Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Relaxation Equation

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.


Michele said...

Not only do I understand your revelation, but I once had a similar revelation.

This line: "My comfort and relaxation is dependent, in part, upon my having my affairs in order." Is something I could have written, although not as eloquently.

The difference in our revelations is that you can be content with a partially completed to-do list (very healthy),whereas I require my list to be fully completed (not so healthy),

Eloquent with an ability to get things done? Is it okay for me to have a crush on you? No need to answer, I have already added it to my to-do list.

kenju said...

I could have written that same line as you and Michele, Mike. And the florist business, especially as it pertains to weddings, is a lot like your business, with set deadlines and absolutely no wiggle room!

Anonymous said...

I do a little freelance photography here and there and even that is hectic I can't imagine actually having to write something. It tires me out just thinking about it. hope your r&r goes well

michele sent me to say hi

Bar L. said...

I had a revelation a few years ago that a lot of things I thought I had to do - were not all that important. So I learned to live in a messier house but enjoy much more free time.

Enjoy yours!

sister AE said...

Hi, there. Michele sent me, and I enjoyed reading about your epiphany.

I had one some years back. My work was driving me crazy - there was always WAY too much to accomplish. Everyday was an exercise more in "how few people will we tick off" than "how many people can we take care of." And yet I tried to accomplish everything in the job description written so that not even a super-human could take care of it.

Then I had an epiphany that there would ALWAYS be to-do items on the list that stayed there. I was never going to reach the bottom of the list, and furthermore, my boss did not expect me to. It was quite liberating.

I still have what some folks call "and overdeveloped sense of responsibility" but now it is tempered with me putting myself on the "take care of this list."

Here's to finding balance. And plenty of good books!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your R&R. I got Princess Bride sitting here collecting dust. I heard it's a funny book, just haven't cracked it.

Happy 4th of July!

Bobkat said...

Me too though I came to realise this a long time ago as I was driving myself nuts trying to get everything done! This led to the second revelation that I was not super woman (shocking!) and that I had to compromise and strike a balance, as you say, be confident on the 3 steps forward to counteract the 2 steps back. The trick is being able to relax still when you know everything isn't done, but that ENOUGH has been achieved :)

MaR said...

When I was working I did a good job keeping my desk organized...it isn't the same with household. So glad you finished your post to go grab that book. Happy weekend, Michele sent me!

MaR said...

Just to make myself clear: I am not happy you put an end to your delightful post, I am just glad you didn't leave to go grocery shopping!

BreadBox said...

Hello, Michele sent me!
In the war against details, I only win the intellectual battles: the physical ones I always lose!


Bernie said...

When I was a greenkeeper on Turf Cricket Wickets (now I know some people in the US will not know about this, but it is very important) I had very tight deadlines with regards to having the pitch prepared, especially if it had rained as this would just mean that they could not get on to play until later in the day (longer if the covers were not put on!!).
I sympathise with you, and when it is all done well in advance, there is no better feeling, is there?
Here from Michele's this afternoon...

Biker Betty said...

There is always something that needs to be done. I have learned that there are times to just let it go for a day, for sanity's sake. Those are the days I usually go motorcycling.