Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Best-Laid Plans...

So, heading into 2008, I'd "decided" a couple of things that were meant to help to alleviate some stress. I'd thought to myself, "self, you can't keep pushing yourself to the brink and be a well-rounded person, and being a well-rounded person is important. It's time to focus on the big picture instead of just going from thing to thing to thing without putting your whole self first."

Now, I was thinking along those lines because my tendency is very much to take opportunities as they arise without thinking about the big picture - or, rather, I am really good at thinking about the big picture of my CV or career, but not so much about thinking about the big picture of my whole life. So, for example, I've ended up doing way more research than I probably should have done over the past five years, and I've also ended up doing a lot more traveling than my bank account could really justify (all conference related - never really a "vacation" that was completely free of a work component).

So I thought, well, if I just make a plan, and I stick to the plan, that will be the answer.

It's the whole "sticking to the plan" business that apparently is not within my skill set.

Part 1 of the plan was that I wasn't going to do any new research projects, right? Well. If you've been reading the blog, you know that at the moment that I made that "decision" that two brand new things fell into my lap. And sure, I could have said no to one or both of them. But they're both cool (a) and, well, I justified the whole thing to myself by saying that it didn't make sense to deprive myself of things that I was excited about (b).

Part 2 of the plan was no travel. Or at the very least no out-of-the-country travel. Partly this was about the whole "let's get out of credit card debt in 2008" resolution, but it was also about giving myself a break from the stress that travel involves. While I love being someplace else, I don't love the whole front end (preparing for the trip, the actual traveling) and back end (the actual traveling, the recovery period) that traveling entails.

As you might imagine, Part 2 has resulted in two major trips that are upcoming between now and August. But guess what? Neither one is for work! And, even cooler than that, each involves parental bonding!

Trip #1:

For my mom's birthday weekend, I'm going with her to New York City. First of all, I've only ever gone someplace with my mom that wasn't family-related once, and that was when we went to Boston to look at prospective grad schools, so yeah, like 10+ years ago. She has talked about wanting to go to NYC forever (she's never been), and while I've been, I've never really been there with actual money. We're pretty much doing whatever she wants, so don't be surprised if you see Dr. Crazy holding up some lame sign on the Today Show some Friday morning not too long from now. I'm sure we're going to annoy the crap out of one another, but I also think it will be really great, if the whole Boston excursion of lo those many years ago is any indication. At least this trip will not involve a rental car (imagine the hilarity of me attempting to navigate a woman who regularly confuses left and right) or a train (as in Amtrak), so I think that there might be slightly less transportation-related angst involved in any case (although I also suspect that guiding my mother through the subway system will not be my favorite part of the trip).

But so anyway, that then leads to Trip #2, which I only mention now because I actually think that it is going to happen!!!!! Where will I go?

Byblos Harbor.jpg

After not having been in around 25 years, my stepdad G. has decided that it's time to make a trip to Lebanon (where he was born and grew up - he immigrated around 1980). And he wants me to go with him! Hurrah! I can't tell you how excited I am about this. My mom is not accompanying us (she won't have the vacation time at work, and also I think that the idea of bringing her along stresses G. out, which to be honest I don't blame him for, because my mom and he really do not travel terribly well together). But so my mom will be visiting with the Man-Kitty, and I will be on a trip with my G. (who really is my favorite parent, truth be told, which irritates my mom to no end. Not that I don't like my mom and all, but G. is great).

Now, I've got to say, when he first mentioned the trip, I really didn't think we'd really do it, as 1) G. likes to talk about doing stuff and then it doesn't happen, 2) G. is not a guy who travels - while the rest of the family goes to Lebanon regularly, he's very much a homebody and does not go anyplace let alone on big trips like that, 3) G. didn't even have a passport, and 4) usually he refuses to go anyplace for longer than like 2 days because he refuses to leave the store. But I started thinking that this might actually happen when he consulted with me about what dates would work for me (this is so not like him) and when I heard that he'd told people in the family and started figuring out where we'd stay. (Apparently we've got like 3 options already, as his niece Su offered her place but then his sister-in-law Therese said we could stay in her house, because she'll be in the mountains staying with her daughter, and I feel like there was another option, too. ) And apparently he went to apply for his passport yesterday, and if he's made that step, dude, we're going!

He is very excited about the following:

  • "You know, Crazy's Mom, Crazy will love it there and she will actually know a lot of people!"
  • "It's better that I'm going with her because she's so smart. I will teach her Arabic on the plane!" (He clearly overestimates my abilities, though it is true that I was better at picking up Arabic words when I worked at the vegetable stand that we owned in college where we had a lot of Arabic-speaking customers... of course, this means the only Arabic that I currently know is how to say hello, the word for "beloved,"the word for "slippers," many vegetable names, and I can count to like 5. Oh, and I also know a collection of truly filthy curse words. You're shocked, I know. I'm not sure how these words will serve me on my travels, but I think that G. has the idea that Arabic lessons on the plane will make me near-fluent. Ha!)
  • "We will go to where Khalil Gibran lived!"
  • "Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East!"
  • "You will love it there!"
I anticipate that the trip will primarily involve a great deal of visiting. What does visiting involve? Sitting, food, talking, Lebanese coffee, cards, lather, rinse, repeat. I also would not be surprised if the fact that G. and I are going means that a slew of other people in the family may decide to go, so as to be able to say that they witnessed G.'s grand trip. (I've already heard rumors to this effect.) I have a small concern that the trip may also involve some "introductions," as G. has some matchmaking inclinations, and I've been getting questioned for the past few years by his sisters, often with the suggestion that maybe it's time for me to go to Lebanon thrown in. Nosy, meddling family :) (Let me just note for the record that this is not some made-for-TV-movie situation where I will be kidnapped and forced into an arranged marriage. People have all these ideas when you say "Lebanon," which have absolutely nothing to do with my family. To wit: all Lebanese people are terrorists, you can't go there without a burqa, Lebanese people hate Americans and America, etc. All of these are totally fucked up stereotypes. Now, it's true that my experience will be colored by the fact that I'm going with a Christian Lebanese person (a) and by the fact that the Lebanese person with whom I'm going has raised me since I was 12 years old (b), and so while I'm not technically Lebanese, I was raised in the culture, and, as G. notes, I'll "know a lot of people" (apparently). With all of that said, that culture is traditional, and the family wants me to get married and have babies, for it is time, and so if I just so happen to meet somebody, and they know his family.... You get the picture. And yes, it's insane.)

But so anyway, that's what is on the agenda for the coming months. At least it doesn't involve work-related travel? I'm beginning to think that the way that my life runs is that I say one thing and the opposite ultimately happens, which means that there's no point in attempting to chart out the course of my life because obviously I never execute the course that I chart in any case. Or, perhaps I need to start charting a course that I don't want in order for it to work out the way that I'd really want? Except that I think that if one does that the universe "knows" and so that doesn't work either. Oh, damn it to hell - who cares if nothing goes according to plan! The next few months shall be awesome!


kermitthefrog said...

Lebanon looks awesome!! And it's great you get to do something with each of your mom and G.

And I guess New York and fun research projects are good too. :) I'd offer assistance planning the NY visit, but I'm afraid my expertise does not run to the Today Show! But if there's anything a resident can advise on, feel free to email.

Susan said...

How exciting. Travel that is not for work! It should be fun...

Hilaire said...

So great! Yay!

dhawhee said...

I would just point out in favor of your goals that these trips are a departure from the past habits you have laid out, and they do seem to work on the 'whole self' thang. and also going with parents tends to be a little easier on the wallet. Which is all to say: hooray!

heu mihi said...

"[W]ho cares if nothing goes according to plan! The next few months shall be awesome!"

May I take this as my new motto, please?

What an exciting summer! Yay!

life_of_a_fool said...

The trip to Lebanon sounds especially cool, and your stepdad sounds so cute!

Sisyphus said...

This sounds so fun and wonderful and _perfectly_ in line with your goals to be more balanced and taking care of yourself! Balanced shouldn't mean "stuck in a rut"; it should involve a certain level of carpe diem!

You'll bring us back lots of lovely pictures of course?

Belle said...

Go! Fun! Enjoy! Drop other things to achieve the balance!

Pennythrower said...

Dr. CRAZY!!! LUBNAAAAAAN! MABROUK! You are going to have the best time. I go there as often as possible. You must go to Zahle to imbibe the alcoholic fruits of the valley. And MARJAYOUN! Beautiful, one of the Christian towns in the south - I wonder where your stepdad is from. And of course, the divine Beirut. I was just there in October, and it was bleaker than I remember from just a few months earlier thanks to the political situation. But you should go to Paul's in Gemayzeh, which has the best baked goods in the city. I hope you have a wonderful time!