My natural state is one of efficiency. I like to do things “on the way”, “kill two birds with one stone”, put in a little effort now to save myself a great effort later. When I had kids, I had to learn to put that tendency aside — kids don’t always work that way. Sometimes I have to make two trips to the same shop to prevent turning a single trip into a massive meltdown, or walk right past a shop where I have to run an errand in order to get everyone home in time for lunch. That’s just life as a parent. Sometimes we sacrifice efficiency for everyone’s greater good.
But there’s another way in which I’ve abandoned efficiency since I’ve moved abroad, and it’s less noble. It’s because I was afraid.
I used to go into a shop and always plan out exactly what I needed to say before it was my turn. If I found the person behind the counter was hard to communicate with, or impatient, I might leave without everything I needed. I might go to another shop around the corner, come back another time, or simply do without what I needed. If I had a coupon that I wanted to use, I would plan to ONLY but the thing the coupon was for so as not to complicate my transaction. I would add up the total and have exact change waiting so I didn’t have to understand what the cashier said. I was in a constant state of strategizing what I REALLY needed in order to make things overly simple. I was afraid of trying to do too much, and of getting things wrong. It made my life harder than it needed to be.
But at some point, I got over that. I don’t know when or how it changed. But I went into a shop today, and I didn’t plan out what I was going to say beforehand. When the cashier asked for my order, I unashamedly asked for a moment to decide. I added something to my order after she had rung it up, and then remembered a coupon I wanted to use for just part of my purchase. In short, I had a totally normal transaction which didn’t require stress, strategy or pre-planning.
This wasn’t the first time — I’m sure I’ve been in this mode for a while now. But it was the first time I was really aware of how nonchalant I’ve become. I can go into a bakery or a deli or a grocery store and act just exactly like the slightly distracted, moderately disorganized mom that I am. And, apparently, I can now do it in German.