Eat the frog! Or, helping someone manage their life

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You guys. The amount of paperwork, annoying phone calls and appointments that we need to manage. Being an adult blows sometimes. Really does. For a summer in 2003 I had a beach house. I didn’t own one. I rented a house close to the beach with about 8 friends. Some came every weekend, some rotated weekends. But a few of us stayed all summer. I “shared” a cell phone with a friend, worked in a donut shop and ate like a garbage pail. It was one of my happiest summers ever. I don’t remember how I had the money to do this. It certainly was not the donut shop earnings or the year of volunteer service I had just completed. One day my friend, we will call her Julia to hide her identity (Hi Julie!) and I went to lunch. At lunch we decided to have some wine, as ladies do at lunch. Then we drank all of that wine and probably some more and called everyone that was at work to laugh about how they were at work and we were drunk on the deck. I had nothing else to do all day. I had already worked at the donut shop changing lives and fulfilling dreams. We laughed so much sitting there on the deck of our rented top floor beach house. I remember this day so well, intentionally picking out my outfit of a long, breezy skirt, because I thought that was quite sophisticated. (For those of you reading children’s books, I fear I am bit like Fancy Nancy.)

 Wish I was piling up pizza boxes instead of mail. But you see those carrot sticks? That’s how you know a grown up was at this pizza party.

Wish I was piling up pizza boxes instead of mail. But you see those carrot sticks? That’s how you know a grown up was at this pizza party.

I have bad news for 23 year old me. So far adulthood has brought limited opportunities to wear breezy skirts and be drunk at noon. And it’s not just that. It’s the ongoing pile of RESPONSIBILITIES that add up. As someone who helps take care of a parent, that list is double. Mom can’t handle her mail, hasn’t for years, so every few months I sort through a giant pile of mail for Mom. Most of it is junk mail, but some of it is really important. And then the “really important” pile is so daunting. Here’s an example. Mom has an old credit card to a department store. She used to shop there, but has not shopped there in years. At some point there was a charge for $4. This $4 problem has taken me HOURS to solve. And I’m not done! I am here to tell you that at this point in my life, I don’t earn $4/hours of work! It’s the driver’s license that expired but is out of state. It’s a bank account that needs ANOTHER death certificate and power of attorney paperwork to be able to talk to me. It’s the random phone calls that I don’t answer because I assume that they are someone else telling me something is wrong, late or needs more paperwork.

My husband will often say to “eat the frog”. Now, he has some really weird expressions, and they are often wrong, so I had to look it up. And it’s basically the idea that you should take action on the most important task first-even if it is draining/annoying. And for me, the most important task is the one I have been thinking about for days or weeks and haven’t acted on. It’s the one I keep thinking about right before I go to sleep and saying “I’ll do that tomorrow”. The problem isn’t that I want to be more productive by accomplishing all of these major tasks before my children wake up. The problem is that I don’t want to feel that gnawing feeling that hangs over me telling me I have something to do that I haven’t done. The small tasks add up and become a general feeling of anxiety that there is something I SHOULD be doing or working on, other than what I’m doing in the moment. And as I wrote about before, care-taking already has it’s share of anxiety. I don’t need to add to that.

So this week I’ve arranged time away from my family to sit at a coffee shop and eat frogs. It’s a luxury to have this time, so that when I’m done, I will be able to just be with my family, and not have a whole bunch of frogs on my shoulder. In addition to being gross, they prevent me from enjoying my time, from letting go, and I can’t see any joy because they are in my way.

And despite wishing that I could teleport back to that beach house for a day (ok, a week) with those same friends and freedoms, I’m right here, right now. And there are really great things about right now.

Patricia Cruz