Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watching the shadows

Does everyone feel so short of time these days? I find myself lurching from one task to the next: washing, dishes, nappies, floors, school run, paperwork, quick cuddle and dinner time. In between there somewhere I set up activities and help put them away, hang up paintings to dry, tidy plaits, brush everyone's teeth, help kids with buckles and buttons, wipe snotty noses, wipe down the bench, buy our groceries, put away everything the baby's pulled out of a cupboard... Recently, friends were over for a visit. I'd made scones and cuppas and we were eating and chatting while I cleaned the kitchen, put away dishes, folded socks. 'Just sit down,' someone said. And I looked at them, only half laughing, saying 'Sit down?! I only sit down for breakfast, lunch and tea!'. And kept at my tasks as we talked.

I don't mind being busy most of the time. I enjoy a bit of bustle. But I don't seem to be able to rest even when I should. I have a few hours today, and am having an internal battle over how to spend the time. Write, read, go to the gym, weed the garden, go out for coffee. If I weed the garden, I can't go to the gym. If I read, I feel I should be doing something more productive. If, God forbid, I went to a cafe, I'd feel like I'd wasted my time off, even although I need a little downtime. Especially now, especially today - it's the first day of my period, and I'm wrecked. I should go lie on my bed and watch the shadows of the wattle tree dance across the wall. I tricked myself into keeping away from the gym by having a shower this morning (I have eczema, and can't have two showers in a day, ergo can't go to the gym where I'll end up stinking to high heaven). But I don't seem to be able to stop myself from Doing.

Because there is so much to do, a world full of interesting things I want to learn about, investigate, experience, explore. But when's the last time I went for a stroll along the creek? Sat down with a sketchbook? Watched the clouds?

I tell myself again and again that everyone has the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. This is what it is to be human, to live on Earth. It must be enough time for me, because it's enough time for everyone, and it's all we're ever going to get anyway. But how do I decide how to spend this hour, or that? When is the housework paramount, when is reading aloud more important? When should I write, or read, or draw? Garden? Stay fit? Sit still for a moment??? How do I find ways to rest that are renewing, re-creating, restorative?

Like all decisions, the parameters change daily. I'm forever weighing up this choice or that, or feeling guilty about a moment's idleness, or apologising for a task enjoyed, as if somehow my enjoyment means the task is not valuable. I drive my partner mad with my struggle to learn to kick back and do nothing. Protestant roots go deep. They should and can be nourishing, but at times they have a stranglehold that drives out life and suffocates. I don't want to look back on my life and see nothing but a whirlwind; I want to recall a life dappled with moments of calm, moments of delight. Moments observable only when there is a little breathing room.

Which brings me back to now, and the internal battle raging. Reading back, it is clear what I should do. It is time to go and lie on my bed, and watch the shadows dance.

1 comment:

  1. Good choice, Ali, but I understand how hard it is to make it.


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