Whenever I participate in one of those exercises where I have to introduce myself to new colleagues or students and I'm asked to say something that people can visualize about me, I always take this route...
Imagine a balloon, tied to my shirt collar, bouncing about 18 inches above my head. Except, it's not just a balloon bouncing around, it's a clock balloon--but it works and ticks. A clock that is always on, always ticking, always with me. I can't untie the balloon and release it, so the clock never releases me. If you understand this and what it means, you'll understand me.
I count the hours until I see my husband, put on my pajamas, or see a friend.
I count the days until a bill is due, a report is needed, or my volunteer work is complete.
I search for the hidden minutes when I can call the dry cleaner, take care of insurance paperwork, reply to a teacher, or schedule time with the veterinarian. It is difficult to explain that I love my life and live by the clock. Most people think that would equate misery, it does not. What it requires is focus and commitment.
I am capable of extreme focus and am frighteningly committed to providing my children a patterned existence with predictability. Child development research backs this strategy up and I've seen the positive impact it has on kids, so this is my M.O. My husband was in the military, so this life we've built works really well for all of us, it revolves around logistics...and time. We leave at the same time every morning, we eat dinner together, we grocery shop on Friday nights together, and we do chores on Saturdays--together.
Sometimes I wonder if this regularity and clock-oriented existence is partially related to living in an urban environment. Urban parents seem extremely tuned into their kids, as it tends to be more challenging to practice "free-range parenting" (which is a concept I love in spirit) when there could be a drive-by shooting at any time in any neighborhood. But whenever I say that in a mixed crowd, the other parents immediately shoot a look at me and say "No, it's that way everywhere." Okay. Maybe it's modern parenting. Who knows. I have no empirical data on it, either way, and I'm not interested in debate.
What I do know is that the clock over my head isn't always controlled by me--something that self-help experts cannot seem to embrace--this bugs me a little. I don't set the time my kids start school, I cannot change the fact that their schools do not bus in my neighborhood, and I won't ignore my kids or myself needing physical therapy or new glasses or a hair cut. The best part about being a grown-up is making my own life, the worst part is not always having a choice within that life. And no, I am not one of those people who claims "we always have a choice". Life is not that black and white. I believe there are consequences to all we do--and choose not to do.
So the bouncing clock balloon keeps ticking and following me.
I have little time for me, our house repairs aren't finished, and my home business is on auto-pilot. I can do all that when I retire. For now, I want to raise resilient, empathetic, and caring kids; enjoy my amazing marriage; save money for retirement; and nurture my career (for happiness and security). Some people get that, others won't. That's okay.
Tim gets it.