name calling

April 1, 2019

IMG_0125Go with it. This has become my mantra. Beginning, really, from when we landed in good ole USA a couple months ago; but certainly more pronounced on the current venture. Frankly, I am the least likely candidate for any version of a “go with it” mindset. I order my days with an intensity that would rival Michelle Obama’s personal assistant (or team of them, as the case may be).
And no, I am not orchestrating nationwide school lunch reform programs: these days, the significance of the tasks on my agenda can be as monumental as choosing whether Aldis or Walmart will be the best price for today’s grocery items (in case you’re wondering, we usually prefer Aldis for produce sales and bang-for-the-buck-wine; but time constraints sometimes make Walmart the preference). At any rate, my tunnel vision version of daily planning makes each part of my personal agenda vital in the perception of control. Here’s a sample of my (secret) internal schedule:
6:30 AM. Alarm goes off. Peter hears the alarm, comes in, and asks if I want to snooze. I say yes. 10 minutes later, the same scenario plays out. I say “No—I’m getting up.” He says ok and returns to his morning reading. The alarm alarms. For an hour.
7:30 AM. I wake up to sunshine and look at my phone. Apparently the alarm is still ringing, but no sound emits. I assume it has called so insistently, for so long, that it has developed a-la[rm]yngitis. I turn off the alarm: it’s definitely past time to get up.
8:15 AM. I wake up. Again. I smell coffee. Peter’s Perfect Pot. I need coffee. I get up.
9:00 AM. I start preparing for my run, which was supposed to start at 8:30 this morning. I put my running clothes on. I go out to test the temperature. I come back in and change into warmer clothes.
9:15 AM. I remember that I was going to put the rice in the pot to soak. I do that, and while doing so, discover other kitchen prep that might as well be taken care of while I’m at it.
9:30 AM. I head out for a run. My running avatar is a turtle. Generally I run alone, because official runners find it too much of a strain to force their limbs to go turtle-pace. I was a great running buddy when I had my last injury. I accompanied my super-speedy friend on a bicycle, finding my comfortable biking pace to be perfectly suited to her running stride.

Ok, so maybe my current schedule sample does not do a great job demonstrating my routine mindset. This season of transition, care-giving, setting up house, job-hunting, unemployment-related decisions, and next-step-planning has thrown a bit of a wrench in my usual pattern of highly-predictable personal structure. These days I may not manage the kind of routine I have grown accustomed to for the past decade; but my internal dialogue has not let go of the idea that I should still have such a routine. This default dialogue fights the urge to call myself a “lazy bum” when the day does not feel as productive as I think it should; I try to remind myself that I no longer need that old pattern—it’s ok to have a new normal.
Which brings me back to today. This is most definitely a “new normal.” We have been traveling for quite some time now. It started out as a flight across country to visit family. Now we have settled into Peter’s car (one goal of this trip was to retrieve it, so that we can be vehicle self-sufficient), so we are currently driving across the country.
There is nothing like five days stuck in a small car to make a movement-addicted body adjust (like it or not!) to alternative methods of distraction. Labor-intensive food is perfect (have you ever paid attention to how much time you can whittle away while focused on peeling a sticky-shelled hard boiled egg?). And brilliant brains (that shall remain anonymous) have been known to invent wordy name games. We passed a sign for a place called “Idahome” and I guffawed, slapping my thigh as I enjoyed the name. “I wonder if any other states can do that . . .” We proceeded to brainstorm, suggesting varieties as we ingeniously came up with them. “Oklahome?” suggested Peter. “Washome!” I proclaimed (my pronunciation of this word sounds somewhat like the expression “Wassup?.” He raised his eyebrows. “Creative license,” I insisted. We sat silent for some time. I was about to lose interest in the game, due to lack of success when I shot up and, after a dramatic pause, proudly proclaimed, “O-home!!!” I self-congratulatorily grinned. “That’s my favorite so far,” I added. Never mind that it was the last one we managed to come up with . . . in English. We moved on to Spanish. Then French. Now was my true shining hour. I practically danced in my seat when I christened “Chezarona.” Not yet tracking with my oh-so-smart brain, Peter commented, “Isn’t that a song?” I assured him that the brilliant nomenclature was exclusively mine, but did humor him by singing a version of the name that did make a reasonable imitation of the song “My Sharona.” Then I patiently explained the name to my French-impaired hubby. “See, you have to reverse the order, since the word for home—“chez”—comes before the noun it refers to. That’s why the second part of the state “Arizona” comes after that beginning. Only truly genius brains like mine, however, can automatically reverse the ordering of the state’s name so that it flows as a word. I’m so smart that I didn’t even know I was doing it!” (following the rules of this game as we had come up with them thus far, we would need to think of a state name that contained the last pronounceable letter of the word for “home,” and we would then insert the remainder of the state’s name after this word. French speakers may insert a quibble here, pertaining to the linguistic rule of not pronouncing the “z” in “chez,” but I really don’t think you should dwell on such details when considering the general brilliance of the game I have just described. I mean, really, why get caught up with minor grammatical details . . . ?
The main point you should take away is that, as I explained to Peter when we moved away from (i.e. exhausted the apparent possibilities for) this game, is that “only true genius brains can come up with stuff like this without even knowing that they’re being so genius about it; I was being brilliant and didn’t even know it! I’m still being brilliant and don’t know it . . .”
Yes, that was what we spent a good chunk of time on this morning. Time well spent? Arguably. But here’s where the “go with it” mantra comes in. I would rather be running right now. Or swimming. Preferably swimming, after warming up enough with a run to not mind the initial cold-water adjustment factor. But my physical self has no choice right now. This small space is it, and has to be it, for the long haul of the drive. So the lesson in all this is that sometimes you have to “go with it” and let new, unfamiliar sorts of experiences (i.e. playing with words and announcing ones own brilliance) replace the familiar ones that you default to because you know they “work” for helping you get through the business of each day.
Today is a day of juxtaposition: juxtaposed wide-open and small, seat-belted spaces; juxtaposed freedom-on-the-road and stuck-to-this-roadmap . . .
Today I cannot schedule my hours (or, minutes, if I’m honest about tendencies). But if I open up my hands, and heart, to what is actually in front of me (as opposed to what I intend or expect), I might just find unanticipated delights . . .

*Peeling a clementine, I held it close to my nose and inhaled deeply. After handing Peter the fruit, I couldn’t bear throwing away the peel, so gave it a home on the dashboard, so that it is on the official drying rack to turn it into potpourri.

One Response to “name calling”

  1. Linda Swanson Ziulkowski said

    Just thinking of your first ever home on earth – Chezakota! And have to admit my attraction to the blog post in the first place, on my FB feed, as I noted the clementine peel, as, hours later than you, I had just peeled three of them myself, and in the same ‘star-fish’ shape and had said to John, ‘I had never noticed this previously, but look at my ‘star-fish!’ Yes, brilliant and we don’t even know it. I pray you can calm the ‘tyranny-of-predictable-timetable’ in your inner being for the next few days, and can breathe in and out the diversity of this country as you take in what is happening outside that cramped car interior. I know you have it in you. Glad you had a bed last night, and that at least John could catch up.

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