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Sunday August 7, 2005: Personal: Commitments and Murphy's Law

        Well, there I go again. It seems like just when I get my life balanced and running smoothly, I take on summer commitments and projects that grow to overwhelming proportions. Deadlines -- I tell myself I need deadlines to get in motion, but I rapidly regret the commitments when two or more deadlines press hard, throwing everyday routine completely out of whack.

         I can write about it this weekend because I’ve completed two commitments, or at least gotten to the point where I can see light at the end of the tunnel. With help of Randy and my son, I’ve gotten front and back decks (plus the bench swing) stripped and stained. This is no small feat, especially when, as a single parent, I could never find time to do the proper upkeep every other summer. The wood was not in the best shape. It’s hard to tell if my joy comes more from seeing the wood look like new again, or if I’m just relieved to have one of the overwhelming summer projects finally off my back.

         For the first time in 15 years of involvement in the local Child Study Group, I agreed to make up the program book for the upcoming year. I volunteered for this pre-Randy, when I thought I’d have the whole summer free, could download files from the previous vice president, and only needed to contend with adjustments and additions to the book. Surprise! Despite having Word and WordPerfect, the older files wouldn’t come up on my computer. That meant retyping every fricking page. I can only laugh about it now because the project’s under control and I can see 18 copies of the book being completed before the first meeting. A month ago, I was not laughing.

          My mom had been planning a family reunion in early July, so I’d made an inner commitment to complete the WWI project and print off books of my grandfather’s war diary, letters and postcards. I had another great idea that over the rest of the summer my son could help me with a web page (since he was home from college for the summer). Reality – I’ve been so busy with Randy that I hardly see my son and when we’re both home, we’re going in opposite directions. The book was finished by July, but the web page has been put off. I’m still serious about finishing it and making the information available to great-grandchildren, distant relatives, and anyone else interested in WWI, but that was one of the few projects I suddenly realized last week that could be put on hold.

          Murphy’s Law has been working all summer. I learned a valuable lesson about assuming I had collected all the WWI information the family had available. After shelling out hundreds of dollars to print off five spiral bound books, more letters surfaced, written while my grandfather’s brother-in-law was onboard his ship to France, plus a book was uncovered that was written by the 329th Field Artillery right after the war. My grandfather had helped with the writing and it details the training, movements and experiences of his company.

        At the very point when I discovered additional WWI books and letters to transcribe, a distant relative on my father’s side uncovered an ancient scrapbook of Neumann-Ronald family photos. Those are also being sent to me, since I’ve now become the family historian. Genealogy projects are never complete. I have to remind myself the information has been buried away all these years and can wait a bit longer. On the other hand, when people send family records and photos, I feel under obligation to scan and transcribe as rapidly as possible, so the originals can be returned to the rightful owner.

         I won’t even mention other projects and how they played into Murphy’s Law (the list goes on), because my focus now is on how things got so out of hand. The first lesson I learned as a single parent was how to say, "no." One cannot volunteer for more than what can be worked into a reasonable schedule; a few weeks of intense work (even on multiple projects) becomes acceptable if there are periods in between where routine matters can be put back in place, and where you can catch up on lost sleep. Pile on too many commitments or activities at the same time, and the stress takes its toll on mind and body.

        Adding a new relationship to my life has been wonderful in many ways, but I can see it squeezing commitments into an ever narrowing slot of free time. My times of emotionally recharging -- of blogging, exploring other blogsites, of reading, or watching movies (or just sleeping in on the weekend) – have disappeared as I try to make every spare moment productive. Everything works until I hit that point where I suddenly realize my physical reserves are drained.

        I’ve been through these tough times before, I tell myself. I’ve gone months and even years--pushing-- focused on putting down one foot before the other just to keep moving forward instead of collapsing. I’m embarrassed to admit to myself that I’m older now and the body is not as resilient.

        The mind does not seem to handle multi-tasking with the ease of younger days. I can remember the days when I could mentally keep track of three kids’ schedules (school, sports, and social), extended work commitments, social commitments, and family details. There was no need to write elaborate lists. This year I bought birthday cards for family and relatives well in advance, then left the cards on the table until they all had to be sent as belated greetings. So far, everyone seems understanding, writing it off as Jan being caught up in a new relationship. Next year I will not have that excuse. Are these lapses more of a senior moment, prelude of a slowly eroding ability to juggle competing demands?

        If I wanted to go a traditional mystic role, I would forget the social obligations and withdraw from outside activity: "Remove the hassles and focus on inner peace." I’m not ready for that option, so I have to seek a better way to maintain calm: to keep touch with quiet, meandering streams of inner tranquility that flow beneath the buzzing and flitting activity of secular life. It’s another commitment – to a spiritual life, but it’s the one commitment that might keep the others in balance.

Posted on Sunday, August 7, 2005 at 11:53AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

I relate completely to both your ways of taking on projects and finding yourself overwhelmed at this stage/age in life on account of them in ways in which you never were before. My experience has been similar to yours in wondering about how my body and mind are conspiring to slow me down. I am learning two new things -- and words -- to get me through and to manage my obligations abd desire to contribute: "no" and "I need some help" -- neither of one of these was in my vocabulary before!
August 10, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermaria

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