Like everyone else, I’ve had some pretty bad experiences in my life; no more than my fair share and no worse than anyone else, but at the time, these events seemed overwhelming. And yes, a few were down-right horrible. But here I am today, alive and well, and my biggest complaint at the moment is that I don’t have enough time to write.
A quick side note, but bear with me; it all ties together, I promise.
We have a rule in our family: No complaining unless you’ve taken steps to alleviate your discomfort. Let me explain: if you have a headache and you have not taken advantage of one of the dozen or so bottles of pain reliever to be found throughout our home, then quit whining. If you’re not going to do anything to solve a problem on your own to the best of your own ability, don’t expect sympathy from anyone else. If you’ve taken the necessary steps to resolve the problem, but those steps have fallen short, you may ask for assistance.
I know – it sounds harsh. Believe me, this rule has worked wonders in our family.
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.
We took the whole family to see the new movie Up in 3D tonight, and after we dropped the kids at home, my husband I drove to a local park so that we could hang out and talk. This is a luxury for us these days: time alone to hold a conversation. Rain speckled the windshield and we cracked the windows a bit so we could enjoy the freshness of the cool air. It was almost like being on a date, except the topic of conversation shifted from our son having to go to summer school, my husband’s sister’s chronic money issues, and a sudden business trip my husband needs to take to the southern part of the state. I’m hoping to sneak a day off work and go with him, but that may not be feasible.
As we talked, my darling hubby asked me how my writing was going. I let out a very loud and very sarcastic laugh.
“What writing,” was my reply. “I grade Composition essays, I evaluate ICL student assignments, I teach classes, and I chase kids around.”
“And what are you doing for that?” came his flat response.
I’m sure my face contorted.
“Um,” I said. I knew where he was going, and I didn’t like having the tables turned on me. I’m typically the one who invokes the no whining rule.
“That’s what I thought.”
“No, wait,” I said, hoping to defend myself. “Remember last year when I switched jobs so that I would have more time to write?”
“Well, remember March when I had to switch again?”
“And,” he said, obviously unimpressed.
“I’m teaching more hours again, and having to do more prep work, and I’ve got more ICL students than I had a year ago. All the changes I made fell through and I’ve got less time now than when I initially decided to change jobs.”
He still didn’t look impressed.
“I already stay up late and work weekends,” I said, and even I could hear the whine in my own voice. “I don’t have enough time. I don’t have anything I can give up to make time. I wind up writing at 2:00 in the morning.”
At this point, I could feel the knot in my throat swelling and there were actually tears stinging my eyes.
“So what can you change to make time available?”
No, he’s not an insensitive pig. He is incredibly supportive of me, and he was clearly trying to get me to focus in a positive direction.
I know I was doing the “fish out of water” face, opening and closing my mouth as the thoughts came and were rejected before I could articulate them.
“Stop being a victim,” he said. There was no malice in his voice, no sarcasm, no cruelty. He was simply pointing out that I was allowing my circumstances to dictate my priorities rather than taking control for myself.
He was right.
There, I said it. Publicly even.
Students come to me all the time, asking to turn in assignments late, offering excuses about why they are behind, and I am constantly frustrated that they can’t see that they’ve become victims of their own creation. I had somehow managed to buy into their unhealthy ways of thinking, coming up with excuses, and ending up in servitude to their own poor choices.
“I’ll think it through, put a schedule together, and see where I can carve out a few extra hours a week.”
So this evening, instead of grading papers or evaluating lessons, I took a good look at my schedule and realized that there are quite a few hours in the day that I haven’t taken advantage of. I found time to write without sacrificing sleep, food, or quality moments with my family.
My schedule at work will change again in three weeks, and I’ll have to repeat this exercise, but for now, I have a plan of action. I have taken the necessary steps to avoid being a victim of my own choices. And now, I can whine if I want to. Of course, with the problem resolved for now, there’s no longer a need.
It’s a good rule.