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Kick in the Head

My mother always said to me: “It’s better than a kick in the head.”

(Actually, I think she said “pants” but it’s stuck as “head” for me, so there you go.)

This was meant to imply that sure, it wasn’t quite what you expected or planned – but hey, it was better than a kick in the head. Or, on a more personal level, perhaps you hadn’t quite pulled off a 100% grade – but look, it was better than a kick in the head.

Lately (since Sterling was born) this has been my mode of operation. Say I clean the bathroom, but I haven’t done it for three weeks. It’s better than a kick in the head! Or, even better, let’s say I don’t manage to actually clean the bathroom. Instead, I just wipe up the worst parts and put in new towels. It’s better than a kick in the head! In some ways, this might seem like a rationalization. But I’m not so sure.

Consider: In the eighth grade I was enrolled in an AP US History course. This course was full of other eighth grade over-achievers and we diligently set out to pass the exam at the close of the year. Our teacher was new to the course, and while I will forever believe he was more in love with history than anyone I have ever met, it’s just a fact of overwhelming truth that he had no idea how to teach that class. He could give life to the stories, but as for memorizing persons, places, and dates – he had no method. Instead he assigned busywork and insisted on participation in class. Instinctually, I knew it wasn’t going to cut it. So, I figured out the bare minimum I had to do to get an A for the class, and I did it. I did not one lick more. Instead, I spent my time studying flashcards I’d created on my own and studying them during his lectures. I invited a friend of mine to split the flashcards. She said no, and instead completed the crazy assignments our teacher insisted on creating. At the close of the year I was one of a handful of students to pass the AP test. My friend, who had the highest grade in the class through-out the year, failed to pass at all.

I’ve kept this in my head since then. Not because I like to hark back to my eighth-grade genius – ha! – but because it’s become symbolic of finding out what I’m actually supposed to be spending my time doing. There are so many tasks that I could add to my day. Children, Home, Writing, Being Neighborly, Joining the PTO, Couponing, Quilting, etc. etc. etc. The list could truly go on forever. And among all these topics, there are so many things that while I do have to them, I really shouldn’t spend my time perfecting. They should be finished adequately and then left to rest while I move on to more important things.

And when I feel a little bad about letting any one of these items go, I say to myself:

“Well, it’s better than a kick in the head.”

And that, my friends, makes me feel better.

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