Long Weekend Blues

I started out my long memorial day weekend on thursday evening excited about the four days which lay before me. Days I was sure I would fill with working on projects at home and enjoying the beautiful weather that was being predicted. Especially given that it would be the first weekend since I moved into The House On The Hill that I could really enjoy being outside. However I did have a list of things I intended to accomplish.

I think my list was a little optimistic. It included putting away my winter clothes, planting some flowers, sorting and purging papers in my office, vacuuming the carpet and mopping the floors. Not to mention at least 3 timely work projects that needed attention. The project I was most excited about was working on the “library” in my new house (is it still new after 2 months?). I was planning on going to Ikea with my handyman, picking up the bookcases and having him install them AND I thought I would get to put all books on said shelves when he was done. This on top of all the projects I mentioned. Oh and I was expecting a friend for brunch on Sunday and SuperHero was planning on coming to hang out.

Pretty ambitious plan huh? OK, so my grasp of the limitations of linear time is a little tenuous.

Thursday night I unpacked my books and did a quick first sort into fiction and non-fiction piles. Friday I worked for most of the day on my work projects, and managed to simultaneously sort my spare room which has served as a staging area during the move. Translation: it was full of boxes and all the stuff I had yet to unpack. Very productive day. I did get a lot done. Just not enough.

I was going until 10pm on Friday, when a little anxiety started to kick in. The next day was Saturday and I felt like I hadn’t even made a dent in the list. I had intended to make the Ikea trip on Saturday, do grocery shopping, return some blinds, and do all the cleaning.

By the time I woke up on Saturday morning feeling full-blown “its-not-all-going-to-get-done” despair. I was so anxious and stressed that I couldn’t focus. I decided that the Ikea trip and the library project could be postponed. I finally made it out of the house at about 2pm to run my errands, but I was still a little off.

6:45pm found me in wandering the aisles of Walmart (I KNOW). Dazed and confused I was trying to find baking soda and failing. I knew that something was really wrong when a woman came up to me with a very strange look and said “Excuse me, thats my cart”. I stared at her for a few seconds trying to comprehend what she was saying. I looked down and realized that I’d taken off with her cart (whose contents were very different from mine). I apologized profusely but frankly she looked a little terrified. I was so dazed and disoriented she probably thought I was on drugs. I suspect that I had been so caught up in the anxiety ridden rant that was going on in my mind that I couldn’t hear her and she had been following and calling after me for a while.

Thats when I called it quits and went home to regroup.

A former co-worker coined a phrase that my colleagues and I still use. “It ain’t killer bees!”. I’m not sure if she came up with it herself or if it should be attributed to someone else. The point is I decided that nothing on my list was killer bees. So what if I didn’t mop my floors and vacuum my rugs before my friend came over? So what if my I had piles of books in my living room for another week or two?

It got me to thinking about the insane “get-it-doneness” of my world and how it can stop me from being present in my own life. I’ve learned so much in my spiritual studies about being in the moment. Like many people I’ve read the Power of Now. I get it. Life is about being present, because those moments when you aren’t present can not be replayed. You can’t say, “Oh wait, I wasn’t paying attention, can we do that again”. Have you ever had a conversation with someone when they were telling you something important and you suddenly realize that you stopped listening 2 minutes ago and were worrying about a project at work or a situation at home.? It’s happened to me and its a sure sign that you need to take a DEEP breath and hit the proverbial pause button.

Aside from the fact that this kind of over extended life stops you from being present and living in the moment, it also never gives you a chance to recharge. Technology has us so plugged in that many of us, myself included, are completely bereft of boundaries. We work constantly all hours of day or night. Weekends are no longer opportunites for relaxing and enjoyment . They just become days when we work from a location other than our office. Long weekends like this one present an opportunity to get more done, rather than an opportunity to relax, spend time with family and friends, read a good book, sit in the sunshine, go for a walk. Enjoy ourselves.

The incident in Walmart scared the crap of out me because there was a long moment when I had absolutely no idea where I was. Pretty much the opposite of being in the present moment. I was also exhausted, depleted and just plain blue.

Sometimes we have to just stop trying to get things done. Don’t get me wrong, being productive and organized and getting stuff accomplished is great. Its only a problem when you find yourself standing in the middle of a Walmart superstore with someone looking at you as if you’re a dangerous nutcase who might at any moment pull a machete out of her Nine West purse and start swinging.

The lesson I learned this weekend is that I have to take care of myself and give myself time to enjoy life so that I’m able to handle the necessities of my life with clarity and focus and without anxiety. I know that it is in fact possible to be present doing something as mundane as your weekly grocery shopping or the dishes. I took a class at a Bhuddist center last year and one of the practices I learned and love is that of dedicating mundane tasks to the good of all living beings. I’ve washed dishes, having made a silent dedication and taken great pleasure in the process of warm soapy water and squeaky clean dishes. I find the dedicating of a task like that helps to ground me and forces me to be more present.

I also realize that in order to do my work and handle all my committments at the highest level, to play my best game as it where, I need to be rested and happy. Not overwrought and anxious. Had I done all the work on my list I would have come out of the weekend tired and even more stressed. Not a good way to start out a week that I know is going be very demanding.

I guess sometimes you have to scare yourself into being present. If you’re wandering aimilessly in a superstore or anywhere else feeling scattered, disoriented, irritated, confused, lost, overwhelmed, tired and anxious, then you need to stop.

So here it is late Monday afternoon. Memorial Day The long weekend is drawing to a close and you know what? After the Walmart incident, I stopped. I didn’t do any of the things on the list. My friend came over for brunch yesterday. We had a great time catching up, even though my floors weren’t mopped and the carpet hadn’t been vacuumed.

Superhero came over last night and we spent the evening listening to music, talking, drinking wine. Today I didn’t work. We slept late. I made omlettes which we ate on the deck. Then we sat there soaking in the sunshine and watching cars and bikes go by on the road below. We laughed and talked and were silent. Every so often one of us would remark on the blueness of the sky, the beauty of the trees or the sweetness of the breeze. We were totally in the moment. This afternoon I was no place other than where I was.

Now SuperHero has gone home to do his laundry and I’m sitting on the deck with my laptop. When I’m done with this post I think I”ll grab a book and read for a while. As for the list, it will all get done eventually. For now I’m enjoying this moment. Not only that, but instead of skidding into the coming week, tired, anxious, stressed and depleted, I’ll go into it feeling relaxed, clear and ready to take on all the tasks that I need to accomplish! After all, “It ain’t killer bees people”!

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