Some Thoughts on Roles and Routines

Flowers from my front yard.

Recently some things have come up that have prompted reflection on the dynamics of roles and routines.

First, I was watching a rerun of Friends the other day.  Two of the characters, Chandler and Monica, are secretly dating.  She starts attending some of his work get-togethers with his boss.  They play tennis, go to dinner, and she sees that Chandler is a very different person while working, and just around his boss in general.  He's a total suck-up, and has an annoying fake laugh.  She tells him she doesn't like "Work-Chandler," and that she'd rather be hanging out with her "Boyfriend-Chandler," whom she actually respects.  So, while still at dinner with his boss, Chandler intentionally does not laugh at one of the boss' jokes.  It becomes instantly awkward, and Monica jumps in and fake-laughs to help save Chandler's work identity.  She realizes it's annoying, but necessary as it's gotten him as far as he is and not worth potentially sacrificing his job.

Second, Ryan just got home last night from a five-day trip in Boston for a conference.  While he was gone, my normal routine disappeared.  An example: since I didn't have to prepare anything for more than myself to eat, I only ate when I felt like it or thought about it.  One day I had dinner at 3:30 since I had evening plans, and another day I had a late dinner at 9:30.  Now that he's back I feel like I'm back in my partner-role of thinking about meals, and laundry, and other "normal" things.  I like this role, but it was interesting to see how different my solo-role is. At least for now.    

Thirdly, another role I have is that of a Cub Scout Leader.  Yesterday, our pack got together and was cleaning up litter from a specific part of town (for something called Clean Up Los Alamos that happens every spring). We were in groups, and I had three cubs with me.  We wandered down a trail for a ways, then came back up and around to the top of a hill.  Still in sight of the other leaders, we had gotten quite a bit when it was time to start heading back.  Suddenly I heard, "Aaaah! Help!" and turned around to see that one of the cubs I had just been observing was not there.  Sure enough, in an effort to get a few last pieces of trash, he'd slid about halfway down the steep hill and was caught in some branches.  (This wasn't a cliff, but it was steep.) Long-story-short, I sent the other two boys ahead to let one of the other leaders know that I was going to help the boy who'd fallen and that we should be back in a few minutes.  I myself (in TOMS, which are not the best shoes when you need traction) tried to step and slide down next to him while maintaining my composure.  I ended up also in the low and scratchy branches beside him.  He was stuck on his back and I was waist-deep in bush.  I helped him free his arm and sit up.  Eventually he regained his balance and stood.  Then, he went straight for the trash again. :)  I told him to put it in the bag, but just to leave the rest and to walk up that way.  There was an area that had some rocks to climb, and didn't look as slippery and precarious.  As he began, I wriggled my feet until I found solid footing and pulled myself up and out of the branches.  A couple minutes more and we'd made it to the top.  I was comforted by the fact that my co-leader had come back to find us, but there wasn't much she could do to help. Walking back to the group, I was grateful that we were alright beyond a few scratches and scrapes.

OK, so that's the story, but I just need to point out that my demeanor was cool and steady during this process.  There was this tiny part of me that was totally freaking out, but because I was his leader I willed myself to maintain some kind of control and to think more logically than I'm used to doing.  I couldn't freak out, because if I did, maybe he would start freaking out.  Our situation was precarious... if I'd been alone, I would probably have been teary and startled. 

And finally, as my siblings keep growing up (today my sister Caitlin is 20), I find myself tweaking my side of conversations with them.  Well, even just having conversations with them is still new.  They are not the younger siblings that I used to babysit.  They are becoming real working, active, and thoughtful adults (albeit still young adults).  So, I have worked to treat them differently - more as equals.  Comrades.  Friends.  I still pull out the big-sister-card every once in a while, but significantly less than I used to.  

Roles change. Routines change.  We are so dynamic.  Sometimes I wish that people would be more consistent; I wish that I were more consistent.  I guess that's part of what I'm working toward becoming, but in the meantime, I hope to appreciate how capable I am of adapting as I need to in different situations life provides me.  

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