Chapter XVII

because you never know someone from the very beginning


April 2013

Being Present…With Memories

I try to live in the moment. I work hard to be present. But sometimes living in the moment means accepting that THAT moment happens to be filled with memories of the past…and all of the emotions that come with it.

Things like heading to your hometown on a train and spotting the very place on the Amtrak platform where you stood 19 years ago with two suitcases and said teary goodbyes to your parents as you left for good and moved to Manhattan. And then getting to DC and walking the very same walk you walked for a year from your job up to your school. And to make matters more nostalgic, on that walk to pass your father’s favorite French restaurant where you happily recall a family dinner watching your now gone grandmother eat her three course meal enjoying every bite (and the next night to meet your mother there for a quick drink and smell the same smells and see the same fabric that’s been there since you ate there as a whole alive multi-generational family!). And then walking past the house you lived in with seven other girls your senior year. The house where there were laughs, tears, parties, career victories, and lifelong friendships solidified. Then you get to campus and you walk across remembering how mixed your feelings were about a school with such privilege and less diversity and your own crushing feelings of inferiority and jealousy and yet, a deep desire to make it work. And then to sit in a room dedicated to an on campus group you were so happy to get in to and to see your name on the dedication wall and to meet extraordinary current students, now members of the same group. And to leave and miss your train and spend an hour in Union Station remembering watching your grandparents dance there at your senior ball on graduation weekend, and the Sunday afternoon lunches your family used to have there when we decided after church to “take a drive” into the city.

There is no neat bow here to wrap this up and package it away. There is though gratitude, happiness and excitement to be getting home soon knowing these moments too will rush back in later years and overwhelm any of us that remember the baths, the dinners, the special places, the walks and all of those things that make up every current moment – being present and taking it all in.

This is Life Balance

There has been a lot of talk about Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I suspect it’s no surprise I am a huge fan and no, I don’t think she is saying all women need to strive to be Jack Welch, family be damned! But it raised a few other thoughts in my mind about that often used phrase “Life Balance” which I’ve always thought was a misnomer. Have it all at once? Strive for a killer job that requires 70+ hour work weeks while having kids and making dinner at the same time with no help all in heels and perfectly blown-out hair? Please. Didn’t we give up that “Bring Home The Bacon” ad in the 80s? Did anyone wear Enjoli?

So as time marches on and women become Secretaries of State, CEOs and COOs, men improve their diapers skills and having a family and a job becomes a Society Issue not just a Women’s Issue, I thought it time to take stock of what Life Balance means in my life. Turns out, it’s a lot of the little things. Maybe it will be policy, but right now for me and many of my friends, working and not, life balance manifests itself in the building blocks of the day-to-day.

Here goes…Life Balance, for me, is:

  • Very liberal use of the dishwasher. Better GE than me.
  • It’s doing lunges in the elevator and drinking an evening wind-down beer between sets of sit ups.
  • It’s dressing for work in the morning following the “If It Zips, It Fits” rule, only to notice at the office that the pants that fit (because they ZIP) are two inches too long.
  • It’s grapes and leftover thai food while standing before an open fridge for dinner at 9pm.
  • It’s carrying a workhorse work bag that is big enough for a laptop AND a stuffed elephant. Really, you never know.
  • And back to that bag, life balance is pulling out said laptop only to scatter glitter all over the conference table as you set up for a very important meeting. Everyone could use a little sparkle.
  • It’s chicken nuggets or a fried egg over pasta and thank you, that’s dinner.
  • It’s telling your partners “no I can’t do a call at 10am on Saturday but how about 1pm?” Naptime.
  • It’s appreciating how challenging it might be for men who are expected to follow 1950s norms like opening doors (which I like) AND 2013 standards which suggest “hey I don’t need your help.” Sorry honey!
  • It’s the iPad in a restaurant, Dora while making dinner and giving yourself a break. They will be educated. They will know how to read. They will not be hopeless screen addicts who cannot carry a conversation with another human being over dinner.

It’s managing logistics every day, it’s lists and calendars and communicating and not being afraid to say “hey can you do this I am fried.” I am learning how to do this every day and for every failure there is a success. It’s also living in the moment and doing one thing at a time. If life balance is like a see-saw, I would rather be on one end at a time, enjoying the ups and down rather than sitting in the middle, trying to be in two places at once and realizing that in that space, you don’t end up really going anywhere.

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