On a Wing & a Prayer

I exist in “wing-it” mode.

Both personally and professionally, I get by thanks to a canny mixture of knowing just enough about a lot of things, being a master of the multi-task, taking life one day at a time, faking it, a large dose of silliness plus the occasional lightning strike of serendipity. Lucky for me, it works most of the time. Being in my 40s helps too – apparently I project a sense of maturity and confidence that makes people think I know what I’m talking about.

And much of the time I do! I’m not full of BS. I have experience, credentials, some wisdom and common sense on my side. But existing in “wing-it” mode is not necessarily a comfortable place. One of these days, I’ll trip up, get caught out. It’s happened before.

Once, during my University years, I remember a small, French poetry class. Just as I took my seat, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to read the piece we were to be discussing. Worse, I was wearing a fuchsia-colored top! I don’t remember if I fessed up or if I kept my mouth shut or just was lucky enough not to be called on. Either way, I remember the gut-curdling feeling of exposure and vulnerability.

That was when it didn’t really matter that much. But today, I have kids to raise, a household to run with a husband as my co-pilot, and a career to maintain and thrive. It’s a fragile, complex and extremely important tower of cards.

How did I get to this “wing-it” state ? I blame a combination of “having it all,” the speed of life, being just a teeny bit smart and street-wise, and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”

Being a working Mom means operating at warp speed, making judgment calls about which battles to pick, who to please first, figuring priority and productivity trade-offs, constantly planning and worrying about the details. This applies to both the home and the job. It’s a state of hyper-vigilance. Let one thing go and the whole precariously constructed tower of cards could come tumbling down.

But the truth is, I actually get a kick out of living in “wing-it” mode. It’s a little like stage fright. The adrenaline of knowing that I need to put on a good performance, precisely when it matters. Recognizing a signal (per Coelho’s writings) and seizing it. The thrill of discovering luck is on my side, buoying my wings.

Would I like to slow it down? You bet. But I’ve also a sneaking suspicion, I’d be bored.

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