Rituals In The Empty Day, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:00am
This was not easy. You might wonder, "Why? The woman is unemployed, her children are on the other side of the country. What on earth prevents her from living every day in a blaze of checklist glory?"
Well, I find that with no absolute demands on my time, I have to create my own deadlines, my own structure, my own to-do list. And that's tiring. The effort of talking myself into doing what I have to do wears on me. It appears that I require a fair amount of talking to.
I don't think it has to be like this. I believe that one can avoid the exhaustion of self-discipline by building a routine. When you work, it's already in place. Everything outside of work makes do with the leftover space. When you have kids, you build their routine. You follow it, to save all of you from chaos. But in the absence of external requirements, you have to set up your own structure. This week I did it well. Doesn't always happen.
The best resource I have ever found to improve the process of getting things done is here. Admittedly, the idea that if you absolutely want to do something you have to make it into a habit surprised the bejeezus out of me. I thought I needed to speak to myself more strictly, or eradicate, somehow, my love for lying on the sofa. I've been trying to rise from the ashes of my lazy soul for years. No. It works much better to create a habit. Habits are the small pieces of routines.
Free form living illuminates the exercises of nuns and monks. The ringing bells. The rituals. As humans, pretty much no matter what we do there's going to be a voice in the back of your head saying, "Shouldn't you be attending to that thing? You know, that thing?" Structure and ritual, it turns out, aren't the noise. At their best, rituals and routines are the stage for thought beyond tasks.
When I was young, with two small children, what with nursing and nighttime coughing and sibling quarrels I used to wish I could run away to Portland and hide in a motel for a week. I know I've told you that before. One never forgets those days of overwhelm. When I was working and managing people and traveling to New York and presenting at conferences, I wished I had the time and space to write. But once there's nothing preventing you from doing almost anything you like, you run into yourself muttering in your own corridors.
So were I to speak to my younger self, I might say this. "Cherish your masters. Step back from obligation and feel some gratitude for the structure that requires you." Of course, I might just tell my younger self to get some more sleep, for Pete's sake, and to start a blog sooner. I mean, if I wasn't feeling all enlightened that day. Which often happens.
If you are in the stage where life demands more of your time than you think you have, I'm going to turn you over to Penelope Trunk. This is perhaps one of her best posts ever. Then I'm going to sign the engagement letter for my estate lawyer and send off a check to my web designer.
Have a wonderful weekend.