Monday, October 15, 2012

Happily Ever After in the Kingdom of Priorities

I am learning that there are projects I attempt with a full house (husband and daughter home) and those I save for an empty house. Projects that require tearing something (e.g. a closet) apart and putting it back together again need an empty house, and no interruptions. 

Class planning is like that. So is writing. And since both are currently at the top of my to-do list, last week's schedule was both enjoyable and exasperating. So it's not at all surprising that it was the kind of week that left me eating my own words. Which tasted a lot like crow.

Those words, so self-righteous and admonishing, were directed to my husband last Friday morning. We'd gone out to breakfast, where we ran into a friend of mine - a retired colleague. While she and I were talking, my breakfast arrived at the table. By the time I wrapped up the conversation and returned to the table, my husband 
- the King of Focus - was shaking his head. I proceeded to tell him that no one had ever gone to their grave wishing they'd checked a few more things off their list, but many regretted time not spent with family and friends. Uh huh.

These words were delivered at the end of a week where my daughter had been off from school (and therefore home with me) one day and my husband had been off from work (and therefore home with me) for two days. We enjoyed our time together, and I pushed the list of things I should be doing to the back burner, where it belonged. After all, if my family is my priority, I should be able to step out of my routine and enjoy the company of my husband and child...right?

Still, I'd been in the work force long enough to know that a four-day week only means you try to cram five days of work into four days in the office, so I should have known better than to make such a proclamation at the end of what had been, for me, a two-day work week. 

By Friday afternoon, important projects were still looming, and time spent in pursuits with other people was becoming overrated. By Saturday afternoon, I knew I had to get out of Dodge, so I escaped to my favorite office away from home - Starbucks - where I proceeded to knock out two of the looming projects in less than two hours. Not only did I check these things off my list, but both my husband and my daughter were busy with their own pursuits, so I did this guilt-free.

Yet my own words echoed - unbidden and repeatedly - in my head, inducing just enough guilt to take the edge off the exhilaration I felt at checking things off my list. And they sounded a lot like recrimination.

Perfectionism is a sneaky beast. In my quest to perfectly adhere to my priorities - all of them - to be the perfect wife and mother, the perfect freelancer, the perfect instructor, I'd forgotten to be the perfect me. When I made my list of priorities, I forgot to put myself on it. 

In a perfect world, we are perfectly happy when unexpected time with family arises. It's never inconvenient, we never get on each other's nerves, we manage to balance everything. Perfectly.

Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world. The King of Focus married the Queen of Distraction, and though  most days are happily ever after, some days, the kingdom isn't big enough for the both of us.

But most days, it's just right. Especially when the Queen remembers to keep her big mouth shut.

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