Transition: is it the new normal?

New_office_SMALLER_July2013Sam has been writing a lot about measurable sign posts as our Gap Year progresses, week by week. In fact, he’s been writing a lot. Much more than I have.

I’m going to chalk that up to the eagerness of a first-time blogger. I’ve been blogging for a decade and I’ve developed some bad habits. I want everything I write to be original and fresh.


That isn’t possible. And if you get stuck on that approach to blogging you will quickly become constipated, cramped and cranky.

In other words, there is nothing truly new on this planet. There is only originality of voice and perspective and the occasional gleaming turn of phrase… if you are lucky and in the flow.

Today’s topic: transition

Perhaps because of his 31 years in medical practice with office visits stacked one on top of another, Sam tends to be organized and goal-oriented. He talks about three weeks and six weeks into his Gap Year and what he has – and has not – accomplished.

If he (aka we) can just unpack the boxes… if he (we) can just declutter the house.

For the record, I think the guy is remarkably well adjusted for someone who has gone from 60MPH to 10 or 15MPH in the space of a few weeks. He has moments of anxiety but so far they relate to things like his frustrations with the U.S. Postal Service and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Specific, tangible problems that he can wrestle with, however aggravating.

But yes, we are both measuring progress by whether the boxes are getting unpacked in our new guesthouse. (Yes! See my new office above.) Whether extraneous stuff is being sorted through and disposed of.  Bottom line, whether the level of chaos caused by a semi-move to the coast of Maine is abating.

The grandbabies arrive, bringing new (delightful) chaos

Picnic_July2013But then… the grandbabies arrive and move into the guesthouse (with their parents). And more chaos ensues.

I am beginning to wonder if this kind of transition isn’t permanent. At least for a while. I am feeling much calmer than I was a few weeks ago when I wrote about feeling unmoored. Perhaps I am learning to drift.

Take today as an example. Part of the day will be taken up with the ebb and flow of grandbaby activities. I’m not responsible for constant baby care (thank goodness) but I love to dip in and out of what the little girls (ages one and three) are doing: playing outside, squealing, having a snack, making a mess…

I am so grateful that they are ensconced in our guesthouse next door. And not under the same roof with us. It’s only a separation of a few feet but it affords Sam and me a cushion of quiet and peace. And our daughter and son-in-law seem to love having their own place.

My new office is on the second floor of the guesthouse (see above) so I’m not using it just now. I’ve told my son-in-law, a law professor, to set up a spot for himself and he has happily obliged. The office has a panoramic view of the Deer Isle Thorofare. It’s marvelously bright. But it gets quite hot by the early afternoon. I will have to get shades. Tick. Another item for the To Do list. But I am looking forward to that.

Is transition good or bad? What does it mean?

Back to the concept of transition. What is it? What does that mean? What does it feel like?

Well, there is a sensation of gentle movement and of being carried along but in a not unpleasant way. And I am getting used to it. I know that this particular time is transient – this wonderful visit with my daughter and son-in-law and the babies. And I relish it, knowing that it is so special and that it will end.

But it does call into question: how does one measure time? How do you measure progress? Is it important to have goals? What should they be? Are they different when you are experimenting with how you spend your time?

You will note that I haven’t said a word about my work with authors or about my own writing. My writing on topics other than our Gap Year is suffering at the moment. The interruptions do affect me. I can’t deny it. I can hear three-year-old Dorothea shrieking through my window. I am going to investigate.

And yes, this blog post counts as a chunk of writing for today.

My first Nats game and a revelation about baseball’s “perfect game”

photo (17)I went to my first Nats game this week. I had never been to a game in DC’s gleaming new stadium. It was a perfect night for baseball. Warm but not humid. Not a cloud in the sky. And on June 21, 2013, the longest day of the year.

Our seats were spectacular (thank you Jerry), 12 rows up from the sparkling green field, near home base plate [oops]. The Nats’ dugout was below us so we could see the players coming and going.

It was a good game, I was told. The Nats beat the Rockies 2 − 1 with solid pitching, hitting and fielding by both teams. The game ended at the top of the ninth so it wasn’t too long either. But it was the concept of a Perfect Game that captured my imagination.

The friend who procured our remarkable seats took us up to the press level where we were able to study the Shirley Povich memorabilia.

shirley_povich_yellowI confess I am a complete sports idiot. I don’t read the sports pages. I don’t pay any attention to DC’s sports teams. And I don’t have a favorite childhood team, although I remember talk about the Brooklyn Dodgers when I was very young (I grew up outside New York City).

I had heard of Washington Post sportswriting legend Shirley Povich. But I didn’t know much about him and I hadn’t read his columns.

We were allowed into the hallway next to the elevators where there were several framed displays, including a copy of Povich’s column about the legendary 1956 World Series game pitched by Don Larsen: the Perfect Game where there were no hits and no runs.

Why is it a Perfect Game if nothing happens?

At first I was puzzled. Why was the game “perfect” if nothing happened? I had never wrapped my mind around the concept of a perfect game. The crack of the bat followed by the dash around the bases is what I think of when I think of a baseball game.

Why so much emphasis on the pitcher? And could there be a “perfect game” by both teams? Well, no, it was explained to me: somebody has to score a run in order for the game to end.

The “perfect game” reverberated in my head as we drove home, negotiating DC’s freeways on the southwest side of town and catching a glimpse of the monuments lit up and so familiar.

The connection to our Gap Year

It seemed related to our gap year somehow. But I couldn’t quite capture it.

Slowly the idea unfolded: a “perfect game” meant no errors, no mistakes, no fumbled balls because there are no hits. It is so unlikely and so unusual.

And then it hit me. It’s the not knowing. It’s the accumulated suspense of watching a “perfect game” unfold that is almost unbearable for fans and players alike. It’s the uncertainty playing out in front of you, pitch by pitch.

And that’s what Sam and I are doing this year. Step by step, if not pitch by pitch, we’re making up something in real time.  It is uncertain. It will be unusual. And it is once in a lifetime.

Thank you Shirley Povich for introducing me to this concept. And for your lovely columns, which I sincerely regret I didn’t appreciate all those years when I lived in DC and you were writing for the Post.

P.S. Extra credit

In the photo above, what does the “W” on Sam’s cap stand for??