My wife and I usually do this big planning session together in early January to reflect on what we did/didn’t accomplish in the previous year, and to project our goals for the next 12 months. We journal our family highlights for each month of the previous year, recounting the hilarious and the painful and the joys and the sorrows, and begin building anticipation for the new family adventures we hope to accomplish. We initiated that conversation a few weeks ago, but honestly were both so tired that we couldn’t finish it. (Life with three incredibly active, loud, young boys has us feeling that way more and more often.) We paused it without setting a time to restart it, so maybe this year it’ll just be one of those continually evolving conversations we have.
Here’s the thing: my wife’s a planner. A serious planner. As in, she loves it. One of her favorite things to do as a teenager was to go out with her dad, each of them with journal in hand, and spend hour upon hour discussing and dreaming and planning and listing and devising action steps. I love and admire that about her. I, on the other hand, have never been a planner. Ever. It’s torturous to me and completely unnatural. In Myers Brigg types, I’m INFP. [If for some reason you’re interested in understanding INFPs, here is a great description.] Spontaneity and “winging it’ and going with the flow of life comes naturally to me. And, true to the type, I’m a bit offbeat and unconventional. I’m more excited by ideas than by facts, so I’ll jump head first into a project, often without consideration for what is actually the finish line. I enjoy the process of figuring it out as I go and seeing how things develop. I like to think my wife loves that about me. Our differences in this regard (and our accompanying individual neuroses), I believe, make us a pretty great team. She stretches and pushes me in ways that I need, and I do the same for her.
So, one of my New Year’s goals is to be more organized and become better at planning. And so far it hasn’t gone well. This month it’s meant a Tdap vaccine and eight stitches for me…
Almost two weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to reorganize our Tupperware cabinet (the one our toddler empties and plays in every. single. day.). Before he became mobile I organized the cabinet and was doing a pretty good job of keeping it that way. [You must be thinking, “why not just put a child lock on the door and keep him out of it?” Well, because our toddler is a beast. Both of his brothers are too, but he’s particularly adept at breaking child locks. All of them. His particular combination of brute force and bull-headedness is no match for even the most fortified safety feature.] I don’t have an extra 20 minutes every day to organize the Tupperware, so I just let it go. That day, however, I decided enough was enough, and I was sick of the cascading plastic doom that awaited me every time I opened that cabinet. So, I sat down on the kitchen floor and got to work. No sooner had I started than here comes toddler, like a moth to a flame, at the sound of plastic dishes hitting the hardwood floor. I tried redirecting. I even threw a plastic mixing bowl across the room for him to chase. He wasn’t having it; he wanted inside his cabinet. Cue: Impasse. Anger. Retaliation. [The other thing you should know about our toddler is that he hates an open door. If there’s an open door inside our house, it won’t be for long, because he loves to slam them shut.] So, he tried to slam the cabinet door shut. Problem is, he did this just as I was withdrawing my hand from inside. And as luck would have it, my wrist was perfectly aligned with the screw back of the cabinet knob as the door shut. It impaled me. I gasped, [perhaps shrieked] and scared the ever-loving everything out of the toddler, who took off running. Our eldest was in the room and had eyes as large as saucers as I withdrew my wrist from the screw back and left little bits of me there. He can’t handle the sight of blood, and started dry heaving. No help. I got to the kitchen sink and ruined some hand towels, and then made myself wash my new piercing. Great day in the morning did that hurt. I told our eldest that if I kept losing blood and passed out that he would need to run across the street to our neighbor for help. Thankfully I was able to staunch the flow and stay upright until Carolyn got home and doctored me up. She made me go to her office the next day to get a Tdap vaccine to be safe; I had to face her office staff with a ridiculous injury story, which has become an all-too-common occurrence…
Fast forward a week and my wrist has mostly healed. It was looking angry for a while, but infection didn’t set in. All good. Thus having regained full mobility of my right hand, I made plans to finally finish a project from last year that I haven’t managed to make time for: building new shutters for the house. I made a Home Depot trip for all the materials, and came home last Friday to begin my simple project. First step: assemble the new, heavy-duty metal sawhorses I received from my dad for Christmas. Easy enough… or should have been. I got halfway through assembling the first one and realized that one of the pilot holes in the wooden top was not aligned correctly with the metal mounting bracket. Not a big problem, I thought. I’ll make it work. Just add a little pressure and force the screw in… wrong. I should’ve just drilled another hole. I was using a lot of pressure on the screw, and suddenly– out it popped. The force I was applying propelled my hand upward and inward to the metal mounting bracket lip, which sliced through my right hand bird finger, just above the second knuckle. It was cold out, so my fingers were a little numb, and I didn’t really feel any pain. Then I looked down… a thick flap of skin peeled backwards, revealing a glistening white layer beneath. [At the time I thought it was bone; turns out, it was just my tendon, thankfully still intact]. I grabbed it shut with my left hand and ran inside, knowing (and dreading) that I had to wash it right away. Whooooooooo did that hurt. I set the eldest to dry heaving again, ruined another hand towel, and tried calling Carolyn. Voicemail. Still with patients. I walked across the street to our nurse anesthetist neighbor, who had just gotten home, to ask for advice and help. She ended up driving me to Carolyn’s office [I really didn’t want to visit the ER during flu season] and spent the next two and a half hours assisting my wife with cleaning my gash and stitching me back together, all while having also arranged care and dinner for my children.
So, I’m ending January with a wrist hole that looks/feels a little wonky, eight shiny, blue sutures in a frankenfinger, an increasing reputation for sustaining asinine injuries, an unorganized Tupperware cabinet, and still only two sets of shutters on my house.
More than that, though, I’m ending this month with gratitude. We have the best neighbors/friends, who embody what it truly means to live in a community. We have health; we have strong, brutish children. I have 11 more months this year to become better at organizing and planning, and also 11 more months this year to go with the flow of life’s unexpected turns.