make more money, don't be poor, prosperity
Money doesn't buy happiness, be content

Have the latest toys, buy more, stimulate
Have less stuff, throw things away, simply

Feed them, whatever they will eat, convenience
Food allergies, restrictions, only healthy

No GMO's, no processed, only organic
Restaurant frenzy, eat what tastes right

Full calendar, keep the pace, go go go
Think, write, breath, remember, solitude

Introduce music, art, sports, well-rounded kids
Don't over-plan, free and imaginative play

Share your feelings, rely on each other
Dependency is weak, counseling for suckers

Honesty is the best policy, authentic
Truth hurts, sugar coat, keep a smile

Guilt is a permanent state of being
Endless choices, and too many judges

Contradictions, discrepancies in advice
Just be brilliant, comfortable in your skin