Will Wonders Never Cease?

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Since I started writing this blog (six months ago!), I’ve put numerous household tasks on hold to give myself more time to write and tramp around on social media.

As I’ve written about before, I’m a certifiable freak when it comes to keeping our house picked up and checking things off my “to do” list. This past week, stymied by a nasty virus and zero energy or interest in accomplishing anything, I’ve lolled around on the couch waiting to feel better.

I’ve had time to read = good. And think = dangerous.

While rest is good for my body, long stretches of time to obsess over the many household tasks piling up (not to mention all the blog posts I should have written) usually do nothing but increase my anxiety level (and my appetite).

Then, yesterday, a miracle occurred.

For the first time, my obsessing and worrying actually accomplished something! Several household appliances in need of repair for months miraculously fixed themselves!

We either have some lovely elves who visit in the night and fix things around our house – or – my obsessing is finally paying off! While I believe in elves, the ones I know usually only make cute, if slightly clunky, shoes, so I’m taking all the credit on this one!

What? You scoff? Perhaps you need additional evidence …

Exhibit A:  Garbage Disposal

The wall switch that operates our garbage disposal has been sticking for at least three months. It requires simultaneous jiggling and swearing to turn on. I’ve not gotten around to calling anyone to fix it, preferring instead to curse and complain whenever the mass of rotting orange peels, uneaten quesadilla crusts and gelatinous cheesy peas threaten to overflow the sink.

Yesterday, that switch moved around as willingly and easily as my kids do when I bribe them with ice cream ask them lovingly to pick up their toys.

Exhibit B:  Ceiling Fan

The ceiling fan in our master bedroom has been broken for months. We had a repair person out to fix it twice over the summer, replacing the switch and doing other fix-y things I didn’t take time to understand.  That fan wouldn’t move to save its life (or to save us a few dollars on our outrageous air conditioning bills).

Yesterday, I flipped the wall switch by mistake and voila, a wave of pure, fresh re-circulated air hit my face. While the experience was slightly marred by the thousands of dust bunnies choking my air supply, I believe all of us can agree we have a certifiable miracle here.

Afraid it’s a one-day fluke, we’ll be keeping the fan on until next summer.

Exhibit C:  Clothes Dryer

We have two clothes dryers in our home (a long story) and both of them died at the same time earlier this summer. The repair person fixed the upstairs dryer by removing the birds’ nest renting space in the exhaust hose (who knew?). He couldn’t find anything wrong with the downstairs dryer, which worked surprisingly well up until the moment the repairman left.

The downstairs dryer hasn’t turned on in weeks. Yesterday, by mistake, I put some wet clothes in it and … you know it … it turned on! Granted, the clothes didn’t dry, but they did tumble around for a while and really, isn’t that all you can ask from a dryer?

Freaky, right?

Exhibit D:  My Husband’s Bicycle

Several weeks ago Mike had a minor spill off his bicycle on the way to work. Other than a few scratches, thankfully, he wasn’t hurt. According to my husband, who has never believed in the power of my worry and obsession, the slightly banged-up bicycle now rides more smoothly than it did pre-wipeout. He’s now a convert.

Coincidences? I dare say not!

We’ll be launching a full investigation into these occurrences right after we go play the lottery. In the meantime, if you have something you’d like me to worry about for you (for a small fee), please let me know in the comments!

Permission to Write Crap

This is a much-needed hug!

I just made an agreement with Ava (age 8):  we each will write four sentences on our individual projects tonight. Hers on her third grade homework assignment. Mine on this blog post.  Then we will call it a night.

You’ve just read my four sentences. Ava is still writing. I think I got the better end of this deal.

This agreement represents huge progress for me. Until recently (earlier this week), my go-to parenting tool has been to nag and pressure my daughter every night to get her homework done. In doing so I’ve created a monster – me. I’ve been told that my interactions with my daughter around “her” homework amount to my being “up her ass.” Apparently, being “up her ass” is not a formula for a good relationship with my daughter nor is it having the desired effect, creating a young person who takes responsibility for getting her homework done and enjoys the process.  Who knew?

For the record, I am not a procrastinator. I pride myself on being focused, diligent and somewhat militant in my ability to push myself to get things done. It’s the trait I hold onto with a death grip on those (far too often) days when I need to feel superior to my procrastination-prone husband. Arguably, pressuring myself works to get the bills paid on time and our household running somewhat smoothly. The problem is when it comes to doing the things that bring me joy (writing) and help me reach one of my goals (writing this parenting blog), I routinely find a slew of more necessary tasks to accomplish. Tonight for example. 

I had such high hopes for this evening. My plan was to sit down and pound out a kick-ass post for this blog. Unfortunately, I’d rather comb through my daughter Rhys’ weeks worth of hair tangles than write tonight. I feel wiggly. Wiggly translates to sitting down at my computer, writing the date, fixing the margins, searching for appetizer recipes on Pinterest, eating a cheese stick, clipping Rhys’ fingernails, writing and deleting one sentence before fixing the margins again.

I want to say f*** it for tonight. Instead, I start noticing Ava’s procrastination process. “Shit!” I think to myself, “She’s inherited the procrastination gene from my husband!” Did I mention I’m not a procrastinator?

As I was about to tell Ava to get to work, stop messing around and just get something/anything done (yes, I’ve worked hard over the years to hone this particularly encouraging coaching style), I realized she was following my lead, mirroring my discomfort and self-pressure. It was easier to see it in her tonight than in myself. Not to mention it’s much more satisfying to watch her spin her wheels and grow crabbier and crabbier than it is to focus on my own wheel spinning. I hate to fail. I know how to pressure myself and others. You could say I’m an expert at it.

Instead of pushing her tonight, I offered her a hug. We cuddled on the couch and talked about feeling wiggly and unfocused. I told Ava that I noticed she was struggling and it helped me notice I was struggling too. We decided some nights you just have to let go. But first we made our deal. Her only request:  I sit next to her while we wrote. We agreed whatever we wrote would be good enough for tonight; crappy writing encouraged.

Release & Repeat

Ava (age 8) is teaching me the importance of having at least one dramatic meltdown per day. Sobbing, hyperventilating and screaming apparently are good for the soul, great for the complexion and a boon to any project on which you’ve spent the evening procrastinating. I’m also learning I can trust my daughter’s process:  eight year olds are incredibly resilient and brave.

Upset and frustrated about an unfinished school assignment the other night, Ava treated herself (and me) to a good old-fashioned wail and howl show. Citing the unfairness of deadlines and teachers who don’t give enough time for a project, she let loose. Wow. If only I could remember how to let myself surrender so completely to my feelings. And let myself un-self-consciously writhe around in unbridled agony! I likely wouldn’t have a wrinkle on my face (my daughter’s face is line free!). For all I know it’s good for cellulite too!

As I witnessed Ava’s almighty release, my thoughts ranged from “all I have to do is lovingly detach” to “there better still be some Greek yogurt in the fridge for a snack after this.” I’m grateful I was fairly well-rested as I wanted to be present and loving without resorting to fixing the situation for her (a go-to family tradition) and squashing those tears. Watching Ava flail and cry without intervening in some way isn’t my strong suit. And my intervening has ranged from an enthusiastic “don’t worry, honey, we’ll do it together” to a “loving” (read shaming) reminder that “this is what happens when you procrastinate, honey.” Helpful, I know.

Changing old patterns isn’t for the faint of spirit, but as I soon found out, the pay-offs are occasionally amazing …

After several minutes of earth-shattering sobs, Ava pulled herself up from a prone position, grabbed her paper and pencil and proudly announced, “Ok. I hate deadlines and I don’t want to do this, but moaning about it won’t get it done. I’m going to do it.” I was impressed. Was this a trick? While I washed up for bed, she answered several questions on the assignment and nearly glowed with pride when I checked in on her minutes later. “Do you think it would be alright to finish in the morning?” she asked. After we hugged and kissed goodnight, she fell asleep within moments. “Good work,” I whispered. Me, too.