Friday, February 4, 2011

I did it all so badly (again)

Everything was in place. Everything was going to work seamlessly, as usual.

He didn’t have to go in ‘til late. So, for once, he lay in bed while I got up early to have my shower. The little ‘un stirred, early (a recent development). He said he’d get her up.

Then the phone rang. She wasn’t well and mightn’t be coming over to babysit. She’d call back in a couple of hours to confirm.

I only understood the first bit. We pondered what to do, but it became apparent that I’d be staying home. He wondered why I was still applying make-up. In truth, I didn't know.

In the midst of pondering what that meant (for meetings, deadlines, time away from home), he returned from checking his emails. A loud and animated description of an unsatisfactory email exchange, punctuated by little shouts of “Mummy! I’m wearing my hat!” , sent me scurrying for safety into the corner of the room. Hands shielding my face from the onslaught of words, messy noise, demands to be seen. “This is too much noise for first thing in the morning!” I cried, in my own defence. Looks of surprise and resignation.

We decided to go out for breakfast. Stepping outside the door, the sub-tropical rain started to fall. We retreated for umbrellas but the little ‘un refused her rain coat and boots for once. She was too heavy to carry the whole way. I made to slink back into the house. “This whole day is wrong.” He suggested taking the car.

I know I should have been grateful. There was considerate quiet, and sharing of attention. We found a park close by. Everyone was on their best behaviour.

Breakfast was lovely.

On arriving home, another phone call. She was feeling better, she was coming in to babysit after all. Her husband kindly offered me a lift to work, to minimise the lateness.

I had just logged out of my emails, having explained to management that I wouldn’t be in, accounting for progress on major projects, requesting that colleagues honour particular deadlines. I’d committed to going in to the office over the weekend, and actually looked forward to that eventuality (imagine, no interruptions! Of any kind!).

But I could see that my protests that I had already put things into place, that I could stay home, that it would be best for her to stay home and rest were being met with disapproval. I felt backed into the ungrateful corner. It was all so messy. I conceded and decided to take the next bus.

As the bus hurtled me to work I found myself wondering at all the things I could have done differently. She usually arrives very early, with the result that I am early to work. Catching this bus would not make me late: I would be on time. The same time as everyone else. I really could have waited. I could have held off sending emails until I was certain how things were going to pan out. My own memories of similar illness had me assuming that she would be feeling too weak to care for an energetic toddler, but I had misunderstood.

I could have been gentler and more considerate of my little family. I could have decided against panicking.

I took a deep breath. I walked into the office and laughed with my colleagues about the fact that I was there, even though I said I wouldn’t be. I made a point of chatting jovially with one particular colleague – the one whom I’d been arguing with in my mind all week – and asked for his help in representing our team at a meeting, checked in to see his progress towards a deadline. I trawled through my emails, reinstated cancelled meetings, showed up.

I’m not so sure I’ll do any of this more elegantly, next time a less-than-seamless situation presents itself. I don’t think I’m at my best when I’m trying to unravel the knots that tie where I am to where I think I should be. Perhaps I'll always find it hard to transcend the noise, the mess, the eventuality that there are no bad decisions but few feasible back-up plans. And maybe I'll never manage, in the heat of the moment, to see the wood for the trees and acknowledge that everyone is actually motivated by love and genuine desire to support me.

A deep breath, some heartfelt apologies, the reality check that very few notice the storm inside my head from the outside, some cuddles and perhaps a treat.

Two small sweets on my desk, with a sticky note saying “For you”, from the lass who sits at my desk when I’m not in the office.

Gifts in unexpected places.

1 comment:

  1. i haven't a word except i understand. you are a wonderful writer and i felt i was in this day with you.