On asking for what we need


At exactly 4 p.m., a text from our school district arrives, announcing the fourth snow day in a week, fifth if you count the day they sent the kids home early on account of an anticipated winter storm.

I am already resigned to the fact that O. will be home tomorrow, given the district’s track record — large flakes have been falling heavily all afternoon with no sign of a break. But the text reminds me just how far from normal this weather is for the Pacific Northwest — and how much of a transplant to this region I still am.

I am impatient. The disruptions to my work routine from all of these school closures are accumulating much like our garbage, which hasn’t been picked up for a second Monday in a row on account of snow that most Midwesterners would take in their (snow-booted) stride. Having spent more than a decade and a half in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Iowa — where school (and life) continue as usual under the conditions we’ve been observing here — I’m struggling to understand the standstill that a week of moderate snowstorms has brought to this region.*

I know the answers: a lack of snow-clearing resources, which makes driving extra treacherous, and a general fear of the resulting road conditions. Despite the number of times I’ve shaken my head to say we’re closing school for this?, I get it. I do. When this isn’t your normal, you can’t make it so overnight, in a week, in a year. Adaptation — and true acceptance — are slow processes. Maybe in another decade or two, we’ll have more snow plows and salt trucks as weather expectations evolve. Until then, I’ll continue to feel a mix of amusement and admiration to see the neighbors clearing their sidewalks with rakes and dustpans — they’re making do, which is exactly where adaptation begins.

Lately, when facing circumstances I’m unhappy to accept in the moment, I’ve been asking myself this question: what can I ask for — from myself or from others — to support me in making this situation less challenging?

The wording of the response is important: I’m asking what I desire to have, not what I don’t. It’s easy to answer with what we dislike about our circumstances. I want not to be multitasking childcare and chores tomorrow morning. I want not to be losing yet another potential writing day. What do I actually want? I want ready-made activities that will occupy my cooped-up 6-year-old and his little sister while I get the laundry done. I want at least to split the kid-watching with D. (who is also working from home while this weather continues) so that I’ll get a few uninterrupted hours between lunch and dinner to focus on my creative work.

Identifying what I don’t want leaves me no closer to figuring out what I can do to make tomorrow better. Naming what I do want provides the foundation for crafting action steps, no matter how small, to make a real difference. Which means I’ll be brainstorming quick and novel games and crafts for the kids in order to preserve my morning now that they’re in bed for the night …

What challenge to your creative process are you struggling with (weather-related or otherwise)? Share with me what you need or desire to support you in navigating that challenge by clicking the button below. If you’re struggling with a case of the don’t-wants as you try to formulate your ask, post it anyway. I’ll reply with a question to help reword the request in a way that reveals a potential next step.

* As of tonight, I will say that conditions in our neighborhood suggest an additional accumulation of 6+ inches overnight on top of what’s collected over the last seven days, so tomorrow’s school closure isn’t unreasonable. But this is the first time in the week where it really feels warranted.