Monday, May 12, 2008

Cat free living

This weekend was the cat transfer. Pele and I drove to Wytheville, VA where we met KJ, who traveled there from Nashville, TN. Yes, Tabitha the cat is taking up residence in Music City with two other cats and a dog--and two humans.

When people ask me why the cat is going to Nashville, I say, "To start her music career. She's always wanted to be a country singer."

The usual response is a blank stare. Either it's not funny or people think I'm serious (and crazy). My routine about wanting the cat to make dinner for me once in a while gets more laughs. "Is it too much to ask? She could just put a frozen dinner in the microwave--easy peasy!"

Anyway, it's a little sad to not have her around. After all, what's the payoff for the layer of cat hair coating the apartment if there's no actual cat around? However, I am looking forward to cleaning this week and not feeling that it's an exercise in futility.

Amusingly, today, I received a message from least favorite colleague, Mandy, the one who systematically excluded me from countless office happy hours and other events. It should be noted that she is on a three-month rotation out of the office that started in May. I have high hopes that she will never return.

She wrote:
Hi [Jamy],

Greetings from [large, exciting US city]! How are your preparations for Paris coming along? How was your one-week reconnaissance trip? I’m so exited for you! Let me know once you’re over there if you want a visitor because I don’t need much arm twisting to go to Paris. if the awards tickets are available – I’d stay in a hotel of course, but it would be fun to do a long weekend in Paris. FYI, I looked on the [elite private college] housing classifieds and didn’t see any apts available. I also asked [another colleague] if he would talk to his friends in Paris and then talk to you if he had any leads on any places, but I don’t know if he did.

[Mandy]

Wow. Wow! What is she thinking? When did we become friends? I remember when she originally offered to check her college housing list and I was surprised. I know she likes to be helpful--but to offer to visit me in Paris, it's just bizarre! I was at such a loss that I still haven't responded. I shared the mesage with (work friend) Nancy who suggested this response, "How about, 'No matter how lonely I get, I still won't want to see you?' :-)"

That about sums it up.

One more thing. I called my mom for Mother's Day, 'natch. Even though she doesn't buy it and I don't buy it, I worry that she'll be hurt if I don't at least call (I also sent a card, but it will be late). We had a good conversation where we talked a lot about me (whoops). I mentioned that I'd read an article about taking a sabbatical that says you're supposed to get into a routine right away or else you risk drifting and not getting anything accomplished. (In a way, drifting would be fine because mostly what I want to do is NOT WORK, but since I do have a goal of writing, I will need some kind of schedule.) Mom said, "What are you trying to do?"

I said, "Write!"

She said, "I think you just need time to settle in and find your rhythm."

"Really?"

"Yes. That article is true for some people, but not for you. You're not like that."

I said, "I'm not?"

"Remember, who was that in college? That teacher? Who said that if you took time off after college you'd never go back to school?"

"Oh, right," I said, "that was Paul [an advisor the program I was in]. He was wrong."

"Exactly. You still went to graduate school. You just need to settle in and you'll find your routine. That's how you are."

(Background: when I was in college, I had this plan to teach for one year in a "disadvantaged" high school before going to graduate school. Unfortunately, I would have had to get a teaching certificate to do this, which would have cost me an extra year of college and since I was already on the five-year plan, it never came to fruition. No Teach for America in those days! Instead, what I took crappy job for a while, quit that job and worked two or three crappy part-time jobs for a while, quite those jobs to go to Europe for three months, working one crappy job for a while before applying successfully to be a VISTA volunteer. I took about two and a half years between finishing my course work and starting grad school--which brought me to the ripe old age of 22.)

Mom's right and that is how I want to play it. I develop routines but it's usually an organic process rather than a deliberately planned one. I've spent a lot of time making grids of the days of the week and the hours in the day and planning what to do in each hour or two interval. Never, once have I ever followed one of these schedules for longer than a day. Yet, I do have routines and patterns. I like to be flexible. I know what needs to go into the little boxes of time and by the end of the day, the week, or the month, I get everything done. But I can't plan exactly when each task will get accomplished. Sometimes I plot out a day to make sure I'll get where I need to go on time. I will plan out vacations, roughly, to make sure I see everyone I want to see and get everywhere I want to go, but those are the exceptions. I operate more on a list model--I write a list and cross things off as I get them done. The timing isn't an issue.

I am sure I will find my rhythm. I'm planning to give myself the first month to suss things out and then I'll settle in to however I want to approach the rest of my time. I will be starting a language class (don't tell the French embassy) my second week there, which will provide structure around which to hang the my time. After that, I'll be on my own, but I think I'll manage. I hope so! I hope Mom is right.

Grateful for: KJ for taking the cat!

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