Monday, September 19, 2011

Yea, I Kinda "Know How She Does It"

SPOILER ALERT: This contains some details from the movie, including the ending. If you don't want to know, don't read on!

This weekend the movie version of the book "I Don't Know How She Does It," by Allison Pearson, was released, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. The film depicted SJP as a married financial analyst living in Boston with a young daughter and son, and her struggles to keep up with all of the demands (sometimes self-imposed) that those roles entail.

Gee, I just don't have any clue at all *how* she does it.

Or as my friend Jenny said, perhaps I was the inspiration for it all.

But no, the book came out in 2002 - two years before Hannah was born. It appears that I read the book then too, since I own the hardcover copy, and had started my MBA in January of 2003 (and got pregnant in May of 2003), so chances are I wasn't reading anything for pleasure at that time.

I remember reading it, and being a bit scared about how I would some day balance it all myself. The book takes place in London, and harried doesn't begin to describe lead character Kate Reddy's existence. There is never enough time for her marriage, she frets about not knowing the extensive details of her children's lives, has a complicated relationship with her nanny, and fights to be taken seriously in the office. Each chapter ends with her list of things to remember, which keep her up late at night.

But without yet having children myself, well, I couldn't possibly know just how much I would come to identify with Kate. Keeping track of the treasured comfort item, planning birthday parties, Power Point slides on daily average liquidity, kids obsessed with Mary Poppins - none of that had happened to me yet. But boy, has it happened. In an episode of the book I'd forgotten, Kate's daughter pushes her to read the book "Little Miss Busy" to her one evening at bedtime, and that book influenced my chat screen name being LilMisBusy when Marc and I met back in 1999, it's a theme I've kept up with for a long time now, and must have laughed at reading it at the time.

Having the movie set in Boston took all of the coincidences to another level. Of course there were many landmarks I recognized (and I think the entire audience snickered at the very fake "Boston Children's Hospital" edifice), though we never once saw SJP descend into the T on those stiletto heels. Near the start of the movie, her toddler son crawls in bed with her in the morning, and she sings "I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck" to him, and that was sung to me, and I have often sung it to Hannah and Max. Before the movie began, I had discussed a recent work issue with Stephanie, and an incredibly similar one was mentioned in the film. So yea, it was a lot like my own life, but with fewer high heels, and bosses who look nothing like Pierce Brosnan (sorry, guys).

So being a book and a movie, neat and tidy endings are required. In the book, Kate eventually quits her job, sells her house in the city, and spends a lot more time with her husband and kids, but shows an inkling towards going back to work in some capacity. In the movie (and perhaps owing to today's economic realities), Kate keeps her job but seems to get a bit more flexibility after having a major office success. She basically admits that life will always be crazy, but says she'll try harder to slow down.

With so many similarities, I can't help but compare where I'm at with the book and film. I may be kidding myself, but I don't think my life is as chaotic as Kate's, particularly because I don't have to travel for my job. I did get the flexibility I needed this year with my one day a week working at home, and it has had a profound impact on my stress level. As the kids are getting a little older, some things are easier. And I recognize how fortunate we are that we're not dealing with some of the major issues that affect so many and can completely derail what you had expected out of life. But at times I am truly overwhelmed and feel like I'm drowning.

And yet there are entire spheres of life that I just don't handle. Marc is completely responsible for all things car and landscaping-related. Anything needing fixing or building is also his domain. I am house-blind to a certain degree as well. If you calculate the number of drop-offs and pick-ups as 10 per week per kid, Marc generally does 13 out of 20. He is largely responsible for all food-related activities too, and the list goes on. So in my mind, that's not me "doing it all." That's having a very committed partner who makes it possible to do the rest of it. Hopefully he'd say the same about me.

But I do feel like I successfully juggle an awful lot of things, and manage to keep my husband, children, extended family and bosses reasonably happy with the job I do. Often, I'm happy with multiple pieces of the juggle at the same time! Every day is different, and there are some days where "doing it all" works out a lot better than others, but I'm not sure I could do it any other way. I know that giving up any of the pieces wouldn't make me a better person. So the challenge in life continues to be adding more pieces to the puzzle - time to exercise, more time with friends, even more time writing here - while still keeping the other pieces together.

Does anyone have a book on that?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11/01

I wasn't there, and I have no delusions that my perspective on today is worth anything to anyone but myself. So please feel free to skip this post if you're avoiding this topic today. I get it, and part of me is avoiding it too.

But I felt compelled to write something today, and I'm ignoring the challah crumbs all over the floor of my house to find a few minutes and write this. I can't believe it's been 10 years. In the days after I can actually remember thinking about what the tenth anniversary of this tragedy would be like. Would that compulsion to help others, and the pride everyone exhibited toward our country, still be such a prominent part of life? I doubted it, and unfortunately, I think I was right about that.

I've written before about my experiences that day, and reading many others stories in the last few weeks has crystallized a few things for me. The fact that strikes me first is that I'm still very much in love with Marc. I remember how angry at him I was that day when we were all walking home from work and I couldn't find him. Clearly, I wouldn't have been that angry if I didn't love him that much, and I know that ten years later, I would still feel just as angry.

I've been thinking about the day in the context of my children too. Max is still too young, but we've had some preliminary conversations with Hannah on the topic. But then I'm reminded how young she is too - almost eight, yet still innocent about so many things. You try to bring the threads together. She knows soldiers fight in Afghanistan, but she doesn't really know why. She knows people died, but she doesn't know why I put our flag up on the house today. I read somewhere that you should tell children that "some people did a bad thing," instead of saying they were "bad guys." I'm struggling about how to explain it all to her, so instead we left it open - if you hear something, or have a question, feel free to ask us. I'm trying to limit the discussion to only what she wants to know.

Today we're spending a lot of time at our synagogue. Before the start of religious school this morning, a ceremony was held outdoors, the shofar sounded, the Kaddish recited. This afternoon we'll be having our annual community BBQ, an event I've helped organize for the last few years. The Shabbat after 9/11 Marc and I visited a new synagogue for the first time, where a friend had gotten us tickets to spend the upcoming High Holidays. It wasn't the right place for us, but it was still comforting to be within a community at that time. Ten years later, it is an entirely different emotion to be among friends and feel at home within our synagogue, and I am grateful for that.

My anxieties about 9/11 have also evolved and caught up to the present day. Last night I barely slept, filled with nightmares about similar events happening now, in my office tower, with my family and friends affected. They are paralyzing thoughts, even when I consider how remote the odds are. And so I read the stories, and think about all those affected, and pray for all those who are suffering today and every day because of this senseless tragedy.