I’ve been placed on furlough, so I have had a lot of time to reflect. Here are a few lessons learned so far:
1) You can’t take too few showers
There’s unfortunately not much else I need to say about this. Other than it’s true.
2) Voids will be filled
Aristotle was right. We’re on Day 8 with the furlough, and you’d think I’d be bored by now. Eight hour days and a 3 hour commute–11 hours to fill a day. Yet somehow I feel busier than ever. And I haven’t even tackled those larger projects yet (move some garden beds, purge baby clothes and toys, organize photos, get a safe deposit box, clean out the garage, create world peace). But create a void, and it will be filled. There’s always something to be done. I had hoped to get a lot of writing done. Instead I’ve managed to avoid showering.
3) I’ve built a great life
#2 leads me to this. I’ve filled the void not with frantic tasks and busy work. Well, there is some of that out of necessity. But overall, it’s been a natural progression of doing what resonates. Catching up with friends. Baking. Cooking. Sharing my creations. Reading. Listening to music. Exercising. Gardening. Spending time with my kids. Watching the sun set. Meditating on the beach. Writing. Golf. I’ve realized I’ve got a lot of different and fun interests that fulfill me, I haven’t been at a loss of how to spend my time in satisfying ways.
4) I am not my job
And #3 leads to this. I felt a twinge of humiliation when I filed for unemployment. But it dissipated quickly. I haven’t done a bit of work in a week. And I don’t miss it. My work used to define me to a great extent. My professional self and accomplishments were very important. Guess not so much anymore. I still love my life’s calling, helping others, but I see now it can be accomplished in so many other ways large and small. My job title does not define me. I am not at a loss not being at work because my purpose in life is actualized in the many moments and interactions of my day, every day.
5) Walks make all the difference
I usually pick up my kids on my way home from work–I get them from after-care at the school, and we drive the mile back home. There’s been something about the mile walk to and from school that has altered the baseline of our existence. Something about walking through the windy wooded paths, breathing fresh air, talking about our days. I’m not distracted by traffic. They’re not fighting about whose turn it is to talk–it’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re holding his hand. We’re operating like actual human beings. We’re petting fuzzy caterpillars, looking for frogs in the creek, gawking at deer, and acting like civilized human beings. When we get home, there’s magically no fight about getting homework and music practice done before dinner. With each step, we connect a little closer. With each step we lay down our bothers.
6) You can live without a lot when there’s no paycheck
I was Costco’s wet dream. I would be good and walk in with a list–grapes, bagels, milk, a side of beef, 300 eggs and a machete and tomahawk combo (true story–that they sell it; not that I bought it. I can’t handle a ceramic blade knife safely, never mind a real weapon), and I walk out with 10 pairs of wool socks, jeans, pork jerky, 6 pounds of tofu, 5 pounds of ravioli, 50 Post-It pads, a bundt pan, a snow shovel, a sleeping bag, 4 Michelin tires, 3000 feet of foil, and a Dyson vacuum cleaner in a pear tree. When you don’t know when you’ll get paid next, suddenly it ain’t so hard to walk out with just grapes and bagels–screw the milk, water has fewer calories. What seemed like great deals and a good idea turns into excess when you know there won’t be a paycheck this week. I might take just the pear tree though to grow our own fruit if this furlough continues.
7) I like structure
How the hell does one gauge the passage of time without deadlines and standing meetings? Good God, I keep rolling the trash and recycling out to the curb on the wrong days. Truth be told, I did this all the time before the furlough, but I’m going to use this as my excuse now. But seriously, this lack of structure, though good, can be a little too freeing. I can’t even remember to get my mail every day. What?? Today’s not Sunday? Hell, it feels like a weekend.
8) I suck at making lists
I will never make a living as a writer. I envy the witty, clever writers who can succinctly make meaningful points through lists–the Top 5 Reasons Why The World is Ending or 10 Reasons Why I Am Not Successful But You Are…Look, I can’t even end my list on a good round number. And none of these lessons are anything you, the average reader, could use. This is just about Me, ME, and ME. Apparently I can only make selfish lists, or Costco shopping lists.
9) Self-care can be easy
They say you shouldn’t wash your hair every day–that frequency dries your hair out. I can’t even tell you when I washed my hair last, much less showered (see #1). See? I am learning to be kinder to myself!
So that’s it for now. In the meantime, keep calm and furlough on.