When the final comment at your group meeting presentation is, “After this, you’ll be ready for politics!” things probably didn’t go your way. Or at least they didn’t for me. And the problem, like sometimes happens in politics, is that I still think I’m right. I also spent a good deal of time repeating myself because I felt like I nobody addressed my actual question. So everyone listened, several people made points that were valid but didn’t necessarily answer the question of interest, and I left feeling like they weren’t pleased with my conclusions but couldn’t come up with a concrete reason why.
I just got back from McDonald’s, having realized that the puppy hadn’t had a double cheeseburger in weeks if not months. Our morning walks have resulted in a slight change in metabolism that makes me want junk food a bit less. I probably could have done without dinner completely – I was working on a different project here at home – and Chienne was cuddled in the corner of the couch, fast asleep. She picked her head up to look at me when I settled down with a bottle of water, and I thought about how darn cute she is.
“Should we go get something for dinner?” I asked, already up and wandering toward my flip flops at the door as she pranced toward the garage. So we took a short trip into town, got 2 cheeseburgers and I gazed at the spectacular sunset – radiating stripes of orange through a background of vivid pink. It was really beautiful and I found myself pleased I’d ventured out to see it.
On my way home, I remembered a post that I’d started several weeks ago, then never finished. I do laundry in my garage. I guess that in an area where it rarely dips below freezing and the ground is too rocky for basements in many areas, a little nook is placed in the attached garage and you tuck the washer and dryer in said nook.
Upon arriving in town, I bought a moderately priced dryer and splurged on a front loading washer. They’re environmentally friendly, I insisted when Mom asked why I spent the extra money. I actually just think they’re super pretty. I have a fondness for cool appliances so I twirled with delight when Dad hooked them up for me – washer on the right, dryer on the left. I smile at them each day I pull my car in the garage.
Unfortunately, whether I see clothes in the washer has little effect on my action. I’m usually carrying items when I get home. Have my pretty black work bag over my shoulder and an empty coffee mug in my hand. I remember I put a load of laundry in the night before and think that as soon as I put my stuff down, I’ll return to the garage and put those clothes in my reasonably priced dryer.
Yet I don’t. For some reason, I don’t make it out there until too late. Finally think of those damp clothes and realize it’s been longer than 24 hours since I put them in. I think I luxuriate in not having to hurry after years in apartments where wash cycles were carefully timed so as not to use the machines for longer than necessary. Normally it’s not a problem to let the clothes hang out for a little while – I go switch them around eventually. But something about the heat and humidity has made this plan gross. They appear to mildew a bit if they’re left out there for very long lately.
So I opened the washer with some horror about a month ago. Took the clothes out, ran the empty washer, then washed the clothes again. Told myself firmly that I would promptly dry the clean laundry because the alternative was unacceptable.
But I did it again. Left wet clothes in the washer all day Saturday while I was busy with other tasks.
“Do you like mildew, Katie?!” I scolded myself sharply when I remembered my laundry and hurried to the garage. So I repeated my remove clothes – empty washer – wash clothes again plan. Then I struggled all day Sunday to get myself out there and switch laundry around promptly.
It was – in all honesty – painful. I was used to going out when I felt like it! I didn’t want to feel like I was living in an apartment again! Rushing to the washer after 30 minutes had passed! But the mildew forced my hand. I continue to remind myself – keeping laundry within my thoughts as much as possible – so I don’t have to wash a single load multiple times.
It’s an appropriate story to tell today because I think it’s difficult to change. I belong to the camp that believes that people are who they are. If someone demonstrates some major life change – and maintains it – I’m sincerely impressed. It’s not easy. An example? Other than my laundry habits? I can do that.
I wrote about how work wasn’t going to fulfill me in any complete way. That it’s important for me to devote time and energy to family, friends and faith because they make me happy. Yet today – like most other days – I woke up to check email, read some blogs, started thinking about several projects I have going. Found myself grinning on my way home because despite a rough meeting, I made progress on two other projects. I like multi-tasking a great deal. Was proud of my time spent today – mostly on mindless tasks that were moving some projects forward and made me feel productive, if not overly talented. So mere days after I realized I need to take time away from my professional life for other interests, I did nothing but work. I tend toward my normal behavior. I work. Or hang out and feel guilty about not working.
Change is, of course, possible. People improve themselves all the time. Make better choices. The problem – for me – is that I forget to pay attention. Gain weight back because I eat when I’m stressed or sad. I stopped working out years ago after losing a great deal of weight, and realized how delightful it was to sleep instead. I ceased my dramatically social behavior in grad school because I didn’t remember to make an effort to respond to invitations or to save up mental energy to go out at night rather than watching television. I just tend toward the comfortable – the normal. So if I want to make an effort to be more balanced, it has to be like laundry. A constant, nagging reminder in my head. Work can wait until tomorrow though my inclination is to finish it ASAP. I need to return phone calls rather than reading blogs. I should respond to email – make plans to meet people for dinner or drinks – rather than eagerly retreating to my pretty nest here at home.
The good news – and there is some – seems to be that habits – good ones – can be incorporated. I walk Chienne every morning and miss it when we can’t go. It’s good for me and it was rough at first, but now I just go. It’s become normal. Yet when I skipped a couple days last week, I panicked. Falling out of the habit – letting it drift down my list of priorities – means I won’t do it anymore. I know myself well enough to realize that. So I forced myself through another couple days, and now the dog waits at the door impatiently each morning. She knows we’re going. It’s the interim that’s hard – remembering why the change is important, making sure my daily routine incorporates some new behavior, and hoping it sticks.
I’m not there yet. But I do have some hope. And if it doesn't end up working out with balancing this job, perhaps I'm developing some skills that would lend to a political future. It's always good to have an alternate plan, right?