Sunday, October 26, 2014

Kale vs. Cake

Hopes and Dreams...those are tricky little mother fuckers aren't they. They can give you a reason for living and be the root of all evil and self loathing. Having them, following them and having a family...well that's like choosing between birthday cake and kale smoothies for breakfast. Both can be considered good for you on an emotional and literal level, but, ultimately, it is a choice between should and could.

It's not a choice between right and wrong; boy wouldn't that make life simple. Right and wrong decisions imply a concrete and clear sense of justice and injustice.  And let's face it, we all have a well developed sense of justice when it comes to our lives. No, the swirling grayish mass that lingers between the poles of Family and Hopes & Dreams has no parameters, no regulations, an alarming lack of decency and a predictability as reliable as a teenager's promise to take out the trash.

I've got them, Hopes and Dreams. I've had them for awhile, according to my sister, ever since I sat watching Carol Burnett and turned to her and said "I want to do that." I knew it in my bones, it's what made me finally feel like "this is who I am." So I pursued that Hope and followed that Dream in all my practicality. Along the way my Hopes and Dreams grew. I still wanted to be Carol Burnett, but now I also wanted to be Emma Thompson and Catherine O'Hara and Mick Napier(look him up-genius). I loved the studying, worked the work and survived the disappointments. And despite the weird, weird, narcissistic impossibility of the weirdness of this business I chose, it still makes me happy and curious and lights me up.

The problem was, and is, I also had this other Hope and Dream. I wanted to have a family. I knew it in my bones. And despite the weird, weird, motion sickness-like impossibility of the weirdness of this parenting track I chose, it still makes me happy and confused and proud and lights me up.

Oil, say hello to water.

Now, there have been countless articles gracing the covers of Atlantic Monthly and Time and More and Seventeen about "Having it all: Is it possible?" Studies have been conducted, experts consulted, executives profiled and the conclusions linger in that grayish swirling mass of nobody fucking knows. But that doesn't sell magazines. So they barrage us with platitudes of "Yes: here's how." Or "Yes, but not all at once." Or "We're getting close."

So here's my answer, based on seventeen years of living it. I want to say No, because it feels that way most of the time and has the air of controversy; but that would be wrong. My answer: Yes, but it looks completely different than you imagined, and maybe I should have been more specific about what "it all" is. There's a whole lot more to 'all' than the shiny packaging reveals. And once you've opened that package and cut through those seemingly indestructible plastic ties and spread out all the parts on the dining room table, it becomes very apparent that you will never have this put together by Christmas morning.

I love my kids. And since I promised to always tell you the truth here it goes...having them has not made my Hopes and Dreams difficult to attain, the choices I insist on making has. The reality is that every time I make a choice, something gets ignored or lost or left behind. I've said no to things in favor of my kids. I've also said yes to things at considerable expense to my family. I've resented others' successes who do not have kids, and I am jealous of those who do and seem to have it figured out way better than I. And I marvel at people who nod understandingly but silently judge unreservedly my choice to help my kid with his homework instead of going to that thing which will lead to that next thing which will be the key to my success and happiness...maybe. I should add that the helping with the homework rarely ends well and is usually met with disdain and blame from whichever kid I chose over enduring fame and fortune.

Swirling gray mass putting in some overtime.

Well, I'm not Carol Burnett. Or Emma, Catherine or Mick. I have had to say goodbye to some Hopes, shrink many Dreams, and welcome ones I never anticipated. Through stubbornness and passion I have managed to make my living in the field I have chosen and I've gotten to work on some really cool projects. It still looks nothing like I imagined and the joy-to-work ratio is not always a well balanced diet.

Sometimes I am disappointed and want to chuck these stupid Hopes and Dreams because they make life really fucking hard and are they worth it and aren't I just being selfish? And here's the real kicker: my ultimate Hope and Dream is that my kids discover and follow their own. So, I will not give up yet because I do not want them to give up ever.

And now I'm going to go have some cake.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Well Played Old Navy

At the risk of being indelicate, on my way to work today I was reminded of one of the many joys that comes with being a woman. As I am a woman enjoying the second half of my fourth decade, this reminder came earlier than expected, otherwise I would not have been wearing khaki pants. Light colored khaki pants. In that moment I was instantly transported back to my 13 year old self and remembered the fear and panic associated with this potential outcome. I realized in this moment that the only thing worse than having this happen while still in the throes of middle school hell was having this happen as a a teacher of middle school students.

Since I was already running late I did what little triage I could manage, wrapped my sweater around my waist with the sleeves dangling strategically and went to teach two classes. Easy enough, right, just sit behind my desk and lead class in a relaxed yet authoritative manner. This would work perfectly as long as I wasn't a PE or theatre teacher. Well, I'm not a PE teacher, so I dodged that bullet. Unfortunately I did not dodge the other one. So I rush to class, looking over my lesson plan for the day, desperately trying to make adjustments in order to avoid absolute mortification should the dangling cardigan sleeves sway and incur disgust from the 13 year old boys and disdainful pity from the girls. And wouldn't you know it, this, of all days, is when my division director pops by unannounced to observe my class. So, my option of conducting the entire class in the dark had to be quickly discarded.

I somehow make it through the class by lurking in pockets of dim lighting and standing with my legs crossed masking my utter panic with an air of relaxed authority. Thankfully I have a two hour break before my next class. I jump into the car and go to the one place I know I can buy a pair of pants quickly and cheaply...Old Navy. I certainly do not need any more khakis and lord knows I shouldn't be spending any more money until that fictitious book deal comes through (hint, hint, please share this so Simon & Schuster will come calling), but desperate times dictated a new pair of pants.

Two criteria:

  • My budget was $20 or less
  • The color had to be similar to the ones I was wearing (You know since everyone who saw me so far obviously made note of the shade of khaki pants I was wearing. I know this because Middle School aged kids are rarely absorbed with themselves.)
To my delight, Old Navy was in the midst of their 30% off Stuff and Save sale. The day was taking a turn for the better. I grabbed two pair of khakis in my regular size to try on. One was the right color, one was just a color I always wanted. The one in the right color turned out to be "skinny" style, and I do not have "skinny" style legs, I have "Irish farm-girl" style legs. The other pair were the right style, wrong color, and just a bit too big. Huh. Weird. So, I find the right color, right style and a smaller size; a size I have not worn in 20 years. They fit. My day just got so much better.

Full disclosure? I have been working on losing weight. Hurrah hurrah, good for me, whatever. I'm proud to say I have accomplished this without giving up gluten, dairy or sugar (no disrespect to those who walk that path. You are, in fact braver than me, as I would need my life threatened to give up any one of those much less all three.) My assumption was always that I would simply enjoy my regular sized pants fitting more comfortably. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go down a size. And I am still not convinced that I have.

This is why. Designers, in a stroke of genius, have started to design pants for different shaped women. Thank you designers. I know that this smaller size in a "skinny" pant would not fit me, but the "relaxed through the hips and thighs" size fits great. The other gem I know of is that a size # today is actually larger than a size # years ago, because designers also know that vanity is a powerful motivator. If I tried to fit in this same size in the 1930's, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't even be able to force my arm into one pant leg. Since the criteria for sizes has changed, however, as evidenced by the existence of not only size 0 but size 00, folks like me can enjoy a bit of deluded euphoria.

Regardless of the reality, I definitely walked taller today since I was walking around in a size "late 20's version of myself" pair of khakis. Whatever the reason these pants fit, I'm enjoying it for as long as it lasts. As a matter of fact I have just decided that khakis make great pajama pants. From mortified self-absorption to joyful self-absorption all in a days work.

Well played Old Navy. Well played.