Paperwork. J’s entire life is reduced to paperwork. ALL OUR LIVES are reduced to paperwork. We are, in spite of our humanity and the qualities that distinguish us from each other, numbers on records, dates of birth that identify us…The Police famously sang that “every little thing she does is magic,” but what “she” did was probably also administrative bullshit on some deeper level…
In less than 24 hours we have scheduled three appointments that involve generating more paperwork. And that’s just for J. I’ve made two phone calls regarding paperwork, and scheduling something. If anyone says a stay-at-home mother doesn’t work, they need to stay-at-home and figure out what it is we don’t do…
Have I ever told you about my “office?” It even has a “records room.” Granted, my desk is in the sitting room where there is no TV (because it’s our library,) and the files are stored in the closet under the stairs (it qualifies as a “room” because I can stand up in there up to ¾ of the way in,) but I do a lot of “work” there…here. The only thing that would make this better is if I had a map table and little figurines that help me plot our movements for the month.
As one who spends a significant chunk of her not-dealing-directly-with-J time traversing a jungle of red-tape, I can tell you that customer service has taken a dive in recent months. Disillusionment seems to have taken hold of people on both sides of the phone. People are unhappier than they were this time last year. Maybe we all have Election Year Burnout…if this condition doesn’t already exist in the Diagnosable Diseases Universe, it should. We all seem to be weighed down by an additional layer of stress that has piled on top of our pre-existing condition of being alive.
Life keeps happening, doesn’t it? Our administrative selves (who will go to the polls on Tuesday if they haven’t already) stand on the sidelines while our human selves keep experiencing EVERYTHING in the flesh.
My administrative self, and the administrative self that I have designated to take care of J’s administrative self, is focused, competent, organized, efficient, driven. My real self emptied the clothes dryer, refilled it with a load from the washer, refilled and started the washer, and then realized that it was the load I’d just taken out of the dryer. My administrative self went tsk-tsk, shook her head, and docked me ten points for not being as focused, competent, organized, and efficient as she is…she gave me a pass on “driven” because “driven to distraction” is “driven” nonetheless.
My administrative self is the one who goes to J’s appointments. Thank goodness the blubbering, frayed mother takes a step back when we’re in an official situation. This is not, of course, an act…it’s what happens when your child (adult or not) needs you to be the best possible representative he/she can have. The doddering, blundering, emotional mess that runs to the leftover Halloween candy from time to time (yes, we have A LOT of leftover Halloween candy, and don’t you judge me for this) goes “ahem! You take this one, Ms. Competent Parent.”
If I feel compelled to watch all of Gilmore Girls because my days are going not-so-well, that’s not the administrative process’ business. If the sun is almost always shining in Stars Hollow, and the clothes are always cute, and the food always looks tasty, that’s MY escape from “crap, I have a pimple AND wrinkles, my knees and ankles pop when I walk, what’s with the random white wires that grow out of my eyebrows, and pleasepleaseplease tell me why you’re hitting yourself AGAIN.” If I hide there (while doing ten other things because, as we know, we the inhabitants of ASD-landia are octopuses out of sheer necessity,) that’s not anyone’s business. Neither is my ice cream or candy consumption, and I wouldn’t DARE show up to a J-centered appointment covered in Cheetos dust.
We all have That Person we are when we have to be official, and that person probably uses a name that we don’t recognize as US outside the official capacity of being a legal entity. My mother named me María, added an attribute of the Blessed Mother to that, and my last names are hyphenated to identify me as someone’s daughter, someone’s wife, and connect me to my children because their names are hyphenated, too. If it takes you more than two syllables to call me you’re either insulting me, or you’re referring to administrative me. Teachers, potential bosses, doctors’ staff, practitioners of the legal profession, law enforcement officers, and people who don’t really remember me from high school are the only ones who call me by my given name. With my parents the appearance of my name in increments was indicative of trouble: I was my two-syllable everyday name if things were manageable…I became my whole name and family tree if I had inched towards my doom.
Administrative me can find any paper, spew any datum, list any sign or symptom with the sangfroid usually reserved for characters like James Bond. Administrative me never substitutes “thingy” for the proper term required when a question is asked. J knows when administrative me is present, and he responds to administrative me with deference that is absent from everyday doddering me.
You may now ask why I don’t summon administrative me at home. I will answer that candidly: she doesn’t want to come out except when I’m calling someone re: J issues, paying bills, writing a very angry e-mail re: J issues, or dealing with things that belong in the realm of our administrative selves. I will, from time to time, summon her (plead is more appropriate to describe the process, but summon sounds like I have some agency over this) so she can take over when J has crossed a line that requires a more capable and cool-headed adult to intervene. She is the one who checks for injuries, persuades him to communicate more effectively, and tells him “you have hemorrhoids, dude…time to bring out the Preparation H.” Administrative me might make the grocery list, but everyday me is the one who does the shopping. Hence the Cheetos dust…
Administrative me has taken care of the strategizing for J’s trip to the movies today. Everyday me will be there for the popcorn and Trolls…but -like Wonder Woman– I will be ready to transform into my administrative self if J looks like he’s about to SIB or meltdown during our outing. This Friday outing is not MY idea. Administrative self slapped me and told me to put my big-girl panties on; I can’t cower at home and live in fear of a meltdown. So, because she is more “together” than I am, I will listen to her and do what she wants. She has promised extra bandaids in my purse, yoga breathing, and backup as needed.
Wish me luck. I am about to go boldly where I have gone many times before, but I feel like a wuss about it. Administrative me was very competent this morning…I hope she’s not so tired she takes a nap for the rest of the day. I’m sure there’s some paperwork I can fill out to put her “on call?” Maybe it’s here? On my desk?