Day: June 15, 2013

Coming Home, Familiarity, and Ants

I arrived home to all things familiar, dry air, house, weeds, children watching screens, boxes piled in my office so I can put them away, email waiting, and ants foraging on the kitchen floor. This year there is a particularly thriving ant colony, which is now doomed because I got home, noticed them, and have fed them bait. By Tuesday they’ll be gone. Hopefully by the end of this week the weeds and boxes will also be absent and the kids will be varying their daily activities a bit more.

I walked in the door and was greeted with “Oh, Hi Mom.” Hardly an enthusiastic homecoming. Yet it demonstrates that they were not traumatized by anything that happened while I was gone. Instead they were mostly comfortable and are thus not inclined to be clingy. This is good, because back to normal is my biggest hope for the week. Instead of effusive hugs upon me entering the house, the kids are in their own time and ways, letting me know that they missed me and telling me about their adventures.

It was hard to let go of retreat thoughts, but as the evening continued I began do. My mind has begun to consider the things of next week, the hundred ways I need to put my house into order and what I hope to accomplish. It feels strange to not have some huge deadline to meet in the next week. Instead I can begin to take care of all the small neglected things. Like the ants.

Doing the Job that Needs to be Done

When Brandon, Dan, Mary, and Howard first started talking about doing a Writing Excuses retreat, I loved the idea. I wanted to be an integral part of all the planning. I wanted to be useful and essential. But much of the retreat discussion took place during recording sessions when I was not there. Task after task was handled and there was little for me to do other than to listen to the plans and make suggestions about implementation. I was of great help during the crazy days of registration and customer support. I’m good at answering emails and helping people. So I did that.

Then I figured that I would be most useful during the actual week of the retreat. I would arrive early and help with the hundred preparatory tasks both expected and not expected. I would stay late and help evaluate how everything went. Everyone thought this was a fantastic plan. But then responsible parenting required me to choose. It was no longer a matter of just finding someone to care for the kids in my absence, that someone would have to coordinate sending a girl off to camp and then dealing with her coming home. I checked and all the people in my life who I felt would handle that without being too stressed were unavailable. So the plan changed. I would come late to the retreat and I would leave early. This made me sad, because I’d wanted to be useful and essential. Instead they would arrange it without me and I would be a visitor at the retreat instead of integral.

I expected to arrive and be at loose ends. I expected to fill the odd task. Instead I got there and all the staff breathed relief. I spent most of my days working, helping, arranging, facilitating. It was obvious that I was needed. There were a hundred invisible jobs, the kind of thing that I do at home without thinking, but which enable all the other things. I did far more dish washing than writing and I’m okay with that because I was helping create something larger. I was doing the jobs that needed to be done so that the retreat could exist. Thins like retreats are always a group creation and my role was quiet but critical. Then, before I was done, my time was up. My early departure arrived.

I wanted to stay, so very much. There were needs at home and needs at the retreat. I pondered changing my ticket and figuring out child care via long distance. I weighed my choices. And I didn’t know the right answer. Perhaps there was no right answer, nor wrong one. I conferred with Howard and with the kids at home. Brandon, Dan, and Mary all understood and supported whatever choice I made. I left. I am sad that I had to choose between these things, that there was not some way to rearrange and allow me to be the professional, reliable, helper that I wanted to be. I’m even sadder because it seems like I always have to choose because things land on top of each other. It feels arbitrary and unfair, because everything would fit just fine if only they would land in different weeks.

So my role this past week both was and was not what I had hoped for. The retreat was excellent and exhausting. I was just beginning to feel part of it when I had to leave. Most of it can be summed up by me doing the job that was in front of me because it was the job that needed doing, even if there was a different job I would have preferred.

I’ll be home soon doing more of the same, only different.