An update: dispatch from the other side


It’s been seven weeks since I left the working life for the other side, and it’s time for a little update. I’m still getting used to it, but I’ve enjoyed the unhurried life a lot, relieved to not be dashing to all corners of Arlington and Cambridge and juggling competing demands on my time. There are still demands on my time, but the competition has certainly died down.

The extra time has been beneficial for family life, where not much may have changed on the surface–kids still go to school, Mr. No Nom still goes to work, and I still cook a lot–but there have been subtle shifts below. Soup-er Girl is delighted that I can take her to an afternoon swim class in the middle of the week.  Mr. No Nom doesn’t have to cover afternoon pick ups. But perhaps most telling of all, Soup-er Boy seems more relaxed and we’ve had more time together. He’s the one who has benefitted the most from my extra time; I am home in the afternoons and there is greater flexibility for his after school activities. Sometimes this means he can bring a friend home, or stay later for school activities. A few times, we’ve even managed to squeeze in some tennis before I have to pick up his sister. There’s only so much time before the teen years hit hard and he’ll turn into grumpy, moody boy.  I’ll take what I can now.

In other news, I also managed to check off a few to-do items (from a crazy long list!):

  • 1 car inspection sticker–only 9 months overdue and lucky to not have gotten a ticket!
  • 1 new set of car tires–after having to re-fill a leaky tire for months, but man are they expensive!
  • 1 mammogram–what better way to face middle age head on?
  • 1 failed barre class–I’m sticking with tennis.
  • 1 stove repaired–the beeping was beginning to drive us crazy and a PSA to everyone out there to AVOID BOSCH STOVES.
  • 1 massage–my 41st birthday indulgence!
  • 1 summer trip booked –this was no small feat as it involves a 26-day trip to Europe.  I booked plane tickets, train tickets (we’re taking the Chunnel!), 1 hotel , 1 apartment, and 1 farmhouse, and a car rental.
  • 1 trip to Vail–we left the kids at home and I learned to ski!
  • 1 book read–Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Oof, that was a doozy.  Nothing like reading about how parents can really screw up their kids while on my first trip without the kids.  Guilt x 2.
  • 40+ hours of volunteer consulting work for Bridge Over Troubled Waters, an organization working with homeless youth.
  • 1 gala–in support of Bridge Over Troubled Waters and I got to wear they ao dai I had made in Hoi An last year.
  • 1 political fundraising event–my first ever in support of a dear friend’s inaugural run for state senate.  This whole political campaign involvement thing is new to me and a little weird. I am clearly out of my comfort zone knowing that there is so much money being bandied about for various candidates and yet the political process is so out of whack.
  • 4 lunch dates with friends–so lovely to catch up with people doing wonderful things.
  • 2 passports renewed–I’m going to miss Emma’s baby photo in her first passport.
  • 1 new flower bed–I faced my worm-phobia head on and not only dug a new flower bed, but also planted the flowers!
  • Multiple soccer carpools arranged and driven–10 year old boys talk about the darndest things!
  • Endless loads of laundry and meals cooked–it never ends.

It sounds like a lot and it feels very jumbled. As you can see, with my new-found free time, I’ve been pulled in multiple directions, dealing with overdue family errands as well as postponed self-care. More importantly and most glaringly to me, there has been an utter lack of direction.  I suppose that the crazy long to-do list still takes precedence, but I am surprised that my time hasn’t been more directed, more purposeful.

Of course, I am of two minds about this; really, when am I not of two minds? Most of the time I think I was born with two minds. But I digress.  On the one hand, I am disturbed and a bit guilty about now accomplishing more towards the thus-far-unidentified-goal-for-the-next-few-months.  Shouldn’t I be spending more effort and focus on figuring out this aforementioned goal? And how can there be so many items on my to do list?  And why won’t the list stop growing?  On the other hand, there’s a reason that the thus-far-unidentified-goal-for-the-next-few-months hasn’t yet been identified.  I’m supposed to be taking a break!  Figures I wouldn’t know how to slow down properly or cope with ambiguity.

But ambiguity was the point right?  I’m supposed to be taking time off to get a new perspective.  But truth be told, most of my time has been spent on tasks and errands, without any bigger picture considerations. I find myself still in the weeds. True, weeds need to be dealt with, but they have taken over my entire view.

Perhaps I’ve gone about this wrong, coming in with the wrong set of expectations and ineffective implementation.  I didn’t want to over-think this, but some re-thinking is in order–otherwise I will just jump from task to task and come out feeling like I’ve wasted precious time.

Starting this week, I’m going to set aside at least one day per week when I am not focused on chores and errands. I’ll come up with a separate list of things that I want to do (as opposed to things that need to get done) and start ticking them off.  Wish me luck!


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1 Response to An update: dispatch from the other side

  1. Eugene S says:

    I’m reading that Celeste Ng book. I’m not even done yet and I’m think to myself, “I better not do that to my kids.”

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