The New Year seems to have come and gone too fast, and in the hopes of holding on to that spirit for just a day or two longer, I offer this simple story.
I was reading an interview with the world’s most successful television producer, Shonda Rhimes, about how she juggles life as a single mother of three while working insane hours producing some of the best shows on television. Rhimes is refreshingly honest about the fact that work-family balance is a lot easier to attain when you have unlimited funds.
She’s also honest about the fact that for all her success, something was missing. Isn’t it always? In this case, and in her now best-selling book, she describes a year of saying yes to things she would otherwise shy away from, be afraid of and say no to. For Rhimes that meant doing the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” show. (Incidentally, I sat across the table from Jimmy Kimmel once, at a birthday party, and I thought that was incredibly cool. Doing the Jimmy Kimmel show just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that I have to worry about turning down at this stage, if you know what I mean.)
Sometimes I feel just a little too old for all the “having it all and more” books by youngish mothers with youngish children who haven’t yet realized that these days don’t last, that kids grow up to be complicated people with lives of their own and the opportunities that seem so plentiful to the youngish seem to disappear when you get oldish.
Right after reading this interview, a window suddenly opened in my schedule, and my daughter managed to find a hotel room with two beds in Maui (parking-lot view) and two middle seats on American, and off we went. A vacation.
The problem with vacations is that wherever you go, there you are. You take yourself with you. Or in my case, I took the overworked and overstressed bundle of anxiety that is my body, along with my phone, tablet and computer. I was on a beautiful island but, sadly, I still had the same bundle of anxiety, along with a slight sunburn. In the old days, I might have downed a few Long Island iced teas to shed my workday self, but those tend to catch up the next day now, so I stick mostly to the passion-fruit variety, which leaves me not refreshed but at least less tired.
And then, after three days of reminding my daughter that the heating system didn’t work right (surprise: no heat in Hawaii), and that there was almost nothing on the various menus I could eat (thanks to a doctor who perforated my colon trying to “fix” the scarring from the unnecessary surgery she had earlier performed; my anger at her goes everywhere I do), I actually started to laugh.
Back on day two, my usual self had stalked around the hat store, checking my email while my beautiful daughter tried on hats. At the least minute, I tried a few, and even picked one, but by the time we’d gotten back to the hotel, I’d decided to give it to my friend Rosie. When would I ever wear a hat?
On our last day, we went to pick out our last gifts. We went back to the hat store, and I picked out a different hat for Rosie. I packed mine carefully.
I actually bought a hat. And then I decided to keep it. Happy New Year. Thanks, Shonda.