On this last Friday of 2017, I am thinking a lot about how we spend our time — time that flies by so fast and furiously with all the “shoulds” and “musts” and lists galore. I’ve been paying quite a bit of attention to what happens when some of that pressure is lifted. What happens when we shift a schedule, even ever-so-slightly? What happens to time?
A few years ago, our school district changed the calendar so that our first semester actually ended at the winter break. Before that, we would come back in January for three weeks until finals hit. That meant that the winter break was all about studying. Our high school kids were on a continual loop. And as parents, so were we. No rest for the weary.
Now, we start a little earlier in the fall (well, it’s actually summer) and kids and teachers sprint to the finish line in December. The two-week winter respite is now about sleeping late, gathering with friends, playing games, and getting bored. This downtime has truly become the ultimate gift of the season.
This respite has been good for all of us. It’s as if the stresses of our children, once alleviated, give way for everyone in the family to relax.
So now that all the wrapped presents have been opened and even though we are still plowing through the Christmas cookies, I thought it would be a good time to take stock of all the gifts that have slipped into our lives thanks to the space created by “nothing to do.” Here’s a sampling, in no particular order.
- My oldest daughter, home from college, has been exploring the Bay Area in a way that she never has before. One day she drove out to the Valley to meet a friend and just “walk around” for a while; on another day, she and a buddy were on a mission to go running in Oakland (why Oakland? who knows!) and then over to Ocean Beach in SF to work out. Seemed to me like a lot of driving just to exercise, but she came home exhilarated and happy.
- My youngest, a high school senior, has been getting together almost daily with friends. They are roller skating, shopping, and lingering over ice cream delicacies. They are nurturing their friendships in a way that the school year just doesn’t leave time for.
- The same daughter who years ago gave up on her piano lessons (in spite of being terribly talented, but don’t even get me started) has been sitting down at the piano, plunking out old favorites and trying new ones. Yesterday, she spent the whole day at the piano with her laptop and iPad offering up tutorials. I’ve had to curb my enthusiasm over hearing the piano throughout the house; I’m afraid that any word of encouragement from me would be a surefire way to have the cover slam down on those lovely ivories, so I’ve left her alone with only an occasional smile tossed her way. Last night, when a friend came over, they spent almost two hours at the piano, laughing and collaborating. There is so much joy in that.
- We’ve had time for family games! Last night we played a round of LINKEE. Husband wasn’t playing, but he seemed to win anyway. Who cares? We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Next up? EXPLODING KITTENS.
- My best friend and I drove up to Mt. Diablo the other day, exploring Rock City (see my previous post) and then had a late lunch at a local Greek restaurant. We live an hour apart and we both teach, so we don’t get this kind of time often enough. Makes it all the more special when we do.
- Husband and I have been talking about our dreams for our future, even as we try to continue to slog through the mundane and necessary tedium of house and car repairs, bills, taxes . . . Our plans for that empty nest are getting more attention as we miraculously have a little more time for dreaming.
- I’m cleaning out closets, junk drawers, and cabinets. It’s amazing how much clutter and junk we have accumulated over the years. I have adopted a “take no prisoners” mentality and making multiple trips to the donation center. This has been amazingly satisfying. The laundry room finally has room for . . . you guessed it: laundry
Now I’m planning a trip to the Oakland Museum, walks around our neighborhood, a movie or two, and then we may head up to the mountains for a little bit of skiing. The beauty and wonder of it all is that there is time to plan and even more time to change those plans.
ALL of this because our school district shifted the calendar year by a couple of weeks! This has me wondering how I might shift our family’s calendar . . . the months, the weeks, the days . . . in tiny ways that might net big gains in terms of time. What would it take to shift things just enough to make more time? How can we prioritize downtime as much as we do, say, our work? How might we better connect with each other and those we love if we could eek out a little more slow, unstructured – dare I say boring – time?