Last Friday I was pleased to share with you a piece by Elizabeth Grant, one of the "21st Century Penpals" behind one of my favorite blogs, Life in Pencil. In today's edition of Won't You Be My Neighbor, I am delighted to welcome Elizabeth's partner-in-blog, Anne. Anne captured my attention immediately by outing herself as a "change phobe." A fellow "planning addict," I admire and embrace her attempts to toss the pen and live life in pencil. Anne's essays always make me think, make me smile, and make me nod in recognition - and the following offering is no exception. Thank you, Anne, for sharing this piece with the Motherese community.
When you finish reading here, please click on over to visit Anne and Elizabeth at Life in Pencil for another helping of their musings on "living life amongst the eraser shavings."
"It’s Not Over"
By Anne @ Life in Pencil
Last time I checked, a weekend lasted 2 full days. Throw in Friday night, and you’ve got 55 hours before the weekday routine ramps up again. But if you’re anything like me, your weekend often stops short—sometime around Sunday afternoon. Not literally, of course. Only mentally—a side effect of my brain that starts worrying about Monday before I’ve given myself the chance to savor the pleasures of a lazy Sunday afternoon.
This has always been a struggle. As someone who constantly finds herself living hours, days, or even years ahead of the present, I’ve always found it difficult to get my head out of the clouds, and into the moment. When I break out the Monday to-do list and start organizing the week to come, my husband has been known to say, “Hey, why don’t we just enjoy the rest of the weekend?” Of course, he has a point. I usually smile, set down my list, and rejoin him on the couch with our books, our movies, or a little mindless TV. But there are times when my brain speaks louder than my actions, making it hard to “turn off” my anticipatory stress about the week to come.
And I’m afraid to report that it doesn’t stop there. Recently, we took a 2-week vacation to South America…the longest “break” I’ve had in over a year. It was blissful. With two whole weeks, I could almost feel the daily stressors trickling their way out of my consciousness, making room for the joy of the present. And yet, 24 hours before the end of that vacation, the symptoms of a typical Sunday afternoon crept their way into my South American bed and breakfast. I sat up in bed, and started thinking. Stressing. Making mental to-do lists. Apparently, escaping to South America wasn’t enough. I almost lost that final day of my vacation.
That final day in South America produced an epiphany of sorts. Here’s my problem: when it comes to finding the time to relax and be “present”, I’ve always had a system. I work like hell, and keep going until I find the time for a massive break. I take a week. A month. And decompress. Using this cycle, the loss of one day (due to premature worry and planning) doesn’t feel so acute. And actually, the system worked just fine during my gazillion years of school—the academic calendar actually supported my habit. I’d plug away until the end of a semester, and then bask in the sweet relief of nothingness. But somewhere along the line, I finished school. I earned my degree. And I have something called a 12-month calendar. Today, my “breaks” come in the guise of planned vacation days and short weekends. My days are simply more precious—and so my system doesn’t serve me so well anymore.
And there’s another problem. Even if I didn’t work a 40-hour week, “skipping town” (literally and figuratively) can’t always be an option when my stress level reaches its threshold. The same is true for 99% of the people in this world. We have responsibilities, and people who count on us. Spouses. Children. Dogs. Goodness knows when I’m a mother someday, my job will stick around during evenings and weekends. And so the challenge becomes turning off the worry, and turning on the relaxation. I have to believe there’s a way to be present without taking off for two weeks. Or is there?
For those of us needing to mellow out, and put down our to-do lists, what’s the solution? As a kid, I remember having “quiet time” every day, which I always believed was for my benefit. But now I have to wonder if my Mom needed it more than I did. Or perhaps I’m all wrong. Perhaps “breaks” and “quiet times” aren’t even the key. If I could simply be present—here—now—instead of somewhere in the future, I wonder if I might not need these chunks of time. If I simply lived my days and weekends one moment at a time, perhaps I’d feel more refreshed. And less desperate to escape the worry inside me.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to the talented Kristen for inviting Life in Pencil into her space. Wherever you are, enjoy your weekend. One minute at a time. And if you have solutions of your own, please share.