Just One of those little crises

I can’t write a blog to save my life right now. Every time I try– and believe me I have tried– I end up stammering out some whiny discourse on whatever annoyance and/or obstacle looms largest at that particular moment. Wait a minute. Maybe that’s what blogging is supposed to be!

Nah. That only works if it’s funny~ and my efforts of late have not been worthy of even a little curl of the lip and nod of recognition. So I’ve been plodding along in daily life, meeting the deadlines (mostly) and marking the milestones silently. There have been lots of deadlines and even quite a few milestones. Some time I will write about them.

But tonight I’ve come to our empty coffeehouse, pulled a chair down off the table where I stacked them all earlier when I was mopping. I’m sitting in the dark because, if I turn on the lights, someone will think we’re open late, and they’ll want a double decaf nonfat soy cappucino with a clover design in the foam. In truth, I’d like to fire up the espresso machine and seek coffee comfort, but I’ve found lately that caffeine has begun to keep me up at night if I indulge after dinner. (That seems related to aging, and it reminds me of that other milestone, when you suddenly get old enough to have real hangovers. I felt so old at the time, but now I’m actually on the verge of the “eating dinner at 4– 4 PM— in IHOP” phase!) Anyway, instead of making coffee, I’m just hanging out here. I’ve got my arms folded and my head down on the scrubbed pine table, and I’m gazing at the antique coffee roaster (just go with me on this– I’m fantasizing), and letting my mind drift over the issue that has been curdling my latte this evening. Oh look, I’ve just conjured up an imaginary coffee-bar tender, and she is ready to listen…

The instigating event was finding an article on an initiative my former boss at Harvard asked me to be involved with at the outset 5 years ago. I said no. The idea was great– in a “changing people’s lives and doing good for society” way, as well as in a really interesting work way. Part of me really wanted to do it– I wanted to say yes. But I said no for two main reasons, as I recall: 1) my four kids and the way I wanted to be involved in their lives; and 2) my fear that if I didn’t break free of my HBS ties, I would never write or create anything of my own. So here I am: free. I’ve got three novels in various stages of disrepair, some other miscellaneous fragments, and a very sporadic blog in which I openly display my bipolar personality. Hmmm. Not sure freedom has worked out so well for my professional aspirations.

I was trying to decide as I read the article earlier, whether I truly wish I were involved with the HBS project, or whether I simply wish I were involved so that I could point to something and say, “There. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years.” Five years. I would be something of an expert by now. I would have a career– something to point to as evidence of my capabilities and as leverage for whatever I decided to do next. You have to understand, before you remind me about how I’ve given my time to my kids and they are, after all, the most important thing I could spend my time on– that’s all true and good, but it won’t do to point to your children and say, “There. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last five years.”

Do I think I made the wrong choice? No. I don’t.

But I do feel that my life has an awful lot of “might-have-beens” and “could-have-dones.” I’ve always chosen love, or family, or home over career opportunities. I can look back at so many junctures where I’ve chosen based on my feelings, and I have to wonder if I’ve been a coward. From refusing a summer job in DC because it wasn’t where my boyfriend (Clay) would be, right up to turning down the Big New Idea at HBS– I’ve always gone the conservative route. It’s tempting to claim that I just put relationships before opportunities. But maybe I’ve really simply failed to trust the strength of relationships enough. Or maybe I just haven’t had the discipline to cordon off the different areas of my life and switch my attention fully between them at different times of the day. Whatever the reason, I find myself caught up in examining this pattern– wondering what it means for me going ahead. What I should do differently, or not. And perhaps, most of all, whether any more opportunities will ever come my way.

Depressing? Sorry. Sometimes that happens after hours in the coffee bar. I picture the coffee-bar tender wiping latte mugs while listening to me. Then, since I’ve been cut off on the caffeine, she calls me a cab and sends me home to bed. In the morning I will wonder why I got all wound up about this in the first place. But at least I won’t have a hangover!

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