Thursday, February 18, 2016

French Fries For Now

We've been in perpetual Vacation Mode over here, which has been a nice surprise in the middle of what is normally a slogging, mundane time of year. 

Inspired by our recent trip to Mexico, our cups have continued to run over with lazy afternoons, hours of reading books and catching up on magazines, long walks, and last-minute meals. 

My husband is in that sweet spot between an old job and a new one, and since he's around to help more, we have less on our calendars and on our minds. There is a world of excitement and chaos and change heading our way soon, but for now, we are turning off our phones and turning up the music. We are always singing and dancing in our house, but lately, the volume has gotten a bit louder and we're allowing Flo Rida repeats beyond our firm "seven is enough" rule.

Our iPads and laptops have been mostly black, and our TV only turns on for Yo Gabba Gabba! or the occasional late night movie.

We are in many ways doing the bare minimum - just enough to eek by and not have the people who depend on us wonder whether or not we fell off the face of the earth. 

I think doing the bare minimum is at times underrated. In our lives of hustle and bustle and work and play and socializing and social media and parenting and spousing and sleeping and (occasionally) showering, there are times when I feel like I'm always behind. Times when I feel like I'm "supposed" to give everyone my all, but in reality, I barely have enough energy to pour a pile of Goldfish onto a plate. 

I'm a huge advocate of slowing down and living in the moment, but despite my best efforts, I still get caught up sometimes. There have certainly been times these past weeks when I thought I should be working harder or doing more or performing better. I've been quick to remind myself that there is nothing wrong with giving ourselves permission to do less. To wind down and unplug and basically just allow the whole entire family to subsist on miniature fish crackers.

Thanks to an over-worked waitress, I learned an important lesson in the Art of Just Enough while we were on vacation in Mexico. It helps me to think of it each day:

When we arrived at the resort, the first thing on our agenda was lunch. We were hungry from a long flight and we had been dreaming of ceviche and fish tacos for weeks. We sat oceanside at the restaurant, enveloped in endless layers of azure and white, relaxed and ready to eat. We'd been admiring our surroundings for about thirty minutes, in absolute awe - even after years of travel - at just how exquisite our world can be. But, our drinks had yet to arrive, and although food had been brought to us twice, neither time was it our correct order.

Our waitress came by several times, full of apologies, but never with what we desired. I'm so sorry, tomorrow will be better, she kept saying.

No worries, we'd say. It's all good.

Of course, as time wore on, our breezy beach mentality yielded into slight irritation and continued to trepidatiously veer toward that entitled, input-driven need for immediacy that most Americans for better or worse tend to display.

At just the moment when we decided it was no longer "all good", the waitress appeared at our table with a glistening plate of fries - the exact opposite of what we had ordered. She confidently placed the potatoes in between us while she matter-of-factly announced, French fries for now.

It wasn't ceviche, but I was starving, so I grabbed a fry. I was surprised to find that it was perfectly salty, the ideal ratio of soft and crispy, and basically just about the best damn fry I'd ever eaten. As we finished off the entire plate, my husband and I laughed at how self-assured the waitress was that the fries would be the perfect solution to her ill-preparedness. 

And you know what? She was right. French fries were exactly what we wanted - screw the fish. I leaned back in my chair, listened to the ocean, looked up at the palm trees and thought about my new motto in life.

All those times I'm trying my best and failing nonetheless? 

French fries for now.

When I start to get irritated at myself or those around me despite their obvious best efforts? 

French fries for now.

The kids want a turkey and cheese sandwich, but we've been out of bread for a week? 

French fries for now.

School, work and family commitments are piling up, and I can't manage to juggle it all? 

French fries for now.

The world is moving fast, but our family needs to take it slow? 

Well, sorry, but freakin' French fries for now. 

It's the best we can do. And with the demands of the world on our horizon, I'm perfectly okay with taking the French fries for now. They are delicious and slightly naughty and an absolute treat. 

You know, some days are completely screwed if only because I got out of bed. But some days (and weeks and months and years) turn out to be amazing just because I said yes to whatever comes my way. 

There will always be a never-ending to-do list and life will always be waiting with commitments and deadlines and have to's and should do's and supposed to's.

There will always be a sense of urgency and a desire to want it all now and a need to do it all perfectly. There will be articles to write and emails to return and events to attend. There will be jobs to go to and homework to tackle and meals to make. (I found out through trial and error that my kids have to eat, like, every day, which is such a bummer.)

But there won't always be this rare, unobscured time with my family. There won't always be long, warm days in the middle of winter, or the proximity to my daughter's school so that we can walk her home. My husband won't always be here during the day to share a Thai lunch or to spend lazy afternoons talking about articles we've read and movies we want to see. 

There won't always be blue seas and clear skies and fresh-caught ceviche. But if I'm lucky, there will always be fries. And if I'm really lucky, I'll be smart enough to say, Yes, please! when they show up in my life unexpected - my only regret being that I didn't have the foresight to order them in the first place. 

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