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I’m Fine. How Are You?

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Not too long ago, my littlest kid asked me what I would change about myself.

Of course, she asked the question without any preamble and seemingly in the middle of any other conversation than that. I confess that sometimes when Alia does this, I’m not quite sure what she’s getting at … Therefore, I’m not quite sure how I should answer.

“Why would I want to change myself?” I asked, thinking that it was such a lame response that surely she’d call me out on it. Then, of course, like one of those psychology moments you read about in the parenting books, I thought maybe she was leading into a discussion about herself and her whole self image. That somehow my responses were being carefully monitored and sorted and some course of her life was going to be charted because of it.

Timidly now, I asked, “So what would you, um, change about yourself?”

As soon as the words left my mouth, the thought came that really maybe it wasn’t a psychology moment after all. Maybe it was some sort of intervention. As in I’ve been driving my family crazy and they’ve been holding these back room sessions in which they’ve finally decided they must confront me about me in order to save my life or make theirs a little more pleasant. As in, they’ve sent the little one out to break it to me gently that I’m a boring, senseless prig and any moment now, the others are going to come in, their arms folded, shoulders squared, like sturdy human shields, blocking all the exits.

“It’s true, mom,” they’d say and what would follow would be that dramatic kind of scene, complete with tears and knees to the floor and vows of changing that, if you were ever to see it on TV. (I think I have), you’d be mildly interested for the simple fact of: Wow, I hope that never happens to me.

It didn’t. In fact, the psychology moment or the intervention moment or whatever it was sort of passed in my pondering and my daughter offered a few words about change before asking: “What’s your favorite kind of cake: brown or white?”

I, of course, have been thinking much about the changing myself question in the moments when there isn’t something else to think about. Depending on my mood, the list can be quite long or quite short. Beyond coming up with some pretty serious contenders in the subject of self change, I’ve discovered a few things about the process of coming up with serious contenders, as well.

First, as I said, the list itself always seems to change. Oh, there are the constants, such as not worrying so much. Not thinking every little thing into oblivion. Vowing to keep my responses to a mere yes or no, rather than giving these crazy dissertations that can take even the strongest point and bury it in muddle. This is especially true of the question: “How are you?”

I realized a while back that when someone asks how I am, particularly if they’re passing me on the street, they don’t generally want a complete answer on that. They’re basically saying hello and seeking a tiny, positive response.

Interestingly, I discovered this when I asked the question of someone else, while hurrying from one feature of the day to another. “Awful,” the person replied and then took the next twelve minutes to tell me why. Let’s just say it involved a sore knee and a sick dog and the car wasn’t running as anticipated either. What’s worse was that those were my awful things, offered in a rather obnoxious one-upmanship response to her own dissertation. (Yes, competitive pity partying is on the list.)

I’m trying not to do that—tell people how I really am. Which itself is a problem because now, when people ask me how I am, I seem to think I need to tell them how I’m trying not to tell them how I really am.

And then, of course—back to process here—there’s the fact that it is always easier to come up with a list of things that others need to change than it is to actually make your own list and implement a plan of action regarding it. Moreover, it’s easy to blame a good deal of your own list on everyone else.

I think, though, that through all this thought, I finally came up with the top item on my list. Procrastination. As in, I knew for a week that Father’s Day was coming and I kept telling myself that I needed to go to the store and get Dad a card. I could have simply used the card I bought for him last year and never mailed, but of course I didn’t think about that until it was too late to get it to him on time anyway. So, on Saturday night, I came up with my plan of action. No cheesy, last-minute, online greeting card this year, but rather, up early. Call Dad first thing. Not too much first thing, as no one wants to be woken up by a ringing phone. But eight-thirty. Ish. For sure.

The problem with determining that procrastination is the number one issue on my Change Me list is that there is always something else to use as an excuse as to why I can’t stop procrastinating today. Furthermore, the entire universe seems to conspire against good plans, making it—perhaps—the universe’s fault that I didn’t call my dad first thing in the morning.

Having stayed up late watching a movie and turned off my alarm with the excuse that nobody should have to wake up to an alarm clock on Sunday, I was barely out of bed at eight-thirtyish. And then I needed coffee. And more coffee. And then I needed to sit outside and enjoy the sun a little while.

Suffice it to say, it was nearly noon before I caused my father’s phone to ring … Something that so frazzled me (the time, not my father’s phone ringing) that I forgot all the self improvement I’d been doing and even, unfortunately, my purpose for the call.

“How are you?” He asked.

“Awful,” I replied. “But happy birthday, anyway.”


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