Middle Sister is burning the candle at so many ends right now; I’m just hoping she makes it through the week. This semester she has a demanding course load: Honors English, US History, Geometry and Studio Art. Winter track just started for the season (she’s hurdling this year). And tonight is the opening of her school’s fall play: “The Odd Couple.” She’s the Prop Mistress.
That’s a big job in a play with a small ensemble but a huge props list. Last week she exported two cases of soda and an entire Rubbermaid bin out of my basement. I have no idea what she took from the house, other than a few crystal wineglasses that originally belonged to my mother-in-law. The other day she texted me at lunchtime and asked me to drop off more soda and a tablecloth, and yesterday she took one of my crockpots to school. (It should be interesting to see how much of my stuff comes back.)
She’s been putting in 13-hour days all week, and for the past two days I’ve been dropping off “meals on wheels” at dinnertime. She could walk to Wendy’s, but I really don’t mind bringing a healthier dinner over to her, and frankly, I’m a little flattered that she asked me to do this. Yup, it was her idea. How do you say no to a kid who is clearly missing homemade dinner?
Last night when she came home after her long day, she had a cup of something in her hand. I was in the middle of folk-group practice (we rehearse in my living room so the kids can play), so I didn’t pay much attention until she rummaged around in a drawer and retrieved a hot-glue gun, then dumped out a pile of ceramic shards from a coffee mug on my dining room table. The mug was a prop. It had been broken, and she was going to fix it. It’s not like they needed this mug, but she needed to fix it.
She spent an hour she could ill afford, trying to glue that mug back together. People were asking her why she bothered, because it wasn’t a necessary item–there are always so many coffee mugs around. And she really couldn’t answer.
I completely got it, though. She was mending the mug because she needed a mental break from all the other stuff she’s juggling right now. Yes, it required concentration, but it was a completely different kind of task from vocab homework, history assignments, hurdling and prophunting.
When I was in grad school, I started doing the same thing. Full-time graduate students tend to be very single-minded. They focus on their studies 24/7. I can’t do that without losing my mind completely, which is why I took my master’s degree and left, abandoning all hope of becoming a college professor. I don’t love anything enough to study it 24/7. I took forced breaks from literature by joining the RCIA program as a sponsor for a fellow student, and by joining the folk group that played at 3 Masses a week. People wanted to know why I’d spend time doing that instead of in the library; it was precisely because it wasn’t the library.
Now I deal with stress by baking. Whatever works, right?
She wasn’t able to repair the mug; there were too many missing pieces. But I think that hour she spent puzzling it back together, glue gun in hand, was not a wasted hour. And I’m glad to know that she–however unconsciously–recognizes and gives in to the need for balance in her life.