You know you're a mom of two little kids when you go away to a conference for work, and come back feeling like you've been on vacation.
Wednesday morning was a blur: I had ten papers to finish grading, needed to dye my hair and pack, and had to take care of Nolie because her daycare provider was in the hospital with pneumonia. Not to mention that I realized at about 10am that I hadn't made copies of the transparencies for my presentation, and that I had the wrong flight time in my head (I was actually leaving an hour earlier than I thought I was).
By some strange miracle, I finished the papers, picked up the copies, and made it to the airport by 1pm, in time to catch my flight. I had no idea where the conference actually was in New York, but I had the address of the friends I'd be staying with, and guessed I'd figure out the rest when I got there. Of course, I almost missed my own presentation because I thought it was on Saturday (it was on Friday), but other than that, everything went remarkably smoothly. I walked my ass off all over Manhattan, came back with some great new ideas to try in the classroom, and feel relaxed and happy, having slept three full nights in a row (well, not last night. I got in at 1am and the kids woke up all night. But pretty good still).
What's weird is that this scenario is so unlike me. I usually plan things down to the last detail, and seek out carefully controlled bursts of sponaneity from there. Rarely am I so half-assed about everything--about a million things could have gone wrong, and it was by some sheer luck that they didn't. The entire time I was scooting around on the subway, or trolling midtown trying to find the conference, or deciding at the last minute which presentations I would attend, I was practically giddy from the unplanned ridiculousness of it all. I kept thinking, "Other people do this all the time! This is what "rolling with the punches" actually means!"
I know. I'm so Laverne and Shirley. But these are the things I was thinking.
Anyway, I'm home now, and am reflecting on the roller coaster of emotions of the last few days. The thrill of being alone in New York, without kids and Eric. The freedom to do whatever I pleased. The rush of interacting with passionate intellectuals. Feeling overwhelmed, on sensory overload by the sheer massiveness, speed, height, sounds of New York. Missing Eric and the girls. Feeling sad and relieved to return. Dreading the coming work week. Embracing it.
On the plane ride out, I sat next to this guy Steve, who claimed he frequently talked to spirits, "higher selves," who were channeling poetry, music, and messages through him and his daughter. The guy talked my ear off for three hours about this stuff, and though I had some concerns about his sense of personal boundaries and compassion for us mere mortals, I was also sort of intrigued with his sense of the expansiveness of time and meaning. "I'm a white guy in this life, you know?" he said. "But I've been everything else in all the other ones. I'm learning not to take the small stuff too seriously."
Well, yeah. I guess that's right. Maybe I learned a good lesson this weekend, about planning and spontaneity and safety and squeaking by on just good enough. I suppose things could have easily enough gone another way. But they didn't. And I find that reassuring, a license to loosen up a little. To let it roll.