A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Another Glass of Chocolate Milk

I can’t imagine receiving a better compliment than, “You’re so well-adjusted!”

That’s right up there with, “I love your new haircut!” and “You’ve lost weight, haven’t you?” I would love to hear the words, “Lauren, you’re such a stable person. I wish I were as grounded and well-adjusted as you are!”

ad·just verb/ə-jəst/

adjusted, past participle; adjusted, past tense; adjusting, present participle; adjusts, 3rd person singular present

1. To alter or move (something) slightly in order to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result. Examples: He smoothed his hair and adjusted his tie. The interest rate should be adjusted for inflation.

2. To permit small alterations or movements so as to allow a desired fit, appearance, or result to be achieved. Example: A riding harness that adjusts to the correct fit.

3. To adapt or become used to a new situation. Examples: She must be allowed to grieve and to adjust in her own way. His eyes had adjusted to semidarkness.

I’m not sure if I qualify as “well-adjusted” or not, but I feel like I’m adapting to my new job fairly well, all things considered. And my boss seems to agree with me. “It doesn’t seem like you’ve had too much trouble adjusting to the schedule here,” she said the other day, with a smile. I can tell that it was meant to be a compliment and that she’s pleased with me. She knows that I’ve had a very flexible schedule as a graduate student and a professor for the past few years, and that coming in for a nine to five work day is a big switch. Then yesterday, she told me that it seems like I’ve hit my stride over the past couple of days. I’ve come up with several ideas for press releases and public relations strategies that have made her happy, so I guess she’s right – I’m getting into the groove of this job.

Please just ignore the fact that I’m sitting around in my flannel pajamas at 2 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, drinking my third glass of chocolate milk, and downloading the rather inane Nancy Drew movie that came out a couple of summers ago.

I’m not in the mood to do a whole lot with myself right now – not even read. That’s the real shocker in fact – Lauren doesn’t want to read? My husband had to check my temperature when I told him that I wasn’t interested in any of my new books at the moment.

But please take note of that example sentence from the definition of adjust: "she must be allowed to grieve and to adjust in her own way." Sometimes I adjust (and definitely grieve) by watching marathons of television procedurals, particularly Law & Order – which was basically how I spent most of my afternoons last November and December after my grandmother died. Sometimes I decide to re-read my collection of Nancy Drew novels, and sometimes I reorganize my iTunes library while I chug chocolate milk. Very rarely do I decide that I’m going to conquer a Dostoevsky novel while I’m in the midst of serious emotional upheaval. Young adult novels and my Harry Potter DVDs are usually very comforting, as is shopping. (I’ve got a bad habit of buying useless, pretty things when I’m upset.)

But sometimes, I don’t even feel like reading any more – and that’s how I can tell that I’m not as “well-adjusted” as I might appear to be. Here I am, inside on a sunny Saturday afternoon and I can’t even justify my reclusiveness with the statement that “I just feel like finishing my book.”

I’ve also gotten out of the habit of writing when I’m upset, at least when the emotion is the strongest. During high school and college, I used to journal every day – there is an entire shelf of spiral-bound notebooks in my old bedroom at my parent’s house that no doubt contain the very self-absorbed heartaches of a hormonal teenager. But it was a healthy habit, I think – one that I dropped like a hot poker when we moved to Washington D.C. and I found myself not only upset, but excruciatingly alone. I no longer enjoyed wallowing in my emotional pain, nursing the heartache as though I were watching an over-dramatic soap opera about someone else’s life. I wanted to forget the sharp edge of loneliness pressing relentlessly into me like a knife against my rib cage, so I stopped writing about it – I tried to stop thinking about it all together.

I’m not really sure what made this week so tiring, so difficult that I feel as though I want to lay around in my pajamas and thoughtlessly guzzle chocolate milk, overlook the stacks of unread books that have been calling my name all week, ignore my blogs and even put off watching my more interesting, sophisticated Netflix DVDs in favor of youtube videos and silly tween movies. But I’ll know that I’m out of the woods when I stop relying on my coping mechanisms and get back on the horse – blogging almost every day, speeding through novels on my lunch hour.

In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself that I don’t have to be on top of my game all day, every day. I am allowed to have a bad week in which I don’t get too much done, and following major life changes like the deaths of my grandparents, moving from Washington D.C. to New York, and switching careers, I’m even allowed to have a bad month or a bad six months. Sometimes it’s fine to chug chocolate milk, and most importantly – it’s okay to not be okay.

Really, then, only one question remains important at this moment – how much chocolate milk can I drink before I make myself sick?

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