(Not So) Common Sense
Spend your time living, not waiting
By Carole Townsend
I was reminded this week that, while focus and planning are wonderful things to have, we can spend so much time looking down at what we must do, that we miss the things that we are blessed to be able to do. That was a mouthful, wasn’t it? Let me explain.
I was pleasantly surprised with a visit from my granddaughter today, and she’ll be with us for most of a week. She is a tiny chatterbox full of joy and excitement and wonder, and every time she’s here, she lights up our home with her sweet energy. Of course I also had several work commitments that I had to manage today; does it ever fail?
With a two-year-old in the house, commitments are automatically reordered, rearranged and re-prioritized. Children that age do not understand, “Wait a minute, please,” or “I’ll be right back,” or “Does this sentence sound right?” A two-year-old is what we all secretly want to be, deep down inside: demanding, immediate and top priority.
As is often the case, today I was up against a hard deadline. A hard deadline is one of those deadlines that doesn’t have the built-in “wiggle room” that so many of us are used to having as writers. So often in this business, a deadline is issued with a wink and an understanding that there’s about two days’ worth of padding in there. A hard deadline is one that means, “Turn in a finished story, or else.” So as thrilled as I was that our little granddaughter was coming for a surprise visit, my heart sank at the prospect of trying to research, write and edit a story with a hard deadline tacked on. I know from many years of writing experience (and two whole years as a grandmother) that hard deadlines and two-year-olds are like oil and water. They do not mix.
I’m kind of a worry-wart. I obsess. I get anxious. I don’t like admitting these things about myself, but at the ripe old age of fifty-something, I know my shortcomings as well as I know my strengths. Even as our little angel awoke this morning, all sweet smiles and tiny voice exclaiming pure joy at seeing YaYa, my wheels were turning. “I wonder, if I park her in front of Elmo Goes to School (her current favorite flick), will she let me write?” I knew the answer to the question, mind you, but I had to ask it anyway. I had to try. I have a deadline. A hard one.
A few minutes spent removing pudgy little, lightning-fast fingers from my keyboard, and I knew I had a problem. What kid, of any age, can resist the temptation to bang away on a clickity-sounding keyboard? My gosh, I can’t even resist it. What was I thinking? When I saw the precious few words I had typed interrupted with hundreds of lowercase letter “Hs,” intermittent punctuation marks and numbers, I quietly closed the laptop and re-thought my strategy. “Maybe she’s hungry. Maybe she’ll sit in her high chair and eat a leisurely breakfast, maybe peruse the New York Times, while I write a Pulitzer-winning story.”
Milk and mashed banana are very difficult to clean off a keyboard, especially when they’re mixed together and flung at high velocity.
“Maybe, just maybe, if I get out her puzzles, she’ll remain occupied long enough for me to write, say, a clever lead-in,” I thought. The problem with puzzles is that they’re much more fun with a little help from a partner. Two hours later, we had pieced together animal, letter, number, weather and shape puzzles. I think I slowed her down a bit.
It’s likely obvious by now that I have not finished my story. Yes, I still have a hard deadline. No, there’s still not any wiggle room. But let me tell you what else I have in addition to that looming deadline.
I have a blue sky made of sturdy construction paper, dotted with white cotton ball clouds. I have pink fingernails and toenails to match her sweet little pink ones. I have the smell of sugar cookies throughout the house, and at this very moment, I have two chubby ankles propped on my legs while I write this column. The rest of her is sound asleep, tiny hands clutching her blanket, the ever-important passie dangling precariously from her little mouth, having satisfactorily done its job once again.
And no, this column was not the piece I needed to write with the hard and fast deadline. That story has yet to be finished (but it’s several hours until midnight). This column, however, is by far the most important thing I’ll write today, because writing it made me stop trying to leapfrog through this fine day, trying to get from breakfast to nap to bedtime, wishing away some of the best-spent time I’ve had in quite a while. For that, I’m thankful.
Now, for that clever headline and show-stopping first paragraph…or better yet, I think I’ll take a nap.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL, was published April 2016. It is the true tale of a crime that took place in Gwinnett County nearly 40 years ago. Her other three books are MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA & EXHAUST; RED LIPSTICK & CLEAN UNDERWEAR; and SOUTHERN FRIED WHITE TRASH. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on many national radio shows about true crime. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she’s not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, children and the family.