Before I had children, I thought of January and February as the wasted time. The boring time. The stuck inside time. The vaguely depressed time. Now the first three months of the year represent the only times in my life when the pressure eases back a little. I – sometimes – have weekends when nothing much happens. If you try to do something with me in the summer on a Saturday, chances are good I’ll return with a next-free-date a month in the future. In January, there’s time for reading, relaxing, not-muching. Of course, I respond by being terribly lazy and hanging out on my couch in my jammies. (Ahem.)
Still, it is against my nature not to use the free time for some joyful activities. I have a big one coming up (and am being forced to be slightly less lazy in order to prepare for it), but my camera has evidence of a joyful January together.
There are down sides and up sides to age and experience. I can now chop an onion with a finesse my 22 year old self would never have dreamed of. I seem to grow extra arms as needed. I know how long the wash cycle on my washing machine takes, and I can get myself to nearly any destination not requiring a visa without being nervous about it. I am, in short, a Woman of Experience.
I have this week off. I am between. I am liminal. I have left Old Job and not yet started New Job. I have been EXPLICITLY INSTRUCTED by my new employer to relax and come in rested and refreshed. But this is a once every few years opportunity! Home, alone, without children, not terribly fiscally constrained and without obligation. This, my friends, is the holy grail. And I KNOW that it will go super duper fast and I will only accomplish a small percentage of what I intend in that time.
So here’s the potential list: (bold means already done or in the works)
Crazy complicated dinner (prime rib!)
Video game (Fable II for XBox)
Clean attic thoroughly and get rid of archaic equipment (see also: desktop computer)
Buy new computer
Centralize entire digital life on new computer
Transfer finances to new digital checkbook
Do all the regular chores so my husband gets a bit of a break too
Read several novels
Install a DROID development environment
Write a DROID application
Blog like I always think I would blog if time wasn’t a problem
Sleep in as much as possible
Read the APIs my new company publishes for the app I’ll be supporting
Watch all the football
Do everything in my email inbox so I can close the email
Learn how to use my new phone and totally customize it
Recycle the old computers, having ensured all valuable information has been removed.
Have tea with a friend
Go out to lunches with my former colleagues (this was my original plan, but now I’m feeling so forward-looking I have mixed feelings on it)
Finish up my knee physical therapy (partially there!)
Goof off in all the amazing free time.
Anyone see a problem with this list? Yeah, that darned experience tells me what it tells you. There’s no way I’m going to get through that list. I get so sick and tired of prioritizing, optimizing and being efficient. I come to loathe the down to the minute scheduling and night after night of making good decisions because I know better. This week, at least, that is relaxed and reduced. I’ve actually made some excellent progress.
The key this week, I think, is balance. I need to make sure I neither work the whole time or goof off the whole time. A mixture of accomplishment, long term investment and leisure is the order of the day. I think I’ve done well so far.
Last week I read several novels, working my way through the canon of Sherwood Smith, so far with “Crown Duel”, “The Trouble With Kings”, “Coronets and Steel” and “Blood Spirits” — thank you Kindle for making it so easy! I have played several hours of Fable II. I have gotten my DROID environment working, read half of a DROID apps book, read the first few chapters in a JAVA 2 book and consolidated all our CDs. I also cleaned out the closet in the attic and have my crazy fancy dinner planned. I bought myself my new central laptop, and am currently in the process of downloading a lifetime of pictures to it, as I simultaneously upload ancient pictures from my old desktop. I have had my final knee dr. appointment and been dismissed. I have three PT appointments scheduled. I found a new chiropractor. The dishes have been done, I’ve been careful not to spend too much time cooking (which is what usually happens when I have free time), and I’m watching Dr. Who while I fold laundry.
So far, not bad. Here’s hoping I finish equally strong, and that I’m completely energetic and ready to go back to work in my new place on Monday!
One final note… I am so a teenager. So I’ve been really careful not to get into the “staying up until 2 am reading” trap that I so easily fall into. My natural schedule is bed at 2 am and waking up around 11. I figured if I was careful with the going to bed, the waking up would come easily. But instead, I’ve had several nights where I’ve gotten 11 to 12 hours sleep. I mean, my sleep debt can’t be THAT bad, and I just had a week off for Christmas where I also caught up. I’m left to conclude that I naturally am quite happy sleeping half the time. And it’s not depression – I’m quite cheerful. I just like bed. This explains a lot.
This Sunday’s sermon was about time. It was our (beloved) pastor’s first Sunday back after a 3 month sabbatical. He talked about the Sabbath — the divinely mandated one day in seven of rest. He talked about how God himself, after a hard week making creation, took a break. He raised the question: who are we, to think that our labors are more important and more critical than God’s governance of the created world? He could and did rest. Are we so much more integral to the running of the universe?
And he was talking to me and I knew it.
But he didn’t condemn me. And he didn’t say that the working and the striving are bad. He just reminded me that time needs to be taken for all things in this world. God did work hard for the six days. He may even have pulled all-nighters.
We had dinner with a friend from church. He owns his own business in order to make his own hours. He theorizes that we Americans are so busy because if we stop, the silence of the void within us might echo back. And so we’re afraid to stop. I’m pretty sure that my inner life is not echoing. I believe it to be rich, and have taken time for it. But he may very well be right, that it is not a comfortable thing to stop and hear.
My pastor also made a suggestion. In our bulletin was a corny little photocopy of four windows. Pick, he said, four windows of time between now and Thanksgiving. Make them good blocks — four hours or so. For those four windows, stop. Rest. Think. Pray. Do not even plan to do those little hobbies that fill up the corners of our time. Allow that time to be open. Do not do the chores. Do not plan ahead. Do not prepare. Stop. Rest. Be at peace, four times for four hours.
And he is right. I need to.
I threw away my bulletin with the little four windows. But I have before me my calendar — a pretty Presbyterian calendar that I always hope will remind me from whence my time on this world came. I must, of course, coordinate with my husband (who will point out that I do not have these quotes verbatim — that’s what they said to ME dearheart, whether or not it’s what came out of their mouths). But I will do it. I will find four fours. I will obligate myself to let go. I will mark them on my calendar, and they will be inviolate. And I will stop, rest, think and pray.