“You can’t see the trees for the forest,” he said.
“Well, you can’t see the forest for the trees,” she said.
I used to be a tree person but, at some point in the last decade, I became a forest person. Previously, I compulsively focused on details, which made me a great assistant to people who couldn’t be bothered — those who came up with big ideas and delegated to underlings the tasks that were critical to the realization of their dreams.
Then, one day, I woke up in the forest, figuratively speaking. (I’ll save the stories of my literal awakenings in forests for another time.) The things that controlled my life didn’t matter as much anymore. Whereas I used to be obsessive-compulsive about locking my front door — it took me ten minutes standing outside it to persuade myself that it was really locked — now, I locked it once and left. Sometimes I didn’t lock it at all. That way, I didn’t have to worry about its being locked; I knew it wasn’t.
Forest people create masterpieces. The scale of their masterpieces vary from the pyramids to a spectacularly successful Super Bowl commercial, depending on the field of the big thinker, but one thing remains constant: forest people rely on tree people to get the work done. Forest people may supervise, but they don’t haul bricks or set up the lights.
I realized that I had become a forest person when my mother-in-law came to visit and asked my son who had cleaned our house. Until recently, she had always proudly announced to her friends that I was a wonderful housekeeper. And I was. Until I wasn’t.
I now keep the house clean enough for our family to live in without (much) fear of getting a staph infection, but if the dog sheds on the rug, I don’t run for the vacuum cleaner like I used to do. And, if my husband and I have to navigate an obstacle course of laundry baskets before getting into bed, well, so what? Anybody who lives here is welcome to tidy up if it bothers him or her.
Anyway, when my mother-in-law asked my son who had cleaned the house, he said that he had. This wasn’t close to the truth — we had hired a housekeeper— but he later told me that he did it to save me from being judged for wasting money on something that I could have done myself. In all honesty, as long as my son had told her that I, and not my husband, had hired the housekeeper, she would have given me a pass. She lets a lot slide with me, which I love her for.
While I could go on and on with examples to prove that I’m now a forest person, I’ll end with this one: long ago, I used to get up at 6 a.m., or even earlier, and make breakfast, lunches, toss in a load of laundry, and get my family off for the day before I went to work. Now that my husband leaves for work at 5 a.m. and my son is self-sufficient, I only wake up when it’s absolutely necessary, like when I have to go into the office.
Yesterday, I went to bed at 3:30 a.m., after reading all night. When I awoke, fully rested, at 5:30, it was still dark, which meant that I had only slept two hours. So, why wasn’t I tired? Because it was 5:30 p.m. and I had missed the daylight hours, that’s why.
At first, I panicked. Then, when I realized that it was the weekend, I calmed down. All that mattered was that I was awake, right? Things would get done, or not. And if not, I could always hire a housekeeper. Meanwhile, it was time for some coffee. I asked my son to make it.