In the Land of Unbrushed Teeth

…and piles of dirty clothes, and piles of clean clothes, and a kitchen counter full of unwashed dishes, Starbucks coffee cups stuffed with banana peels to be recycled and composted, and a garage floor covered with scattered partner-less sneakers, dog-chewed footballs and soccer balls, and a broken microwave disassembled, awaiting a fix someday while sitting idly on top of our (currently unused) ping pong table.  This last observation is particularly painful this morning, because I like to heat up the previous day’s coffee in the microwave before making any new.  I tell myself it’s being frugal and avoiding waste, but really it’s more about being lazy; I don’t have the energy at the moment to make a new cup of coffee.  I’m surprised I’m able to pull it together enough to post to my blog this morning.  The hot water that I boiled in the tea kettle, pouring it into a mug of cold and old coffee, isn’t doing the trick.  

Have you ever had one of those mornings where, within 30 minutes of waking up, you’re energy meter hits bottom?  I’m there right now.  So let’s put this blog thing to the test.  Let’s see if it really works.  Let’s see if I can find the words to regain some perspective, to find my legs, and to pull out of this nosedive. 

Today in particular is a day that punches me in the gut every year lately to remind me of an unresolved phase of my business life, with former colleagues, investors, and other players in that 8-year show all spinning back into my head, email inbox, social media feeds, and in the news media.  It’s inescapable today (and probably tomorrow too), and at some point I’m going to have to learn how to let it go.  But I haven’t learned how yet, so today it will hang heavy like an anvil around my neck.  Nothing I can really do about that particular burden today. 

The current phase of my professional life presents far less emotional trauma; I have learned to keep things more simple.  Still, I do need to find a way to cram a week’s worth of important work into the next 48 hours.  And frankly this kind of work–typically something I relish and dash off with ease and great efficiency–seems a Herculean task in the wake of my grandmother’s recent death and the lingering funk I share with my still-dazed, east coast family.  Somehow I’ll need to figure out a way to get on top of this particular 20 megabyte stack of deliverables.  But it won’t be handled this morning, because I volunteered to chaperone my second grader’s field trip to Crissy Field today, and very soon I’ll need to scramble to the meeting point, with a healthy lunch of some kind that I haven’t made yet and have no idea what it will be made of.  We are big time in between grocery hauls, and I am having to get real creative on the meals front.  May even have to grab one of the dog’s beloved frozen bananas from the freezer. 

And I find it extremely tough to get anything done when the house is so filled with clutter (in which I am absolutely complicit).  Max’s room looks like a crime scene.  The long-dirty clothes strewn on the floor, crumpled on the bed, hanging precariously off doorknobs and bedposts — they probably harbor spores or bacteria or something similar that maybe could kill someone or make them seriously ill.  So in that sense, maybe “crime scene” is an apt description.  Everett’s room is cleaner.  And neater.  Sort of.  The 30-pound Lego bags are bursting at the seams.  The bookshelf’s shelves are bowing under the weight of way too many books.  Closing the overstuffed drawers of his clothes dresser is always an exercise in avoiding getting painfully pinched by the split “wood” on the drawer’s bottoms.  And I normally have to take a deep breath to gather some courage before peering into his closet with a squint. 

Still, Everett exerts some stubborn control over the contents of his bedroom.  Everything is generally within the vicinity of where it’s supposed to be, or stuffed into undersized containers, defying physics.  All bend to Everett’s will.  I do too.  For example by failing to monitor the frequency and quality of his teeth-brushing.  It can just be such a pitched battle.  One night this past year, Everett had been sent straight to bed from the dinner table, with specific instructions to brush his teeth on the way to his room.  He slinked off, brooding, eyebrows pushed down, lower lip pushed up.  But we assumed he would do as he was told, clearly snapped back in line now from being reprimanded and dealt such a harsh punishment.  Self-satisifed, we straightened our napkins, returned our attention to our dinner, and forgot about Everett.  Ten minutes later, we hear a firm and deep voice coming from the direction of Everett’s room in the back of the house:  “Well, here I am in the Land of Unbrushed Teeth!”  Everett 1; Mom and Dad 0.  I’m not sure we’ve scored on him since.

Back to my physical and psychological mess.  Piles of unopened mail scattered here and there, not unlike a game of “52 Pickup.”  A few bear unpleasant tidings.  I’m fairly certain one threatens jury service during a week when I truly can’t manage jury service.  Twelve, count ’em, twelve lights throughout the house that I need to dutifully step, pull, flick and pinch to the “off” position.  I am impressed, however, with how creatively profane I can get when the house is empty, muttering crazed curse words.  Speaking of which (here comes a play on “muttering”), the dog follows me all over the house as I pick up the clothes and sneaker bombs, bring smelly stuff to the compost bin, lower our electricity bill, do two loads of laundry in what should really be only one, and rip into my Jury Service Summons.  And when I say “follow,” I mean that she does her best to occupy my periphery’s blind spots in a seemingly-calculated attempt to get me to tumble ass-over-tea kettle down the stairs or trip over her and crack my skull on the granite kitchen counter. 

So as you can see, I’m not in a good space.

In the midst of all this aggravation and self-loathing, my Dad calls my cell phone.  We rarely speak on the phone, and the handful of times over the past couple years we have, well those have often brought bad news.  So I take a deep breath and brace myself.  Turns out he received a “clean MRI” five minutes before calling me, and wanted to deliver the good news right away.  This really is good news, the kind of news that should snap just about anyone in the midst of dealing with just about anything out of whatever funk they’re in.  But my head is still too heavy from the aforementioned (real and imagined) burdens, Tuesday’s watered-down coffee has yet to kick in (and may never), and my morning to-do list still reaches to the floor.  So I am unable during that brief call to match his genuine enthusiasm and almost joyful energy.  My words come out robot-like, distracted and disingenuous.  I’m disappointed in myself.  Not least of which is because I preach about making lemonade in this very blog.  I’ll have to call him back later today during some non-existent window of free time to make things right the second time around. 

And so, my takeaway for today?  Making lemonade out of lemons doesn’t always come naturally, it’s foolish to think that it could.  It’s an ongoing exercise, to be rehearsed and practiced at every opportunity.  But things are never perfect, and the lemonade doesn’t always get mixed as it should or when it should, here in The Land of Unbrushed Teeth.  But tomorrow’s another day. Thanks for reading.

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