Yesterday I had an urge to go bowling, but I have no idea why.Sure, I liked bowling as a kid, but for many years now the thought of bowling has left me at best indifferent: Something I might do if friends were doing it, but not something worth seeking out.
It’s surprising and somewhat unsettling how often I do things that are supposed to be fun not because I’m really looking forward to them, but for other reasons — often just out of habit. Do I really like this series of books, or am I just in the habit of reading them? Do I really enjoy this gaming group, or am I just in the habit of playing? Am I really going to enjoy this dessert, or am I just in the habit of eating it?
Is this depression? Not enjoying things that at one time brought joy? Or is it distraction, perhaps? A sense that there is something important to be figured out, such that everyday niceties are keeping me from growing and evolving. Keeping me from learning and deciding. Keeping me from moving forward and on.
If so, why did I want to go bowling yesterday? Maybe I know the answer to that: Yesterday was different. Yesterday I woke up, sat down at the computer thinking that I’d take care of a few things before getting to my various tasks for the day, and then came out of my fugue five hours later realizing that I’d been sucked in and done nothing on my ‘list.’
Not that getting sucked into the Internet is all that different than many other days, mind you. What made yesterday different was that I decided to just take the day off. I wasn’t going to worry about the things that ‘needed’ to get done. I wasn’t going to worry about getting exercise, buying holiday gifts, or transferring video from tape to disk. It was mid afternoon and I just wasn’t going to worry about what else I got done.
I ended up watching a movie on DVD that had been sitting around the house unwatched for years. Bowling was in my head because I’d seen the Nerdist special where they bowled against the Doctor Who cast. And, out of nowhere, it just seemed like it would be a ton of fun. So, I called up some friends and we went bowling.It was good. I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t life changing or anything. Just enjoyable.
And now it’s the next day and I know I can’t do that again. I can’t just take another day off. Can’t afford to! Things wouldn’t get done.
Those things that are distracting me are doing so for a good reason. Some of them are common, everyday things that just need to get done — go to the grocery store, etc — and some of them are more philosophical — what do I want to do with my life, for instance.
Yes, there are things I can do to limit the distractions, both small and large. I can decrease my unnecessary commitments. I can resolve philosophical issues. But can I ever completely eliminate them?
Can I reach a point of flow where I harmoniously move through life, both enjoying the moment and confidently progress towards a meaningful whole?
Dunno! Probably, not, but I’m going to try.
And that, I suppose, is the point of life.
So I’ve been on the schedule of a typical academic calendar for thirty-five years now, nonstop. My husband assures me that this consistency is the reason for the reinforcement of my periodic stress. In other words, I’m conditioned to be overworked and therefore stressed out beyond reason from about the end of April through Memorial Day.
I cannot argue with his logic. Especially not right now, when I’m in the middle of the busiest two weeks of the school year. I would argue, but frankly, I don’t have time. There’s a stack of papers nine inches tall waiting to be graded, and I haven’t even given my final exam yet.
There are other times during the year when I am similarly busy and stressed out. However, between Thanksgiving and December finals I’m too happy about the holiday season to worry about it much. Then, I’m blissfully able to remind myself that being behind at school is always a finite problem: the semester always ends, and by hook or by crook, report cards go out, and then I’m done. But right now, the summer break, when I can devote myself more fully to my writing, is so close that all I can think of is how burnt out I feel every time I sit down to work. The glorious weather and the wall of windows in my classroom that look out onto a lovely courtyard do not help. (My friend Amber, who used to teach at UC Santa Barbara, could see the Pacific Ocean from her office window. That would be worse, I think, but only for my work ethic.)
I used to have insomnia the beginning of August every year, from the time I began teaching until the time my daughter was born. (Then I didn’t have the insomnia because I was just so damn tired all the time I couldn’t possibly have trouble falling asleep. Not at any time, not in any place.) A lot of my colleagues experience this also, the inability to sleep well (or, in some cases, at all), for about two weeks before the school year begins. I suppose we should all count ourselves lucky that we care so much about teaching that we worry whether we will do it well enough. I will say that my colleagues continually inspire me with their energy, talent, and devotion to their students’ success. As teaching careers go, I’m at what Bull Durham would call “the show.” And I’m grateful for that.
But this means that for a while a few times a year, the other stuff I do suffers a bit. For example, my blog. Let’s just call this post a long-winded apology for not a lot of substantive sharing lately. It’s not that interesting and important things haven’t been happening. They have. I’ve even had a few episodes of mildly worthwhile introspection about them. But since Easter, it’s been a maelstrom around here. Yes, work has been busy. Yes, my daughter turned seven. Yes, my writing has been doing interesting stuff. But also, people have died.
Some of all that I may blog about this summer; I don’t know. I am fairly certain, however, that I will write much more substantial things for you, dear readers, more often than I have the last several weeks. I appreciate that you’ve stuck with me thus far.
I’ll be done with this school year by the end of May. I’ll still have school work to do over the summer, of course — the idea that teachers don’t have to work during the break is a damaging myth worthy of Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumours” — but my time will be more my own and less frenetic. Or at least that’s the plan.
Until then, go on and vote in my poll from last week. You know, the one about The Silliest Thing You’ve Ever Heard. Tell everyone you know to vote also. Do it before tomorrow, when voting will close. I can’t wait to find out who the winner is, especially since at the moment there is a three-way tie for first place.
And as for all the rest, thanks for hanging in there with me. All the best.