It is not uncommon for an epiphany to strike me when I least expect it. Such was the case mere moments ago when I sat down to compose a letter to a dear friend. Although I will get to that letter shortly, experience has taught me to explore, process and document these moments in real time lest I risk losing them to my rapidly eroding memory. I doubt seriously whether she will mind as she claims to enjoy these public musings nearly as much as my personal notes.
My deadline for the two papers I freelance for is usually Monday or Tuesday. The editors assemble their respective papers on Wednesday so they can be delivered Thursday morning. Therefore, I am usually quite busy on Tuesdays. Furthermore, some weeks are more hectic than others - the stories might be long, involved or technically complicated. This past week, my stories represented a little bit of all of that. They also required more “hands-on” reporting than usual. In other words, telephone interviews from my home office did not play a significant role in this week’s reporting - I had to be there.
Add to the mix a national holiday on Wednesday and the whole she-bang gets pushed up one day. Yesterday was my final deadline and although a little room was left for finishing touches this morning, I had to be done writing this morning - not today, this morning. As a result of the accelerated pace of this week’s work I actually did something that is entirely out of character for me; I filed a story ahead of the deadline - last Saturday, actually. And I am so glad I did, indeed, I wish I had filed two - I could have. Those two were, of course, the easier of my stories and when crunch time came, I still had the better part of two lengthy, involved and one technically complex article to write. Both stories had to wait for events to occur and, of course, those events were very close to the deadline.
As a result of the demands placed upon me by my chosen career (or did it choose me?), I have been moving at warp speed for the last three days. I have neglected some areas of my life while maintaining what I determined to be necessary - often at a moment's notice. Of course there is the writing, but primarily only the deadline driven work, optional writing, such as letter writing and blogging, has been placed on the back burner. Other leisure activities as well as some non-critical chores are also among the first to go. And that is where my revelation today is couched.
Just as soon as my immediate obligations were satisfied this morning, I planned to get a little R & R. I just wanted to relax and bask in the non-committed time I had earned. I could have done that, I still might, but I found that I was not, contrary to my plan, relaxing. I was doing this and doing that. There were bills that had to be paid and laundry to do - I still have to go grocery shopping - and every time I actually stopped, I found myself going again. Although I had crawled under a literary rock for the last three days, the world didn’t stop to wait for me. Shocking, I know.
Boiled down, the revelation is simply this: My comfort and relaxation is dependent, in part, upon my having my affairs in order. I’m not talking about having a pristine home that smells oh-so lemony fresh - I am not a “neat-freak” by any stretch of the imagination - I am talking about eliminating those nagging little tasks that are always hanging over my head. No matter how much I want to just veg out in front of the TV, one thing led to another and I found myself restlessly getting up to move the sprinkler or emptying the pool sweep or... Apparently knowing that those things are done is part of the relaxation equation. My free time, therefore, is not exactly free until I am satisfied that my cobweb-like “to-do” list has been at least partially dusted clean.
I am not going to get to everything and I know that soon I will tire of chasing down those little lingering tasks. They are endless and I refuse to be obsessed by them. I will come to a place where I am satisfied that the third step forward has been taken to counter the previous two backward. The minutia has not overtaken me and the battle against the detail has been won for today. The war, however, is ongoing and reinforcements in the form of vacuuming and washing the car are sure to be arriving soon. And in order - or not - their turn to be dealt with will arrive.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there is a book that is begging to be read.