Life often takes unexpected turns. At least my life does. I have learned to be flexible, prepared to know that what I planned for my day, week, year, career, family may not turn out the way that I want. This is difficult for me. I like being prepared. I like having a plan and sticking to it. I like organization and expectations and rules and I don't like the unpredictable. It seems that Life and I have a difference of opinion there.
I was thinking about that today as I helped Tin Man load some of his stuff from the garage into the back of the truck. Tin Man signed the papers on an apartment today. It's a nice place, relatively inexpensive for the city because it's in a neighborhood that ten years ago was very scary but has now gentrified...slightly. (If by gentrified one means "apartment dwellers do not need to worry about being randomly shot, so as long as you stay clear of gang and drug involvement you're fine.") It's a very short commute by bike to school and it just happens to be within biking distance of a very cute girl, so Tin Man loves it. And I think that he's a bit relieved to be moving. He started staying in our basement in July with the plan being that he'd be on the couch for two weeks, maybe three, and then he'd have his own place. Obviously things did not work out that way and honestly I enjoyed having him around. The house will seem too quiet with him gone.
We still, of course, have The Teenager. He just started fall term classes yesterday and I am hoping for a more successful, productive, working relationship through the term so that he can finish with high marks. I want him to be a success, but whether or not that happens will be up to him and sometimes it seems like I am fighting a losing battle. We brought him in to our house in the spring because he said he believed he would start going to school again (instead of being a drop out) and would get his life back on track if he lived here. Then we had several months of me in the parental role, tearing my hair out because I was dealing with an obnoxious teen. Two weeks ago, Honey suggested that we have a formal, serious, sit-down conversation to talk about expectations before the school year started. Through that, we've agreed -- the three of us -- to be more purposeful about this relationship. It's hard because the patterns that I would want to establish if I had a child all his life are nonexistent here. Something as simple as a family meal where everyone shares about their day (or week) and sits politely until the last person is finished eating is still rather foreign to him. I don't know what the term holds with regard to The Teenager and I know I need to be patient and flexible. Honey is a saint in the midst of all of this, never wanting children in the house but willing to support me in the effort to save this one. I wish I could say the same about my family. One would think that they'd be happy to see The Teenager back in school and in a structured home, but that seems to be asking too much. And so for now it seems like me and Honey against the world, cajoling a cranky teen on the path toward a brighter future.
The Teenager did help me with a little pet issue. The Cougar has a small dog. I do not like small dogs. I especially do not like spoiled small dogs. But I try to have compassion for this one. I tolerate him because he's been a part of our lives almost as long as Lotus, my lovely baby. He knows boundaries at my house (probably because Honey and I are the only people who ever give him boundaries) and he tolerates life when he is with me. This dog had an accident the other night -- somehow managing to pull his back legs out of the sockets. Being a compassionate person (or a sucker, depending on one's point of view), I gave up most of my plans yesterday and today to care for this dog while The Cougar was at work. After two days of this I think I'll need to find the courage and strength to say "thanks but no thanks" to another day -- I am through trying to force feed a biting dog his medicine and food. Taking care of him has derailed most of my plans for the past two days, things like planning for workshops that I'm leading next month. I cannot, however, blame The Cougar for my plans being derailed. I was the one who said that I would help. I have a hard time saying no.
That inability or unwillingness to say no on a regular basis is what gets me into trouble. Or I should say it's what keeps me running a million miles an hour even without a job. You need someone to watch a kid or pet? I'll do it. You need someone to help with curriculum, planning, workshops? Great, count me in. You need a grant writer? No problem! And little by little my time is eaten away by all the things I've said I'd do to help others. Last week and this week have me thinking a lot about boundaries, priorities, and being intentional. It's time to refocus...again.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons I don't have a job right now. Other aspects of life require too much attention. I keep searching and searching and searching and every time I get an interview or multiple interviews I start thinking "This is it!" Needless to say, I've been wrong. And so I am back to the drawing board. Today I was in a meeting (helping people I worked with last year get a few things figured out for this school year -- Honey says I'm a sucker but I like helping people), and a woman asked me what I would really love to do in an ideal world. That's a good question, one I struggle to answer. But if I were really honest I think my job would be some sort of educational consultant, someone who helps students and teachers. But I would just do that for part of my time. The other part would be caring for my family, gardening, preserving food, cooking...and writing. Walking the dog. Enjoying life. Why not have my cake and eat it too?
I had an idea for an educational service company the first time I was unemployed, before I worked at a university and finished my doctorate. I still love the idea, a blend of the best of home and private and public education. Something I would do for my own children if I had any. Perfect Fit Education is a dream and right now it seems like a pipe dream but maybe it's time to brush off the dream, polish it a little, and see if I can make it a reality. After all, if I want to move into the future there's no time like the present.