Don't ask how I keep all this straight; I don't. My brain is in a constant state of either chaos or idea triage. While I tried to figure out the time zone of India (so I know when my deadline really is) I prepared for tomorrow. When I get stuck writing about gastronomy I shift to Googling various mental health topics, or pause to read a chapter in one of my Christmas books, or start cooking supper. My mom -- who has come many miles to see us -- sat down on the sofa next to me yesterday afternoon and I had to tell her, as gently as possible, "I'm not really here right now. I'm in my cone of invisibility." It's what I tell the kids when I'm hammering out a piece on deadline. And truly, I'm not there. I'm not accessible.
It's not the ideal set-up, but I'm kinda done with ideal. Or, better said, I'm past the point of thinking that ideal (or even close to it) is a prerequisite for joy, productivity, or peace of mind. Ideal is nice, but it's rarely reality. If I want to live life fully, I've got to do it even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
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A couple of months ago I decided I was done with listening to people whine about the weather. Short of a hurricane, tornado, blizzard or life-threatening heat wave, it's not news. We might as well say, "I'm mildly uncomfortable. Are you?" I think we can set the standard for empathy higher than that.
I've sometimes wondered if people who live without air conditioning complain less than those who spend most of their days in temperature-controlled environments. And I've wondered if people are better off learning endurance instead of focusing on their comfort. Certainly there's productivity loss when you're sweating your way through 98 degree weather. But what do we lose if we never endure discomfort?
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Homeschoolers are fond of the Little House books. Reading them aloud does make one kind of gape at how much work kids used to do (apparently without complaining) compared to today. I suspect that's because if you were out on the prairie and didn't help weed the vegetable garden your family could die of hunger. There were very real, and very harsh consequences to not doing your share of the work, and not just because Pa would whack you with his belt for disobedience.
In truth, there's very little that I ask my kids to do that has any life urgency to it. I may be obsessed with having the house clean before our Christmas guests arrive, but we all know that no one is going to starve if one of my kids doesn't do his or her job. The worst that will happen is that Mom will be aggrieved (again) that others didn't do their share. It's not the same as the specter of a long winter in a cold cabin only calories away from starvation.
How does one teach children how to cope with the far-less-than-ideal if one lives too close to the ideal?