My daughter and I had a wonderful road trip back to Maine to continue our search for a car. I asked her if she would be willing to write something that I could post to the blog to give her perspective of my stay sharing in her tiny little apartment. What she wrote made me tear up and laugh out load.
My mom is one of the most giving people I know. She will give her time, her support, the very shirt off her back (or sweat shirt—I’m cold a lot). That’s why I wasn’t too surprised when she offered to stay with me in Albany when I gave her the news: my car wasn’t going to pass inspection. With almost 200,000 miles it was no big surprise to hear the mechanic’s prognosis. “One big bump,” he said cheerfully, “and the engine could fall right out.” Great. What I know about cars and engines could fit into a teaspoon—a doll sized tea spoon (I was calling the engine a motor for a while before I realized how dumb it sounded). Combine that with what my mom knows, and we might be able to upgrade to a tablespoon. What we know about the world, and people, and practical solutions to seemingly impossible solutions (trying to find a car on a graduate school budget—good luck); that knowledge, on the other hand, will produce miracles.
So I happily accepted her offer, and set my mind to adjusting to having a roommate for a little longer than expected. My apartment is tiny, the layout is funky, and I am very much used to living alone. And my mom and I are two very different people. At 5’7, I tower over her 5’0. She is neat, I’m a self-identified slob. She has a holistic view of the world, I focus on specifics. The way we think, more than anything, is what sets us apart from one another. Her thoughts seem to bounce around from one thing to the next in a seemingly random fashion. When we go out I’m focused on the goal, and she’s absorbing the world. “Mom.” I say, in a particular tone—with a little bit of urgency, when I think she doesn’t see the red light, or when we are about to pass the Indian restaurant we are looking for. There is a lot to absorb in Albany, especially in contrast to the quiet peacefulness and order of Maine. The city has its own order, but it takes time to unravel. I’ve learned to shut out most of the chaos, the people and noises.
My ability to shut out the world is one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses. I believe my mom wrote that I have hyperfocus—or something along those lines. When I’m focusing on a task, everything else gets shut out. Once, while working on some research and listening to music, it took me 45 minutes to realize that the same song was on repeat, playing over and over again. I don’t listen to music while I work anymore. In the evenings, I would check my email or do work on my laptop and look up at my mom only to realize that she’d been talking to me and I didn’t hear a word she said. I’d stare at her blankly for a moment, trying to pick up the thread of her words. I can also be incredibly absentminded because I get so caught up thinking about something that I don’t pay attention to the world around me. In many ways I am becoming the stereotypical absent minded professor. I’ll do a load of water instead of laundry because I forgot to put the clothes in the wash. I forget where I parked my car. I forget what day of the week it is, and sometimes I even write down the wrong year. On the other hand, I’m incredibly productive. When I set my mind to a task, it gets done and usually it’s done well. I’ve also learned ways to manage better so that the way my mind works is not detrimental to my life in any extreme way. In the past my excessive inobservance has led to problems, and consequently I’ve learned to turn my focus more outward to help achieve a level of balance.
My mom ambles through life with a sort of nonchalance that I envy. She doesn’t take life too seriously: “What’s the worst that can happen?” she asks me on a regular basis. And I could tell you, word for word, detail for detail, the worst that can happen. And the best that can happen. And everything in between. We complement each other, and we balance each other. Although I’ll be happy to have my bed back, I’ll miss my best friend when she leaves.