I don’t really need to post a picture of the what’s coming down from the sky, so I? We’ve all seen some version of the same photo on Facebook or Twitter or a news site — or even the olde timey TV. A background blurred by snow or sleet or ice. Someone (or maybe a Tusken Raider, who can tell under all those clothes) shoveling or pushing on a car or falling in a humorous manner.
There seems be to an informal contest over who has it worse, who’s a winter lightweight and who just fricking needs to learn to drive in the snow. It’s cold where I am! You think that’s bad, it was -20 below last night! We got 6 inches of snow! We got sleet! Our schools closed again! Our city is iced in! Our governor closed the whole state!
Having said that, it’s snowing in Minnesota. Again. It’s snowing hard, even by our standards. And it’s going to keep snowing for another couple of hours and then it’s going to get bitterly cold. Again. And the wind is going to pick up. Again. And I just got a text from the city that a snow emergency has been declared — effective in 11 hours.
It’s going to be a long day.
When I was a kid and I knew a snow day was on the way, I would pile books next to my bed. I’d start working on them the night before, letting myself read as late as I wanted, gambling I’d also be able to sleep as late as I wanted. It would be a magical day: I would stay in bed, snuggled deep under heavy quilts, all day and read the whole stack. It never worked that way. I would read for a while, then the sounds of family life or the smell of breakfast or boredom would get me up and I’d have a day not unlike most days. But maybe a little longer.
Looking back, I see that I have always had time slowing down and taking a break from my normal life. For about two months I have been saying I need to take a day just for me. Read not for entertainment but for inspiration. Write something more personal than church updates and announcements. Do yoga instead of dishes. Meditate instead of watching Netflix and playing solitaire on my phone.
It seems taking these mini retreats was easier when I was armpit deep in caretaking. Maybe it was just easier to know when I was taking them. When you live alone, it’s hard to know when stillness and silence are meditative and when they are just laziness.
And I think that deep down I fear being lazy. Or maybe being seen as lazy. So, I keep busy, so I can prove I am not lazy. I might think I am trying to prove it to coworkers, friends, family members or some guy I heard talk about single mothers on the radio. But the truth is they are all stand-ins for me and my own voices in my own head. And those are the hardest voices to ignore.
I push to keep busy doing this and that and the other. But after a while, it seems, the harder I push and the longer I am busy the less I get done. At least the less I get done that really matters. I go from doing not-so-important things to doing truly unimportant things to doing busy work to (sometimes literally) carrying things from the kitchen table to the dining room table because, well, at least I am doing something. And the urgent things I need to do and the important things that really matter are ignored.
None of this is ground breaking. Anyone who has taken a time management course or read a productivity blog knows about this pitfall. The thing is, so much of the talk around this cycle of busy-for-the-sake-of-busy is about staying focused and doubling down on discipline. Organize your tasks better. Review your goals. Prioritize. Most likely because that is what sells time management courses and brings readers to productivity blogs.
But I recently read something that for me was ground-breaking: self control is an exhaustible resource. And what looks like laziness if often exhaustion. Not physical exhaustion but mental and emotional exhaustion. But maybe that’s not quite right, either. Maybe it’s soul exhaustion.
We cannot be in control 100% of the time. We can’t always be doing, thinking, planning, problem solving, pushing. The answer is not always to “just power through.” Sometimes we need to let our souls catch up. We need to change gears at a very deep level. We need to take our foot off the accelerator and our hands off the wheel and just coast.
That’s hard for me. As a Type Six, my default is to scan my personal horizon for dangers and make plans to avoid them. If i take my hands off the wheel, God alone knows what could happen. Well, that’s not quite accurate. I can probably think of some worse-case scenarios God overlooked.
But today the roads are bad. It’s too windy to bother shoveling. I am not at work. The bank account is pretty much empty until tomorrow. There are things to worry about, trust me, but nothing I can do about any of them today. So I will resist the urge to go shopping and spend the day cooking. I will step over the pile of laundry. I will not open my work inbox.
And I will take a snow day. I will read for inspiration. I will meditate. I will fill the house with music. I will rest.
And I will be realistic. I know myself well enough to know I will need some busy work. So I will review and type up notes I have jotted down because something touched me deeply. I will use my writing, editing and marketing skills on things I care about — even if they don’t keep any lions from the door. And I will try to ignore those voices that tell me I am being lazy and wasting time and that I need to ramp up the energy and do, something, anything — for God’s sake just do it — to prove myself worthy.
Wish me luck.