I almost hyperventilated last week just from the sheer volume of plates I was spinning. Figuratively speaking, that is. Literally speaking, it was the large number of projects I was working on simultaneously, as well as the learning curve of starting vast new areas of business. And, as I said to someone, I'm not only starting a new business, I'm still doing all my old business too. And did I mention the guilt? You see, our household has fallen into traditional gender roles for many of our daily tasks. (Absolutely the opposite with some of the big and occasional tasks): the mom who has worked from home has made supper and cleaned the house. Except when work moved into high gear, the house fell into shambles. Well, not really shambles, but instead of washing, drying and folding laundry, I washed laundry, dried some and folded precisely none. It sat in large piles near my back door. I tried to delegate: my second son is an excellent and willing cook. The busiest night last week, he agreed to make dinner and asked me simply to throw the pizza dough together. This is normally a two-minute task -- but at the precise moment that I discovered we had no flour, the phone rang and it was that ship horn telling me I had won a cruise, the dog slammed into my backside, insisting on a walk, my stomach growled, hungry for lunch at three o'clock, and I realized there were still things I needed to do for my workshop and I had only an hour until I had to leave. On my bike.
That was the hyperventilating moment. I decided walking the dog was the best solution and it was. Ordering in dinner was another good solution. Sitting down with my sweet husband on the weekend to renegotiate roles in light of what I called 'growing pains' was still another good answer.
The best, though, happened on Saturday. We were all tired from a week of busyness and exams, and one of us (son #1) had the beginnings of what is now a raging ear infection. We wanted low-key adventure. And, we got it. We packed the dog and kids in the car and drove an hour west to Goderich. There, in the still bare but recovering square, we paid five dollars a head (not the dog), and were given a coffee cup, stuffed with a dinner roll, a spoon and a paper serviette. We were also given a score card. We took our cups and walked the perimeter of the square for the next hour, stopping every few stores to receive, eat and rate a ladleful of chili. There were fifteen competitors in all. I don't know who won. I know which were my favourites. I know that, like a good wine taster, I learned not to finish the ones I didn't like. I handed off the cilantro-infused chili and a sweet one, and we dumped another one out for the dog. That left twelve really good ones. Dave and I made it all the way around the square; the kids stopped a couple short.
Then, we drove our filled stomachs down to the lake and found the leash-free area and walked the path above the beach for an hour. Pack-ice had been driven into the cove by waves, but it was pretty sparse (tell that to the dog who tried to clamber out a few times) and the lake was almost entirely open. Although the weather was unseasonably mild, it was also lovely. Everything was still and silent, bleached and worn to comfort for the eyes. We saw an enormous bird in a tree at the top of a cliff, looked more carefully and saw that it was a bald eagle. Son number one climbed the hill to capture it on film, spooked it as he neared the top (blurry photos only) and it took flight, soaring over us and the water.
That was the non-hyperventilating moment of the week.
On the way back, I picked up a rock and put it in my pocket. Usually I can find smooth rocks at the lake, worn by waves and other clattering stones, but the beach was covered with big debris this time; it was a winter beach, even if there was no snow. The rock I pocketed has a thumb print in it but it's hefty and a bit mottled in feel. I liked it because it reminded me that not everything has to run smoothly to be good.
I walked out the door this morning to find two police cars, an ambulance and a firetruck. Hours later, it turned out that our 90 year old neighbour had died, at home, suddenly and peacefully. It hit me, as death always does, as a surprise. Our kids felt the same way. "Imagine," our daughter said. "Waking up and then just dying."
There's a quote I read recently that's been resonating in my head. It says: Make up your mind once and for all to live an extraordinary life. It resonates because what's easy right now is to put all my focus, all my breath, all my life into the new business and the old business, to make a difference, to make a success, to let it grow and prosper. And certainly that is part of an extraordinary life. But not all. My neighbour's death and my rough egg stone remind me that even when life is full and messy, I need to also make time to walk by the still shores of a winter lake, to sample rich chili on a cold afternoon, to be and breathe with the people I love.