I’ve been trying to relax when I have the opportunity lately. I work part time although I often seem to be involved in work activities most days and some nights. Partly that’s because I love what I do, and partly it’s because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and fuss over doing the best job I can. So I’ve been consciously trying to take days totally away from work –as I move towards retirement – even keeping the computer turned off so I don’t see emails.
I planned to have Friday totally off work . It was a wonderful day. I had time alone to do yoga, meditate and write, I caught up with friends for lunch, went for a walk with my husband, chatted to my kids and went out that night to our book group – a pleasant wine and conversation filled evening to top off a glorious winter’s day. I had said I would pick my daughter up from her baby sitting job as I was driving home that evening (only a few wines mind you). The parents of the children she was minding assured her they would be home between 11 and 11.30 so I waited, basking in the glow of the day as 12.00 stretched on towards 12.30. Even though we didn’t finally arrive home together until 1.00 am I was still feeling remarkably sanguine about the delay, although I was very tired. Being awake at 1.00 is a rare occurrence for me these days – snuggling into bed by 10.00 to read is more usual.
I slept soundly and woke slowly – no alarm. As I lay there and stretched I felt an incredibly warm inner glow – I didn’t HAVE TO do anything today. It was Saturday and the day stretched beyond me, unplanned, with many options but no commitments. I hadn’t had such a feeling for so long. I was revelling in how wonderful it was to go from work-a-day frenzy to such a blissful state of letting go when the phone rang. It was only when I saw the person’s name on the screen, at the same time as I saw the lateness of the hour, that realisation hit me. I was supposed to be at an appointment that I had completely forgotten about.
I have never forgotten an appointment before in my life! This may seem an exaggeration, but it is not. Growing up as the eldest of six in a fairly disorganised household, I assumed the role of family carer and organiser early in life. Being a working mother of three and, for a period of time, a single working mother, has meant that my life revolved around my to-do list, diary and family calendar on the fridge. In professional life Outlook’s calendar was added to the mix. I was influenced by Stephen Covey’s work about being proactively aware of what is important in life and making sure you make time for important aspects such as family, friends and self care through being organised. I was involved in seminars at work on time management and prided myself in being able to balance everything in my life through organising the year, month and week in advance. I don’t forget birthdays, I don’t forget to take what I need with me (I put it on a table near the door before I go to bed) and I NEVER forget appointments. I have been aware of how I shaped my life so nothing slipped through the cracks. I was increasingly aware of how this left no empty space – no clearing of opportunity – in which to sit and ponder, to daydream, to let go and see what happened.
The experience of forgetting shook me far more than seemed reasonable – after all, no-one’s perfect. I felt lost – not me. In my trance I had failed to look at my carefully constructed guidepost – my list for the week where the appointment was clearly marked. My first thought was – naturally – early onset dementia. A close relative had just been diagnosed – although she was in her eighties. I was acutely embarrassed that I had let someone down – wasted their time – as I failed to show. It seemed that in the reverie of letting go I had lost my ability to be conduct a life in the world.
As I relaxed I had let down my guard – my constant vigilance that is aware of what is required. Is it safe to relax? Is it possible once I leave work to live with a sense of ease and spontaneity without risking letting people down? I’m really tired of juggling all the balls of life without dropping them. I wonder if it’s possible to be relaxed yet stay aware, open to what happens yet maintain a background structure of organisation. I know my body and mind are telling me that I need a break – a block of time to in which to flow with life and risk not being in control. Maybe instead of getting lost I may find the juggler. I’ll keep that table near the door though – my photo for this blog.