When is the last time someone invited you to pee in a cornfield? Yesterday? Last month? Probably much too long ago, says I.
But wait, let me go back to the beginning….
Recently I allowed myself an entire week off work. Ok, admittedly, I caved when Friday rolled around. I knew my email would be overflowing, so I went to the office to spend 3 hours cleaning it up in preparation for the coming week. Now, I say allowed myself an entire week off because that is literally true. I allowed it. Usually I don’t. My daughter’s condition and other medical and family responsibilities often require me to miss work for conferences, medical appointments, consultations. It causes me a great deal of guilty stress, feeling that my flexible schedule somehow represents a failure to apply myself properly to my career. I think a lot of working moms or dads in similar situations will understand what I mean by that. Torn between two worlds and two demanding sets of responsibilities.
In the company I work for, your birthday is given as an extra annual holiday. Which is a super cool thing for our corporate office to provide us with. Since my birthday was last week and since I also had to be away from the office a second day for parenting obligations I convinced myself that the world would not stop if I added three more days and provided myself with some serious quiet and relax time. After all, I have 6 weeks coming and typically only use 2 weeks at most, scattered through out the year with a week between Christmas and New Year. This was something I was desperately needing.
I didn’t go anywhere overly special during my vacation or do anything exceptionally exciting. I enjoyed a mostly low key day trip with family during my first weekend off, and had a wonderful day shopping for back to school items with my mother and my daughter on my birthday. I took a solitary road trip to test out my new camera. Other than those events my time off of work was spent largely around the house doing chores, attending school open house, visiting the doctor, paying my bills. The sort of business that usually ends in…UGH. Definitely not what you typically think of when you day dream about a longed for vacation.
One thing that especially sticks with me from my time off is the pure joy of being boss of your own time! Holy freedom and flexibility Batman, there is nothing quite as satisfying as having control of your own time and decisions. My position as a senior manager of 90+ employees may give the impression that I’m already my own boss. But that would be a little bit of an illusion. I’ll admit that my corporate office is typically hands off when it comes to micromanaging and I rarely hear from them. Still, there are other forms of control that are just as burdensome as working to someone else’s pressing agenda. Things like full responsibility for profitability, legal compliance, worker safety, and providing enough leadership to keep the organization on track.
I have been blessed with a team that by and large always comes through for me. They are mostly self- directed. They know their jobs, they understand what needs to be done and when push comes to shove or when impossible deadlines are imposed on us, they rise to the challenge. I am routinely amazed. It never seems to lose it’s affect for me and that makes me ever the more grateful for what they do.
Of course the other side of the coin is that any time people gather with the intent of accomplishing one objective, there will be anything but one direct path toward reaching it. Inevitably as much as they awe me, they can also thoroughly exhaust me. It still surprises me how easily coworkers will throw one another under a bus, or how freely they will spread gossip. How unabashedly they will file a complaint against a team member they have worked closely with for years. How much exaggerated indignation they display when the train travels the other direction on the track. How guiltlessly they will take credit for work they didn’t do or knowledge they don’t have. In general, just how much DRAMA people can create.
However hard I work to make my visions clear and my objectives easily understood there will always be at least one in the crowd questioning my intentions, absolutely convinced that my sole objective as manager is to take advantage of the working guy. That it’s all part of a conspiracy to hold them down. That I probably receive these orders from President Obama directly. There is always at least one who unexposed to the workings and regulations of administration, will question whether I really do any work at all or whether I’m even qualified to assert my direction on them. Some who will complain that I assert too much direction. Others who will complain that I don’t assert enough.
I’m sure you understand my point; being manager doesn’t exactly mean you have control of your own time. That’s to be expected and I’m lucky that the greater majority of my team is truly nothing short of exceptional! Never the less, words fall short when trying to express how truly satisfying being boss of my own time feels.
This is where my next revelation came to the surface. Not only was it nice to have control over my time…but even the tasks I don’t normally like, seemed somehow.. better. You would think that doing laundry on your vacation day would feel like an imposition. Normally it feels like a chore that’s just shy of being of a pain in the a**. Just one more thing I’m trying to cram into a day that requires me to suck up a bit more energy. Something to rush through and feel relieved when finished. Yet, I didn’t experience those feelings last week. Perhaps it’s because I could choose when I wanted to tackle the laundry and when I didn’t. I could choose to start it, leave it unfinished and then return to it or to do it all at once or spread it out over the week.
I fully enjoyed the fresh scent of laundry taken directly out of the wash and the feel of warm towels pulled from the dryer. With each load I felt less of the normal agitated relief and more a sense of satisfied, maybe even purposeful, accomplishment.
I was at one with my laundry. I know, it sounds crazy. Right? But it was ZEN like….
Guess what? Laundry wasn’t the only thing going right for me. Typically I make the beds 99% of the time before leaving for work in the morning. Mostly that’s because I’m OCD and also I’m pretty certain that house elves enter my home at random during the day and the mean little pips will report me to a higher housekeeping authority if I’m not in compliance. While I might be in compliance, at least on most days, it’s typically a helter skelter flipping of the covers over the mattress and tossing the pillows, hopefully, somewhere near the head of the bed just before running out the door.
Ah, but not last week!
Last week bed making was no longer a mandatory chore I barely had time for. No sir, it was an out and out art form! Covers were straightened, balanced on each side, smoothed to perfection, pillows were fluffed and spaced evenly with decorative pillows landing in a deceptfully precise method of carefree styled randomness. I wasn’t rushing out the door…I was sauntering across the room, throwing open the blinds for sunshine and lifting the sash to feel the cool morning breeze. I was leaning against the dresser, taking in the entire room, noticing the play of light on the bedspread, smiling at the cat who made haste to undo my finished creation and lay claim to her preferred napping location. I was running my hand across the top of the bed as I walked by and coming back with oil infused linen spray, which I made myself, and placing my seal of perfection on the scene before casually moving to the next task. Whatever that might be…. I would decide later, perhaps after another cup of coffee.
This is what freedom with your own time does for you. It CHANGES you. It slows you down. It lets you see. Hear. Feel. Appreciate things just a little bit more!
It has taught me things like:
Getting up in the morning doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Not when the absolute bliss of savoring a cup a maple walnut coffee on the patio lays ahead of you.
Reading a book and getting lost in a book are two very different things. Carving out time to fit in some reading is essential for me. But it doesn’t compare to the kind of reading that allows you to fully connect with the characters. To do the detailed work of creating the scene before you. Of creating an alternate world to step into.
Fresh asparagus and a newly picked tomato from the garden can rival any gourmet meal when you eat when and what you want and you don’t have to cook.
There is a difference between a shower, and a long lazy retreat under steamy hot water, followed by crisp cool refreshing spray.
My hair looks a hell of a lot better when I have the time to let it dry naturally
Silence can truly be golden. It can be comforting, relaxing and make a moment feel full where others might sense it to be empty.
The joyful expression of a special needs child when the waiter places a plate of meatballs on the table before them….. is nothing short of priceless.
Strangers notice when you are at peace.
Smiling more is good for the spirit.
When you lose all the chatter in the world. All the voices and demands that consume your life. All the negativity, sarcasm, complaints that people tend to heap on you… you begin to really hear your own thought.
For quite a while now I have been asking myself the question and pondering the sad reality that I might be depressed. That perhaps I have allowed myself to be defeated by the stress and trials of life. That perhaps I have even become jaded and skeptical. I am delighted to report, that when left to my own devices, allowed to enjoy moments on my own terms without any other opinions, needs or responsibilities superimposed on my thoughts, I am an abundantly optimistic person!!! I still find joy in the simplest things. I can still laugh out loud even if I’m alone in a room. I can still day dream. I can still hum a tune without needing to censor myself. I can appreciate a cold drink of water and a soft breeze, the sound of birds, the movement of trees, and the color and smell of grass.
I can go an entire day without letting a worry interrupt me, or a negative thought possess me.
I have learned that childhood summer days still exist. You know how a day can seem to drag on forever when you’re at the office and thinking of everything else you need to do? You know how a day seems to slip away in the blink of an eye when you have a day off? Now remember when you were a child. When summers seemed to stretch on forever. When a day was full. From sun up to sun down you had a hundred adventures and you were saturated by living at the end of the day when you slid under the crisp cotton sheets? Those days still exist. Days when time continues to flow but it flows like a lazy river, twisting and turning along the way.
I learned that a two and half hour solitary road trip is anything but lonely. Especially when your mind if preoccupied with seeing. Really looking and really seeing.
I learned that you can pee by a cornfield at the edge of a nearly forgotten cemetery with no one but a deer present. Hmmmmm, well, perhaps that’s a little TMI! But I don’t care. Because on that day, for that time, I was more free than I have felt in a decade. There was no one there to make fun of me or shake their head in disapproval. In that kind of state of free happiness social graces simply don’t apply! And in my defense I had a handy supply of Kleenex and a fast food bag and so that you know, I absolutely did not leave litter in that tranquil place I was so blessed to visit. 🙂
That is why I ask….when was the last time you were invited to pee near a cornfield? Because if you haven’t tried it lately, I highly recommend it!
Finding opportunities to be boss of our own time and our own thoughts is a hard thing to do. But one we must absolutely try for. It may be a long, long time before I see another week like that and admittedly just 2 days into my week back in the world of reality, deadlines, demands, and schedules I find myself struggling not to fall back into the depths of robotic functioning and rushed experiences. Those feelings of optimism and simple pleasures are ones I will strive to hold on to when I find myself being worn down by life.
Perhaps these are not things I actually learned on my private staycation so much as they are things I have remembered. Knowledge inside of me that I have let myself forget and that I will hopefully remember for a long time to come!!