I am giving myself permission to take some time in between the events of my life. This is new behavior for me, and it is not coming easily. Before my very eyes, a path of golden pavement is being rolled out, beckoning me to walk along at my leisure, to breathe the crisp winter air, even to notice two bluebirds whose return must mean something good.
For the first day in many years, I am looking at free time. It seems to have popped up now that I am relieved from full-time duty as a parent. Our son, who only ten years ago was eight, entered college last fall. We have just received news of his excellent first semester grades, and we are feeling, “Oy the relief.”
It has taken me six months to arrive at this oasis -- to finally hear myself admit, out loud, that I don’t think I need to clean the house -- it’s just not that dirty. Our home is steeped in a truly newfound level of peace and quiet. I am examining it like I’m Georgia O’Keefe or something, leaning over it as though it were a rare specimen petal on a gorgeous green stem. It is an astonishing discovery. I don’t know what to do with myself.
Apparently our son is off-and-running, but one of us (namely me, his mother) is disconcerted. So here I am, embarking into my first officially empty afternoon. This surprises me, but, in response, I remind myself that I am a human being, not a human doing. I decide to give myself “permission” to have lunch, take a bath, and then read all afternoon, comfy under a quilt upstairs, curled up with my dog. This sounds delicious on a wintry day.
It takes several hours and phone call detours, but finally I get my book and a multitude of pillows and I prop myself all cozy with my dog who is plastered to my side. This is good: we’re going to read! This is not the kind of book we usually tackle -- something scholarly, something meaningful, something non-fiction. No, this book is going to be kick back and have fun -- a novel, a light read.
So we read for awhile -- maybe thirty, forty pages. The sun is pouring in the window, but
what I am reading is not the “kick-back” book I expected, nor is it the least bit “hilarious” as described on the cover. In fact, it is coming very close to home; it is raising up some memories that make me sad. I start getting fidgety, and I find the silence deafening. I start putting the book down every other paragraph; I allow my mind to run through rabbit warrens. At this rate, it will take me forever to finish reading it.
I remember how this always happens when I stop being busy and begin to realize that busyness has been, for me, an opiate. I need to kick the habit, to push through feeling entirely unproductive. Somehow over the years, my identity has become entangled with tangible outcomes and things I used to consider “contributions.” I resolve to embrace this “doing nothing” as grieving because change of any kind represents loss, even when it’s positive. I am starting to embrace not doing -- undoing -- a time for rest and replenishment. Then I laugh out loud because the book I am trying to read is entitled, She’s Come Undone.