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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Themeless

A few little things I've been wanting to write about, none of which are developed enough to be their own post, but all felt worthy nonetheless.

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A month or so ago, Max started using a checklist he'd written on our dry erase covered basement door. The list was of all the things he needed to do before leaving the house each morning, and contained mostly run-of-the-mill items: brush your teeth, put on your shoes and socks. Then he created a row where he could mark off the numbers of days he completed everything on the list, which then grew to a month, which grew to the entirety of second grade. "When do I get to stop?" he asked me. "Never kid. You never get to stop. You have to do those things for the rest of your life."

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Around 9:15 on a Friday night, I'd already gotten into bed and was watching an episode of "Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce" when my neighbor texted that my camp counselor from when I was 10 was sitting in her kitchen, and did I want to come over? I was stunned by the invitation, but I threw my clothes back on, walked down the four houses, and spent a couple of hours catching up with my neighbors and someone I hadn't seen in decades. The amazing thing was that it wasn't the slightest bit awkward, yet I'm sure that if I'd known about it in advance, I would have stressed over it for some reason.

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I traveled around Philadelphia for three days this past week, though none of my meetings were in Philadelphia itself. I was all over the suburbs and in New Jersey and Delaware too, which I find fascinating. It's not really my job to know where I am, as I am taken around by various sales people who cover the territory, and my story is largely the same no matter who I'm talking with at that moment. But I couldn't stop looking out the window as we drove from town to town, as it was just so different from the other trips I've taken so far. I feel like it's expanding my view of our country, and I'm grateful for these opportunities to see places I wouldn't have gone on my own.

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I read this post on the NYT Motherlode blog, "Parents of Teenagers, Stuck Taking Out the Emotional Trash" last month, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. The gist is that often teenagers unload their problems on to their parents, and then the teens feel much better while the parents sit and stew and try to come up with (generally unwanted) solutions. I don't think this pattern is exclusive to teens though, as I know I've unloaded my problems on others, not wanting a solution, but perhaps wanting empathy. I seem to be entering a new phase of life, though, where the problems of my soon-to-be-teen aren't the only problems that seem to be getting heavier. My own friends are going through a lot, and I often feel ill-equipped to help. I'm not a therapist, a physician, a financial adviser, an expert in scenario X, Y or Z, but I can try to be a good listener. It often doesn't feel like enough, but maybe sometimes, it is.

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