Choosing Between Professional Events and Family Needs

It was not a good day for reasons that I’d been unable to discern. I tried to manage it with willpower and then an application of caffeine, yet I couldn’t seem to get started on important tasks. Time slipped away from me in reading things that weren’t particularly important. When I focused on something important, concentration eluded me. I sat down to write all the thoughts in my head to see if I could sort some order out of them, that did not lead me to clarity either. I muddled through, accomplishing only the most critical tasks, until I washed up in Howard’s office at the end of the day, like driftwood.

I talked, Howard listened. My words were just repeating the things I’d written out for myself, but I framed them for my audience of one: the listener I could count on to not think less of me even when some of my thoughts were selfish or judgmental. I don’t like to be judgmental, because I recognize it and then I try to fix it, which is good, but exhausting if I am in a situation where an unending stream of judgmental thoughts keep appearing in my head. But Howard listens and lets me sort the thoughts, even the unfair ones, the ones I never want to write down because written words give permanence to something I want to get rid of.

One thought followed another and most of them ended up being about scheduling June. That is the month of the Writing Excuses Retreat, it is Gleek’s first girl’s camp, it is when extended family reunions are scheduled. The trouble is that Gleek’s camp and the retreat are right on top of each other, in direct conflict. Additionally, the people who usually watch my kids for me when Howard and I travel together have had life shifts. They are not available this year. Thus my attendance at the retreat is complicated. I talked through all the possible fixes and complications of fixes. I expressed what Howard and I both feel: that Gleek’s girl’s camp is far more important than me being at the retreat. I pulled out all the “if, thens” I could muster. I was still talking when Howard held up a hand to pause my flow of words.

“Sandra, you keep talking about possibilities, but the tone of this conversation is you grieving the retreat.”


In that light the grayness of the day made sense. I was grieving, not because I would never get to be part of a retreat, not because I was shut out of professional opportunity, not because I’m forced to stay home, I may yet get to go for a portion of the retreat, but a reduced length of stay means I am a visitor at the event rather than an integral part of it, and that is a different experience. I am mourning the trip where I get to go early, help set up, assist in making things run smoothly, be part of the structure of the retreat. I would have enjoyed that. I would have been good at it and useful. But they will be fine without me and the cost of getting that trip is too high. It is more important to me that I be present to help Gleek prepare for camp and that I wave to her as she drives away on the bus.

This has been a year of choosing between professional events and family needs. Last week I was part of a panel discussion on blogging at the Orem library. It took place at the exact day and time as the church young women’s “New Beginnings” program which provided orientation about the year of activities to come. Parents were invited. It was Gleek’s first young women’s event. She was excited, bouncing. Kiki took her because I was busy. In another week will be LTUE. Gleek’s class is having a fantastic medieval feast for which parents are providing help and activities. I would volunteer, but I’ll be at the Provo Marriott helping run a booth and giving presentations. In May I’m scheduled to speak at the LDS Storymaker’s conference. I don’t know what family event will conflict with that, but at this point I’m certain there will be something. I have to choose, all the time. Only in retrospect can I have any inkling whether I chose wisely.

I want to make clear that these are my choices. I am not trapped. I am in the fortunate position of having to choose between dreams, and most of the time there isn’t really a bad choice. Howard has to choose too. For eleven years he chose to work for a corporation to pay our bills. Now he chooses work over relaxation and is hard on himself when he doesn’t do enough. He sacrifices his ideal work schedules around the family schedule. Sometimes he abandons his projects to do things for me and the kids. This is not a situation where one person makes all the sacrifices. We are all having to balance work and family every day. Even the kids. I like it that way, even when it is hard. I do not want my adult children to say of me that I gave up everything for them. Instead I want them to know that I had a life full of things which mattered to me, but that I would drop those things for them if they really needed me. I try to live that way every day, even when it lands me in a day when I must cry a little for the road not taken.

Final decisions have not been made about scheduling for June. The plans will solidify as we get closer. Howard must go to the retreat. He is one of the hosts and a significant draw for the attendees. Gleek will definitely go to girl’s camp. It feels like I’ll be home to send her off, but whether I stay home after her departure is yet to be decided. It doesn’t need to be decided at this time. For now it is nice to see my choices clearly. It lets today be a better day than the one that came before it.