practicing the art of practicing

I ran across this the other day.

Back when I liberated it from its cookie prison, probably after some orange chicken, I read it out loud and sighed. I believe John’s fortune said, as they usually do, something like, “Everybody admires you. You’re handsome AND smart! Keep up the good work.”

My fortunes are notorious for reading more like conversations with a pesky neighbor:

“Lawns don’t mow themselves.
Trees don’t trim themselves.
Leaves don’t rake themselves.
You should really try exercising and also, eat less orange chicken/read more/talk less/spend wisely/maybe go back to school.”

When I ran across the “Keep your expectations reasonable” fortune from a meal long past, I was unpacking the house…again, as we had moved…again.

I frowned. Why had I kept it? And not only had I kept it, but I packed it, then paid some guys to move it in a big truck. This wasn’t the message that I wanted framing our start in a new town, with our boys tucked away in the new schools that we’d reluctantly left the city for. Doesn’t everybody deserve to at least feel capable of doing great things? Why do the fine people of the Panda Express Fortune Writing Team think that I shouldn’t expect the very best from myself?

I let the paper sit a day on my nightstand, mingling with some hair ties and a few stray business cards while I focused my efforts on looking for one kid’s shoes, and the other’s backpack that I still have not found, probably due to my unreasonably high expectation of finding it. I was busy, and tired, and felt like I wasn’t making a dent in all the of things I needed and wanted to do. And then, when I was looking for my keys (again!), I ran across the “fortune.” But this time, instead of frowning, I felt encouraged.

Sure I still needed to find my keys, but I suddenly realized I didn’t have to be the one person on this planet that never ever loses their keys, or that freak of nature who’s never lost an entire box of their kid’s shoes. I didn’t have to feel so terrible about the inefficiency with which I was currently going about my days. I had simply fallen out of practice on life stuff.

Between the suddenness of the move; a dreamy lobster roll, cheesesteak and Dunkin’ Donuts-fueled family trip along the East Coast; and the fact that summer required me to attentively parent all day long, every day, I hadn’t written anything. I wasn’t cooking, grocery shopping or keeping track of keys with the regularity and enthusiasm I was known for. The upside-downness of this summer gave me permission, nee necessitated, that I delay most generic life business to a non-specific date in the future when everything would be calm, and settled and perfect for re-engaging in whatever it was that I used to do.

But with my renewed love of reasonable expectations, I realized that falling out of practice, meant that I could climb back in, and with regular practice, could once again manage day-to-day life business. Things will be fine; not perfect, but probably pretty OK. (Is “pretty ok” reasonable enough for you, Panda Express?)

So I practice writing. Because like piano, and baseball, and conversational French, writing takes practice, and sadly, discipline. When you practice baseball, your stats improve; when you practice piano, the music sounds better; and when you practice French, you get to have philosophical conversations while eating almond croissants and wearing a Givenchy cape. Writing success (for me at least) means you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair for more than 10 minutes in a row, slogging through meandering, bloated, run-on sentences, tinkering with them until you hate yourself what you’ve written a little bit less. On the very best day, it means you have also somehow avoided both eating a family size bag of wavy potato chips and memorizing the inventory of Etsy while “writing.” Watching somebody (me) practice writing is not pretty.

So now instead of cooking, I’ll practice cooking. It might start with toast, and hot water for tea. But with some elbow grease and a little can-probably-do attitude, I’ll work my way back up to hot water for spaghetti, and maybe after that, hot water for linguini. We’ll see.

I’ll practice making sandwiches and side dishes and sack lunches without having to remind myself to do it, and then without having to remind myself how to do it, and then how to do it without having to totally psych myself up first.

I’ll practice groceries, which requires I find a new regular market that is on the way home from the places that I’ll go….places I don’t currently know exist, let alone why I’ll go there. With a little hard work, I’ll someday be able to run in and know exactly where I can find a basketball team’s worth of Gatorade. I’ll know which checker is the fastest, or nicest, or the best at small talk. I’ll practice buying fruit, and then two days later, I’ll practice remembering there is fruit in the house before it gets brown and squishy.

I’ll practice putting my keys and the mail in the same place every day. I’ll practice checking in on homework while still somehow conveying to my darling sons that I fully expect them to be on top of their own homework without my intervention, which goes the same for the next morning, when I ask about whether or not the homework has made it into the backpack. I’ll practice promising myself that tomorrow, we’re all getting up 10 minutes earlier. I’ll learn how to set the new shower to keep from scalding myself and also what combination of light switches need to be on for the garbage disposal to work.

I’ll practice looking out our new front window at a new view.

And before I know it, I’ll be juuuuust functional enough, because as we all know, practice makes perfect for reasonable outcomes.

You can find me on Instagram @Colleenweems


11 thoughts on “practicing the art of practicing

  1. Kirsten Curley says:

    Oh my gosh, Colleen, this had so many laugh out loud moments I am sure the other parents of Quinn’s tap class are wondering what in the heck I am doing…. And why am I not watching my child pretend to march like a nutcracker soldier!

    So are you back in the East Bay? I’d love to get together for coffee or lunch sometime. I’m working part-time these days so Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays work great while the kiddos are in school.

    Hope you are well-and thanks for always making me laugh!!

    xxoo, Kirsten

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