That’s the problem, folks. I’m usually busy – I make sure I have enough balls in the air that if a couple of them fall, I can still spend some time happily watching some of them fly around between figuring out how to pick up the ones bouncing on the ground. I need something to be good. Anything. So I can smile when I think of it, even in the worst moments of another facet of life. And I don’t know that I have that right now.
The problem isn’t that any one thing is horrifically awful. There are moments where that occurs certainly. I sent email yesterday afternoon – near tears, unable to explain the situation adequately, reeling because it had all been good before everything fell down around me. It’s just frustrating, disheartening, a bit agonizing. That after all this time I still fail to predict problems, can't be quite fast enough with the right answers, feel painfully insecure over some of my work.
I was embarrassed briefly today when said email was answered with comfort and sympathy. It wasn’t that big a deal, I thought sheepishly. I was just being dramatic. Over-reacting. Being emotional. But I thought about it this evening. Wondered if I was being realistic or too hard on myself. I don’t like being mopey, after all. Though I do seem to indulge in that mood pretty frequently. So I tried to figure it out.
My parents arrive tomorrow evening for a long weekend. This is terrible, but I’m dreading it a bit. I’ve cut back on contact with them – for a few reasons, actually – but if you think I’m dramatic, you should meet them. But they’re wonderful and they love me dearly. ScienceWoman wrote a few days ago about how stressful it can be to prepare for those visits. It doesn’t make sense – they’re not going to disown me because the bathrooms aren’t spotless – but I want them to know I’m doing well, taking care of myself, my dog and my house. And with the constant work lately, I haven’t mowed or weeded or trimmed. The car needs cleaning. The house wasn’t filthy, but it required some attention. I decided to tackle the mowing first and considered my situation simultaneously.
Then I thought about my family, picturing that particular ball lying on the ground, perhaps tucked in a corner with a bit of dust on it. I send short email to Mom at night to let her know I’m in for the night and OK. I call on the weekends, mustering energy to not sound depressed or worried or under stress. I listen to stories about people at work, the Little One, what Brother did wrong and what stupid thing Brother’s wife said. And it’s fine – I love them and I can come up with patience and happy stories of my own so they don’t worry. My parents are smart people though – they know they’re being kept at a distance. Make comments about how very long it’s been since I’ve been home. How I don’t call as often as I once did.
Friends are similar story – a once pretty ball that typically flutters through the air but now is bouncing on the ground a bit. I haven’t returned some phone calls – first because I really was out of energy and depressed, then because I was frantic to catch up with work. I’ve been busy lately – trying to pick up everything I let slide while mentally preparing (read: watching TNT and sleeping) for my talk. So there's been less contact there than is good. My friends happen to be quite good at giving me space too - so there's no overt pressure or bad feelings. But I feel guitly nonetheless. They certainly deserve more than they're getting.
But picking up projects at the office was working! I have a tendency to focus completely when I feel I’m making progress. Relationship’s going well? I’m all in – I want to dote on the poor guy because I’m just so happy with him. My family’s bringing me joy? Or perhaps some friends make me giggle nearly constantly? I’m free with my time – visits, phone calls, emails, care packages. But work is likely the most tempting. When I feel like I’m building excellent collaborative relationships, reading the right literature, getting data that makes sense, putting skills to use while gaining new ones… It’s so tempting to just ignore most other things – including housework, yardwork, giving the puppy a much needed but dreaded bath – and put in time at the office, spend the commute thinking through problems, then returning to the laptop to pull more data together. Authorships, for me, have been hard to come by. So I grasp at opportunities eagerly, rejoice when I make progress and despair when I feel those precious papers slipping away.
So now I’m trying to pick up those balls – the histograms, the paper that needs revising, and the one that needs submitting. It’s not a big deal – minor setbacks at best. It’ll either work or it won’t, and the right thing to do is appreciate the victories. I smiled over your congratulations in the comments – if there’s anything that’s overwhelmingly positive for me lately, it’s probably you guys. So when I’m down on the ground, reaching for these work opportunities that somehow got dropped – some my fault, others not so much – I’m looking up, wanting to see something spinning elegantly through the air. Floating freely because it’s good.
I finished my lawn in 45 minutes – it normally takes me 2 hours. I almost collapsed upon coming inside, eyes stinging from sweat, clothes drenched. I realized that in that moment, all I wanted was cold water. A drink and shower. So I did that, came back to the living room, and made some progress on my poor histograms. Sometimes you just have to crawl around and figure out how to pick up the ball you dropped (or was knocked out of your hand as the case may be). My family situation will be fine – Mom and I will laugh, Daddy will fix my roof, and we’ll eat and talk and spend time together. My friends are amazing – the email this afternoon and a phone call last night reminded me of that. Work is … work. There will be good days and bad days, and I’ll be thrilled with the former and crushed by the latter. That’s just me, I fear.
In the midst of all this though, realizing I still need to pick up some clutter and clean tonight, I realized that I’m smarter than I give myself credit for. The ball that’s in the air – happy and bright and pretty – happens to be right here. The blog pleases me – I like writing it, I love reading others, and I treasure the comments. It provides a pretty consistent spot of loveliness. I feel comfortable here, think through situations a bit better, am offered some insight that wouldn’t have otherwise been gained. I say this often because I think of it often – I’m glad you’re here, whether you comment or not. Thinking about people who might read this motivates me to write it. And, some days more than others, I’m quite grateful that I do.
I'm picking up the balls - it's the only way to get the suckers back in the air. But I appreciate having you guys fluttering around up there. It made me happy this evening.