By Lynn Paris
It's Just That Simple
I shouldn’t BE so aggravated. I thought I’d gotten past that; I thought I was at a place in my life—age, and experience, and of course, just simply putting it all in God’s hands—where things wouldn’t make me crazy anymore. For awhile, in fact, it seemed I had gotten there. In my last column I even wrote about how good it was to be there.
But the last couple of weeks have shown me, yet again, that I’m still capable of losing it, whatever IT is—my patience . . .my composure . . . and most certainly my calm.
I guess it started at 3 a.m. January 12th, when Jim awakened me to tell me he was having a heart attack. Actually, that’s not what he told me . . . he told me he had pain in his chest. And he was pacing back and forth. But, after a couple of these experiences, one begins to know when it’s more than heartburn, especially at 3 in the morning. So, I drove him to the Emergency Room and the ER doctors immediately confirmed that my husband “was having a heart attack.” Funny thing is, I was pretty darn calm. I mean, considering. I’m much better with the big stuff. Sure, it was scary waiting alone, while they carted him off to surgery, from 4 until 6 a.m., when I finally felt it was a decent enough time to call a friend. It was scary, yet I felt peaceful; I knew in my heart he’d be all right. My friend came rushing over, we prayed together, and sure enough, Jim was fine. Good as new.
I had a harder time balancing the trips back and forth to the hospital— with my job, and my dogs—than dealing with the event itself. That’s because of a sudden change in my work schedule, coupled with the tension caused by my next-door neighbor.
We bought our house mostly because of the property. A half acre, a hundred trees, even a gentle slope rolling down toward the creek, which is unusual in this, the flat part of central Texas. We envisioned our dogs frolicking in that yard and we couldn’t resist. Unfortunately, one of our dogs, Max, was too old and too arthritic to ever enjoy the yard, and little Lulu, part Chihuahua and part who knows what, is a couch potato. But when Maxi died, and we had gone through our mourning, we went to the shelter and found Buddy.
Buddy’s a black lab, mostly, except for the brown furry tufts around his ears and neck and the white on his chest that makes him more cuddly. He’s about a year-old, and just a huge, lovable, exuberant puppy. And Buddy adores the yard; he thinks he owns it. He can spend an hour in a futile attempt to coax a squirrel down from a tree, or lie on the knoll and bask in the sun, raising his head every few minutes to sniff the breeze. He’ll race wildly up and down the length of the yard for the pure joy of it. If people go by on the street, he’ll bark three or four loud woofs, and if kids are playing nearby, he’ll bark at them for attention. Every once in awhile he’ll bark for a few minutes just because he can; he’s a dog.
I probably wouldn’t have gotten him if I didn’t work from home, because he needs exercise, attention and someone to keep tabs on his behavior. He might be 70 pounds, but he’s still a puppy. The first few times Jim and I had to go out for several hours together, we left both dogs home with the doggie door open, and they were just fine. That was before the grumpy old man moved in next door, into the only house that is in close proximity to our backyard.
The next two times we had to leave them, this guy—who stares directly into our yard from his office window—called animal control and reported our dogs for excessive barking. I was scared to death, even though we talked to the animal control people who assured us that dogs are never picked up if they’re just barking for normal doggy reasons, but only if it’s for long periods of time for no reason, which is called incessant. We have several dogs in the neighborhood who DO bark incessantly, but fortunately for them and their owners, they don’t live next to a grumpy old man. Rather than take any chances, the next time we left them home, it was with the doggy door locked. No notices from animal control, but Buddy had eaten the venetian blinds.
We had no choice. We went out and bought crates. The whole concept seemed appalling to me, but the fact is, the dogs adjusted well. We were never gone for more than two or three hours, and both dogs were relaxed and perfectly content in their crates when we got home.
Then, my work situation changed. Abruptly. Jim was no sooner home from the hospital and back at work then I learned that I would now be expected to come into the office from 1-5 every day. In theory, it’s not a bad concept. I’ve felt somewhat out of the loop, and I welcomed the opportunity to get to know “the team” better. After all, it wasn’t MY fault that there was no office available for me when I began this job. The fact that as a writer, working from home is ideal for me is beside the point; everyone else works on campus. BUT, not only does my contract say that I work off-site, but I’d configured my life around that fact. That’s why I got Buddy. And that’s why the tech guy set up a new mac laptop for me specifically configured for working off-site.
When I heard about the new arrangement I panicked. The idea of interrupting my writing process, which generally includes deadlines, to pack up my belongings, put the doggies in their crates for five hours, drive to campus, find a space in the parking lot, walk to the building, unpack and begin again on someone else’s computer, in a room shared by a person who will be on the phone constantly, seemed counter-productive, jarring even. Just doing it takes a minimum of thirty minutes, thirty wasted minutes.
Yet I was in a quandary. I didn’t want to be a complainer. I wanted to be a “team player.” In the end, after what seemed like a very long 24 hours, a compromise was reached. I’d come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-5. It seemed a perfect compromise. But, as with everything in life, there are complications. The email program that I’d been using successfully from home for eight months didn’t work from the office, so I was told to use Outlook. I did, but it pulled all my email off the server so that when I got back home, everything I had saved—all my mail and contacts and folders—had disappeared. Similar technical problems with the “share” server; it isn’t set up for me to access it at home, and it isn’t set up for a mac. Yet, I was told to put my work on the share server. Works great when I’m in the office. Can’t get my own documents when I’m home.
So, I lugged my laptop in the other day and the tech guy spent over an hour trying to make incompatible programs compatible—so far with no success. I felt like I was losing it. My back was in spasm from carrying the laptop, my head was throbbing, and I couldn’t stand the thought of my dogs locked up in crates for 5 hours with the sky so blue and the sun shining so brightly.
But they were fine. And after some reflection, so was I. Because I realized, one more time, that it all comes down to faith. I’d been doing what I always do, trying to control everything. Even worse, I’d felt so pressured and gotten so busy that I’d stopped beginning my days quietly, thanking God and asking for His spirit to fill me and give me the strength I needed. And the calm. I cut out of my schedule the only thing that keeps me from losing it. So I re-prioritized, admittedly for the hundredth time. And when I went back to the Lord in prayer, I knew it was all going to be all right. It shouldn’t be that simple, but it is.