Friday, June 11, 2010

Weekly lesson plan

I didn't get the promotion for which I had applied. The feedback I received was effusively positive. I was told that "applying was the smartest thing [I] ever did." I was beat out by the incumbents with experience but I was encouraged to the brink of demanded to apply again at the next round in a year.
So why was I so upset? It turns out I have very little reference point for failure. In general, that's a good thing. I almost always accomplish what I strive for and this was one of my very few instances of disappointing myself in a challenge. I spent the week thinking about this, that not only do I need to accept failure with grace I need to teach my kids how to prepare for failure just as much as I need to teach them how to strive for success. Heavy stuff, that.


There is an old man who rides his bicycle in the neighborhood of my work. He is always riding. In the summer he rides shirtless with only an orange mesh reflective vest atop his puffy white body hair. In the mornings as we arrive we see him coasting down the hill, enjoying the pre-humidity breeze. In the afternoons we see him strong and steady, pumping his ancient legs up to the crest. His body is bone topped by saggy aged skin topped by floofs of cloud. White hair everywhere. He is ancient and unbreakable. I see neither muscle tone nor body fat, just droopy tan and a pelt of cotton candy. He is weathered. He is always moving.


Our strawberry plants are thriving but we still haven't tasted of their bounty. Several times we've spotted an almost-ripe berry dangling from its stem. Several times we've seen a squirrel leap into the berry patch. I wanted to grow food plants to teach the girls a few things about nature. Providing for creatures with tails was not the intended lesson.


Each day when we arrive at school the last moisture of the early morning plant watering is fading from the walkway. L runs to every plant grouping: the begonias along the sidewalk; the young maple here from which her class hung cereal-and-yarn bird feeders; the mature maple there that she kisses goodnight; the hedgerow that grows under the building's windows. She finds each upraised spigot from the sprinkler system that hasn't receded underground and she stomps it into its tube. Each stomp sends a tiny frizzle of spray across her summer-bare legs. I stomped that one! she yells, and seeks another.


This round, returning to work has been hard. I don't mean emotionally difficult, I still visit and play the kids in the middle of the day whenever the whim occurs, I mean logistically challenging.  I'm so glad I don't have to choose between my family and my career. I'm acutely aware of my fortune. But in not choosing, I perpetuate the myth of the woman who can do it all. Nobody can do it all. So I spent the evenings of this week catching up on my sleep. The laundry and the dishes and the bills to pay and the time to blog all suffered, but I have to remember to care for myself. Sometimes I don't until I get sick. So this cold I have, it's been here too long. I'm taking my health back and I'm turning it out on the streets. The laundry will understand. The blog will understand. The bills can be scheduled at the last minute.


At the end of the day I tuck her sister and her brother into the car and when she thinks it's her turn, instead of lifting L by the waist I gently take her hand. We dash across the driveway. She doesn't know where we are going but she's curious. Customarily we never cross the driveway. I have a gift for her: under the tall swaying grass by the entrance to the parking garage, I see an un-stomped sprinkler spigot. Pin It


Jill said...

Robin, thanks for reminding me of the gifts of learning to fail...hard to accept as gifts sometimes. Also, thanks for your reflections on "the myth of the woman who can do it all." It was good for me to read, especially this week...I needed that reminder. I appreciate you.

LazyBones said...

I'm sorry you didn't get the promotion. I, too, really struggle when I don't get things I try for. When I found out I was second choice for the job I have now, it floored me for a week or so. Things came to easy to us as children, I think!

Take care of yourself and feel better soon. I'm fighting the same fight right now with myself: what do you MEAN I can't do everything I want to do!? But I WANT TO! It's hard to remember that I don't always get what I want, or in the time I want it.

That was a beautiful ending, with L.

Inna said...

Sorry you didn't get the promotion. I take setbacks like that as a learning process. I applied to 2 grants last year, neither of which I received. I calmed myself down by saying: at least I can try to write one now... :)

And, since they said you should apply again, I'd take that as a success. I mean, next year you may be the experienced incumbent.

Emily said...

Oh no, it sounds like you're having a terrible week! I'm so sorry about the promotion. Sure, I've never actually met you, but I can't imagine a more qualified applicant. Definitely apply again! I hope you're feeling better soon, too. Take it easy.

SmartBear said...

Sorry about the promotion. From one over achiever to another...I sympathize and agree about the learning to fail bit. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. My ego took a beating, but I'd like to think I learned from it?
And your words about being a working mom and having it all? I am nodding my head. I get sick when I am doing too much as well.
Get some rest and feel better soon!

Thrift Store Mama said...

I think I might live near where you work, because I think the same old man rides his bike in a retail/condo/office complex near my neighborhood.

Or could there be two different old men of the same variety ? I wonder if they know each other.