Can I do it?
Seriously, I have to wonder.
I just stopped “working.” Sort of. I stopped my formal work. I had a part-time telecommuting job, and I was adjuncting for two schools, normally teaching a “light” load of four classes, but more often than not having about 6 or 8. Or more. Just so you know, that’s a lot of hours for not a lot of money, especially since they were all online classes, requiring me to log in at least six days a week, responding to a ton of emails and posts, grading tests and papers, hosting weekly live sessions, and calling students who were doing poorly or needed extra help. I worked all day and all night.
Last weekend was my first real weekend off. Keep in mind that when I say I’m “off,” I’m still working on my MFA in Creative Writing, writing for multiple websites, and, during last weekend, playing single mother to my 11-year-old autistic son while my husband was traveling to Dallas to learn to make a guitar and also taking care of the neighbors’ three children overnight, keeping them for a solid 24 hours while my neighbors were off to enjoy Mardi Gras.
So how did I relax?
Let’s see – I woke up early. Made a quick run for donuts and kolaches (the Texas version of pigs in a blanket) for all, then cleaned the kitchen, did the dishes, organized the recycling, cleaned and organized the front hall/foyer that had gotten a bit overwhelmed with stuff, cleaned and organized my office, cleaned out my son’s dresser and closet, cleaned my bathroom… I wound up with a trunk full (a big, Jeep-sized trunk full) of clothes and household goods for donation. And I wasn’t done yet.
After that, I spent the rest of the weekend cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry – why did we have honey from 2010??), cleaned out the bedroom closet, worked on my thesis, finished reading a book, dropped off donations, attempted to buy an algae eater for my fish tank, created (and listed) some cross stitch patterns at my Etsy store, did some stationary biking, and hit the store for a few things. Oh, and listed a pair of Converse that I had found in the closet on eBay to try to make a few bucks.
I had time to do those things.
But I have to have been crazy to have done them.
Instead, I know what I should have done. I should have kicked back on the couch, read a book for fun (not school). Maybe done some cross stitch that I’ve been waiting to finish. But I couldn’t. Whenever I tried, I thought of those things that I should be doing – building a website for a friend, create some hand-made books, stamping some jewelry, learning to use my 3d printer.
What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just sit and relax and enjoy myself and my time off? Why do I need to fill every minute of every day? Why do I feel the need – the necessity – of being productive all the time? Why do I feel like being unproductive equals failure?
That’s when I had an idea. I’m a rather extremely-lapsed Episcopalian, but I grew up celebrating the season: Fat Tuesday meant making pancakes at church, Ash Wednesday meant getting my forehead smudged, Lent meant giving something up, and Good Friday meant three hours of church. Easter Sunday, of course, meant church, too, but lots of chocolate and an Easter basket hunt through the house with clues made up by my parents.
But Lent. I always tried to come up with something to give up. Even if I didn’t really give it up, I’d have the intention to. I had friends who parents disallowed all music and dancing during Lent. My husband’s grandmother would give up chocolate which, if you knew her, was like a diabetic giving up insulin.
This year, though, I decided to not give up anything for Lent. I decided to add something in. For Lent this year, I’m going to add in daily meditation. Each day, for at least fifteen minutes, I will sit and do nothing. Think of nothing. I will let myself relax and focus on my breath. I will enjoy having those fifteen minutes of peace and solitude.
And maybe by adding something in, I will be giving something up. Maybe I will give up the need to be busy. Maybe I will give up unnecessary anxiety and worry. Maybe I will give up the constant motion. Maybe I’ll greet the spring with a new outlook and a relaxed self. It’s worth a try…