Monday, January 16, 2012

Going Along for the Ride

As much as I’m a big list maker, I’m not a big planner.  I’m very much a big-picture kind of gal.  I don’t like to do nit picky kinds of activities or crafts or really anything that involves scissors.  (That may have  something to do with me being left-handed never having mastered the use of any sharp implement, or even a pencil for that matter.)

I like to get a broad idea of what I want to do (such as plan a unit for school or a holiday or a piece of writing) and then just let the pieces fall where they may.  Just kind of sort it out as I go along.  I’m comfortable with that.  It’s kind of like rowing your boat gently down the stream…you know.

That may be why I love both crosswords and jigsaw puzzles (both of which are kind of nit picky, I must admit, but don’t involve anything you could impale yourself with).  They give you a chance to peruse the landscape, see where you want to go and then work on chunks or segments, sometimes a little bit at a time and sometimes for big chunks of time. (The big chunks of time usually come on either rainy Sunday mornings in bed (Oh wait, that was before I had kids.) or involve mulled wine and cookies to keep me company while I’m working on them.) 

With crosswords or puzzles, you don’t have a time when you need to be done. In fact, if you don’t get done, it’s no big deal.  (Or you can cheat and look in the back of the crossword book to get one or two words to get you going again.)  I like to do crosswords with a mechanical pencil and an eraser so I can erase when I make a mistake and not see the messiness of the mess-up. Just start over.  Nice, right?  Same with puzzles.  You just dismantle or work on another chunk until the rest of it sorts itself out.  I love that.

I used to really feel the need to control my moments and monitor them, but it just seemed the more I went with the flow, the better things worked out and the happier I was. 

I remember the day that I started to “zen” it very clearly.  We were living in Korea and our boss, Mr. Park, decided to take us on a road trip one Sunday.  We got in the car and just started driving.  I asked him several times what our destination was, but, as was his habit, he completely ignored me, spoke to his driver in Korean and we went from place to place, stopping for odd spicy treats or delicious red bean filled rice cakes or to look at a famous mountain or to just have a pee on the side of the road. 

I had no idea where we’d stop next, what we’d be doing at that destination, or how long we would be staying.  Don seemed quite content to roll with the punches (being the type B guy that he is), but I was unraveling in the back seat, next to the dried octopus and seaweed snacks (both of which I have come to love and which are some of our kids’ favorite snacks).

What’s more, I had no clue when we’d be going home.  My Sundays were designated for relaxing and for me this was in no way relaxing.  I was trapped in a smelly car (albeit with plush leather seats and my sweet boyfriend-now-husband), my boss and his driver, Mr. Moon, who seemed to be surreptitiously taking swallows out of a dark, small bottle.

As it turned out, we didn’t come home that night: we checked into a hotel without toothbrushes, pajamas or a change of clothing.  I had my little cry and then just abandoned myself to not knowing what was going to happen next and chose to ask no more questions.  I decided to just enjoy the journey.

Mr. Park went into the exclusive shop of the first class hotel he had checked us into, and bought himself a very expensive change of clothes, offered us to buy the-amenities we needed and treated us to one of the best seafood meals of my life.  Over the next day we explored coastlines and did a photo shoot (where someone actually mistook me for Meg Ryan!) and stuffed ourselves silly with wonderful spicy, home cooked Korean dishes that tickled my taste buds like no cuisine has since.  We understood very little of the conversations that went on around us, continued to have no idea what was next on the agenda, but I just went along for the ride. 

I knew I couldn’t get off the ride so I just went along for it.  These days I do that most of the time and I kind of like it.

Tonight I’m just going along for the ride.  No big plans, other than to write no more report cards and do only things that actively contribute to my happiness.

I’ll probably do some bedtime reading with my crazy kids  (I think it will be Ms. Frizzle visiting the ocean floor).

Oh, I’ve made the executive decision that now that I am finally flossing every single day, I’m going to teach my kids how to, too.  (Don’t judge me for those of you who have been having your kids floss since they were toddlers.  In so many ways I am a very bad mother.)

I think I’ll do a little work on the 1000 piece CARS jigsaw puzzle that has been sitting in our living room for the better part of a month.  McQueen’s eyes have been eluding me for a while now so that may be my focus.

I’m going to take a walk up to the next village on our harbor-hugging road, going just a bit further than I did on my last walk.

I think I’ll finish off the five pounds of cherries I’ve been gorging on over the last day or so. (I swear, cherries are nature’s candy!) Somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere it must be cherry season and we’re getting a lot of them here in Hong Kong, which is making me exceedingly happy AND reducing my cravings for chocolate.  Bonus!

And if something unexpected occurs, I’m okay with that, too!  I’m flexible.  (Well, actually I am literally not flexible AT ALL.  (Yoga is out of the picture for this gal with the fossilized back.) But as a figure of speech, I’m totally flexible.  I’m just here for the ride.


  1. I remember you telling me about that. What a bizarre experience.

  2. Well I must be a bad mother too. A different points during my sons' childhood, I vowed to floss and teach them to floss. This would last 2 or 3 days and then i would get impatient or they would and the entire process would stop...

    The road to ideal parenthood is paved with good intentiions. I've learned to keep my expectations reasonable. My sons aren't rocket scientists, but are good human beings. At the moment they have no direction or drive, but I have confidence that this too will change. I found, like you, that by trying to control everything I controlled nothing. So I'm trying to squash my instintive parental urges to protect and I'm trying to let my sons fall on their own, make their own mistakes and learn from them on their own. Whew! Very tough! I tried to tell this to my freshly awakened son this morning, and he told me that he stopped listening to my blah blah, even though it probably contained important information, after 2 minutes (Is it because kids today have the attention span of a hummingbird or do I have to beocme more concise and less explanatory?). Being dismissed by your child, even if unintentional, is an uncomfortable feeling. I couldn't decide whether to come at him like a harpy on PMS or quietly sit back and not take it personally. Hint: he is still speaking to me so I obviously went with option B. Anyways enough whining. I just would like to say that I will also follow your example and try to be more "zen" about certain things.

    P.S. I'm not allowed to slice bread anymore. While I don't tend to stab myself, my husband is tired of bread turning out like sculptures you would find at a roadside museum in the sticks.