Photo: I opened up a can of worms and now that the ideas are out there, I can’t put them back. I suppose that’s the start of the best sort of adventure.
The boys have been asking to go fishing at our local pond for weeks. Years, really. They’d seen other children with their nets in the water. Some were successful in nabbing a little fishy… most were not. The boys just wanted to be part of the action.
On Wednesday morning, I bought them each a little net and I bought a little canister of worms. A gift to them, but really, a splurge in celebration.
You see, I’d just walked out of the first professional meeting I’ve hosted since I left teaching. I’m subcontracting for a friend who owns a web design firm (I’m doing all the writing for the site she is designing), and I had to present the first drafts of the new copy to the clients. My friend watched the kids in the park so that I could use her studio as the meeting place. I had been nervous about it since we scheduled it. Who the hell am I kidding? I’m not a professional writer. This is a lie and they are going to call me out on it as soon as I show them what I’ve got. This is what I’d been telling myself for weeks.
I put on a professional outfit, did my hair up nice, broke out my good pen, my best notebook (though the Moleskine was within arm’s length if I felt the need), wrote an agenda, and did my best to play the part. With confidence, I presented my ideas and suggestions. I asked questions, got feedback, endured some pushback, gave a little of my own. New deadlines were set, follow-ups scheduled… in the end, my clients walked out of the space with smiles and hearty handshakes. Satisfied.
I did ok. I didn’t screw it up. I might even have done good work. I might, 5 years out of this thing, still have a little something left to offer after all!
So I stopped by the dollar store between the meeting and the park and I picked up the nets and the worms. This is how a normal mother congratulates herself.
They were elated, of course. They wanted to use them right away. I was over-scheduled, so I couldn’t. But we got up the next morning and went over.
I’m sure you know what happened: two little boys flailing about in the water chasing every single darting shadow under the surface. The fish would go this way and the boys would give chase. They’d go that way and the boys would run again. Eventually, the nets became weapons and I had to demand that they come back to shore.
When they were done playing and swimming, Major asked to take another crack at it. “Yes, but only if you are willing to listen to Mommy.” He agreed. So I made them put their sand toys in the car and I took them across the pond to the quiet spot with the large rock we visited a few weeks ago.
“If you want the fish to come to your net, you need to stand very still. You have to be patient.”
Those two boys, they intently watched the water, wiggling their nets and stomping around on the rocks.
“Nothing is coming! The fish are just looking at my net!” Major whined. Minor parroted. I sighed and looked at my phone. I had a client call at 3. I was thinking about how not to screw it up.
They didn’t catch any fish. They were too impatient and fidgety. I’d forgotten the worms, anyway.
So today Major was all over me: “Don’t forget the towels. Don’t forget the nets. Don’t forget the worms.”
“You got it. I’m on it.”
It took a while to get back to fishing. When it happened, though, they were just as fidgety. I made them get their own worms and put them in their nets. I told them to go down to the water and stand still.
Minor lasted about 2 minutes. “My worm isn’t wiggly enough. He isn’t getting any fish.”
But Major seemed keen to listen.
Me: “Stand still. Wait for a fish to nibble on the worm and then go for it.”
It took a few reminders, but he found a mental space and settled in. He waited…
It’s the pride that child has in these photos that really gets to me. The “I did it” in his raised fist, his prideful stare down at his prize. Minor jumped up and down to celebrate his brother’s catch, poking the thing twice before Major released it back into the water.
Major caught three fish today. Three.
He told his father when he came home: “I found patience. That’s how I got the fish.”
Yeah, kid. Damn right you did.
Major’s fish and my freelancing may only be a loose parallel. However, in those three fish, I see the meeting and two major client calls I conducted this week. In his fidgeting and frustration, I see my hour wasted writing my first ever invoice and realizing the way I track my hours didn’t work the way I wanted to. In his triumphant raised fist, I see the first $40 I’ve ever made as an independent freelancer delivered to me today (I’ve been working for someone else. This was my first self-employed project). In his bewildered face staring down at the helpless fish, I see my own questions: what the hell do I do next?
I suppose I should do what he did. Do it again! Work hard to catch an even bigger fish!
Either way, we’ll both be packing more patience. Patience with ourselves and the mistakes we are bound to make, not to mention with the unpredictable waters we choose to step into.
Camp Mama, it seems, teaches kids and adults alike.
My Dear Reader, it has been a week of asking questions, exploring new opportunities, and settling in after listening to good advice. Bravery and patience are absolutely required, luck is highly recommended. In the end, though the net may come up empty more often than not, how glorious is it to find your hard work rewarded? How many times did your efforts yield a prize for you this week, Dear Reader?
It is a cool night in the opening days of official summer. The crickets are singing and a few lightning bugs are flashing. The groundhog is full after eating all of my baby strawberries. Dear Reader, I wish you a bit of time to stretch out in the sun and feel its warmth on your shoulders this weekend. I wish you laughter from a friend, a smile from a stranger, and a loving hug from family. I wish you cricket song and starlight, open windows and room to let your mind wander and dream. I wish you a frozen drink (bonus if there is alcohol in it!) and some excellent reading. I wish you an outfit that makes you feel grown and sexy. And, as always, I wish for someone to tell you with sincerity and gusto “I love you” and/or “I admire you”and/or “you are appreciated.” Because you are, Dear Reader. You do great things for many people, what you contribute to the world matters, and you are worthy of the love given to you.
Don’t forget to tell someone that, too. In times like these, when darkness seems to seep in from the edges, don’t forget to share a little bright light. You have no idea how powerful your words can be.
Until Monday, be kind, be bold, and take care.