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Saturday, 8 February 2014

58. Doing the 'right' thing..

My brother and his wife skyped us last night.  This deserves a special mention because much as we love each other, my manic schedule with three munchkins, coupled with his crazy workload and the time difference (he is a professor in the US), means we don’t get to talk very often.  As we gathered around the computer to chat, I noticed Paige had ‘checked out’ of the ‘reunion’ and was playing on her handheld game.  I called her on it.  She stopped.  Only to start fiddling with Matt’s iPad a few moments later. 

Later, after the call ended, I called her to my room and told her how disappointed I was with  her lack of interest and explained the importance of showing respect for someone who had made the time to call her by making an effort to be ‘present’.   I then made Paige ‘take ownership’ by having her call my brother and his wife to apologise.  The final step was to then also talk to her sisters, discussing the importance of “doing the right thing” and getting priorities in order.  At 13, 10 and nearly-9 years old, I feel the girls are old enough to learn this lesson.

I wrote the above two paragraphs a while ago and then stopped – writer’s block.  I simply did not know how to proceed without sounding nauseatingly holier-than-thou.  Plus I was at a loss as to which direction to take the piece. 

Fast forward a year or so,  Faith is now 14.5, Tia nearly 12 and Paige 10.  I was having one of ‘those days’ the other day, which led me to question how a simple act of charity could turn into something that was making me feel so aggravated.  And then I stopped and wondered if it was a lesson I had to learn and how to write about it.  When I saw this abandoned piece,  I had my “AHA!” moment.

“Doing the right thing” is not always easy, can require immense effort and quite often not appreciated. I am definitely guilty of feeling affronted when a gesture extended has either been disregarded or simply taken for granted.  I guess it drives me so crazy because it feels like bad manners and I have a ‘thing’ for manners.  But then, I realise that getting all riled up in what essentially amounts to ‘the little picture’ is for naught, leading me to wonder at my reaction.  After all, getting irritated because a fellow driver didn’t ‘say’ “thank you” when I pulled back in order to let them join my lane is just a ‘touch’ irrational, is it not?

ANYWAY, a situation occurred a couple of days ago where long-story-short, it felt like someone was trying to ‘take the mickey’ (Australian slang for: “take advantage of”) of what began as a sincere act of charity on our part.  Without going into specifics, the person involved expected us to extend the goodwill inspite of a 12-month time limitation.  I say “expected” because of the way the “request”…no, actually it was more like a “directive”.. arrived in my Inbox.  There was no humility.  No attempt for any emotional connection.  Just a cold and very direct expectation.  Not sure what to do, I asked a couple of close friends for their opinion.  They both felt it was a brazen request which should therefore be denied.  But I wasn’t sure if we were being fair: I subscribe to the belief that each and everyone of us are working through some sort of personal challenge – seen or unseen.  So maybe she was going through ‘stuff’ and didn’t mean to come across so presumptuous.  Still undecided, I decided to give her a chance by asking her to call me for a conversation about it.  I thought maybe if I had some inkling to her personality, I would know whether she ‘deserved’ the consideration.  And then I stopped.  I was being egotistical.  Who am I to decide whether someone ‘deserved’ sympathy and kindness – regardless of their perceived demeanor?

The call never came.  But I sent off an email agreeing to her request nonetheless.  Did a friendly email of thanks follow?  No.  Just a meager note.  No warm notes of gratitude.  Just an expectation that came across as: “and so you should have / I deserved this consideration”.  But I didn’t expect any less. 

Someone once told me: “if you expect everyone to live by your standards and your codes, you will spend much of your life being disappointed and frustrated.”  Obviously I still have much to learn and need to grasp that “doing the right thing”  may not necessarily bring me that warm fuzzy feeling – but it is only a problem if I let it be one.  Manners or not.

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Sunday, 2 February 2014

No. 57: Saying "Goodbye"

The ache normally begins a couple of days before the looming date of his departure.  It normally kicks-off with an emptiness in my stomach and food soon starts to taste like paper.  I nod and smile and try to be engaged with all around me but it is only half-hearted.  All too soon it is time.  I gather the girls and we make the long drive to the airport with me trying to make light of things by half-threatening to lose my way to the terminal or offering to steal his passport so he cannot make his flight.  But he sees through my ‘comic’ routine and we work on consoling our youngest who is understandably heartbroken again. Prolonged hugs intermingle with whispered endearments and wishes for safe travels is our dance as I breathe him in one last time.  This has become our routine of late – saying goodbye.

Lingering at the gate until he goes through immigration only brings the promise of more tears so I force a smile and concentrate on cheering up the girls as we pull away from the airport, giving them the usual “we can get through anything if we stick together and remember to be kinder to each other during this time” talk.  The tête-à-tête is normally followed by a trip to their favorite restaurant for a sushi fix, a spot of CD shopping, followed by a visit to the library. By the time we walk through the door back to the now painfully quiet house a few hours later, my heart feels like a stone has taken up residence as we ‘get on’ with ‘everyday’ life.  On the Jambox, even John Mayer is singing my blues as “come back to me” replaces the normal chatter and giggle from a few hours earlier; and what was once a clear blue sky is now dark and cloudy, reflecting my headspace.  But I cannot afford to be so self-indulgent with this looming depression and tell myself to get a hold of myself – I need to set a positive example for the girls.

We have been doing this ‘dance’ for six months now and not only do I know the routine all too well, but am also familiar with the key: distraction by means of a busy schedule is a welcome albeit temporary ‘band-aid’ to our ‘malady’.  Alas my head is an expert but my heart is very much a novice still.  But I soldier on, opening up my diary to see how I can distract the girls, and myself, in the coming weeks.  I am filled with guilt as I realise it is a mere three weeks before I get to see Matt but nearly 8 before the girls get their reunion!  I make a mental note to make plans for the next seven weekends for them, quietly grateful for their otherwise busy schedules during the week.

Sleep does not come easily whenever Matt is away as I go from falling asleep (and STAYING in the land of nod!) at a drop of the hat to becoming a night owl; putting off going to bed – all of which does not abode well for my 5am starts.  Interestingly, it is always these stretches of Matt’s absence which also see Paige becoming a troubled sleeper who more often than not, ends up in my bed normally around the 1am mark.  Argh.  The first night is always the worst.  I am now bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the ungodly hour of half four in the morning, having been up for over 2 hours already.  Sigh.  It is going to be a long day and although my day is only just beginning, I am already looking forward to my bed tonight.  Hopefully a peaceful slumber awaits.  19 sleeps to go before I can say “hello” – so much better than saying “goodbye”.

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