Life with an Asterisk

White Flowers in the Rain  - Katie Buckman

I feel like I am living life with an asterisk at the end of every sentence.

When someone asks, “How are you doing?”, I want to respond, “I’m good* (*I was struggling this morning and am concerned about what may happen in a few hours, but right now… I’m good).”

We are all living in turmoil, but I’ve got an added dose of upheaval spicing up today’s “basic” turmoil. You see, today my husband started a new job. I’ve been living in uncertainty for seven months as he found his way to this great opportunity. While he is working virtually like the rest of us, his virtual space is now 2700 miles away and I’m managing the sale of our home and all the logistics that go with that, working on moving my strategic consulting business forward, while also in-person, single-parenting our 15 year old son and a 70-pound lab mix, who is now affectionately referred to as my co-worker.

Together we are counselling our first-born through the emotional turmoil of a college freshman year now loaded with distance learning, early move-outs, and summer internship/ employment opportunities (or the lack thereof).  Our conversations include sentences, like, “I appreciate your concern for how you’ll ship your golf clubs, but don’t you think it’s more important to pack your clothes first?” and “Be sure to drop the unopened food in the collection bins. You don’t want to find a science project when you re-open those boxes.”

We are shepherding our high school sophomore son through his own distance learning issues, (“Sorry, buddy. You’ll have to FaceTime Dad to help with that Physics homework.”) as well as guiding him through the normal fragility of teenage life that is now contorted by #socialdistancing and even more complicated by his own insecurity about making new friends when we do move from Portland, OR to Philadelphia, PA.

Concerned and curious friends continually ask, “What’s the plan?” because I am a planner. Professionally, I’ve spent my career planning and marketing events for arenas, universities, athletic conferences, non-profits and now for my Fresh Perspective Consulting clients. I heavily rely on a brightly colored online calendar, which tracks everyone’s, even the dog’s, events and appointments. I schedule my workouts and swear by a weekly meal plan. Yes, I am THAT friend who created an online form to organize the college care-package planning party this past winter.

So imagine how all this uncertainty, this living with an asterisk, could affect me.

Even though I find comfort in a plan, I find I do my best work when I’m in problem-solving mode. That’s what I do – I partner with people to solve their problems. At a job interview I was asked, “What was the biggest disaster that happened at an event you ran?” My response, “I don’t remember, because a good event manager never lets problems become disasters.” So right now, I am tackling each day, each moment, like I do my work.

A few of my work rules that I use to get through these days include:

  1. Know that something WILL go wrong, so don’t be surprised, be ready* (* understand the level of wrong and act accordingly)
  2. Be the one with the solution, not with the problems* (* if you don’t have the solution, be creative in knowing where to find it)
  3. Be kind* (* People will go the extra mile for those who are kind to them)
  4. Keep a clear head* (* a deep breath, a brisk walk or ice cream can all provide clarity)

As parents, we teach our sons about the power of resiliency: the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.  Isn’t resiliency the art of living life with an asterisk?

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