I don’t have a job, i.e., I don’t go to work and get paid, but I do work, and some of the time it feels as though I work all the time. Should. Got to. Necessity. Important. Major consequences. If I don’t. . . .
Time. I don’t have “enough” of it, and I have fewer blocked-out obligations than most people I know. In fact, the days I have to be somewhere I usually worry less about time than when I have the whole day to myself. Like today: it’s already one o’clock and I haven’t “had time” to wash my face or brush my teeth. And sometimes I don’t even have time to go to the bathroom!

Things to do. So far today I’ve called IRS, and Social Security, and left a message with my Dell sales rep, and e-mailed pictures of Paul’s installation to Sherri at the SGN office. But I haven’t taken care of hygiene, physical or spiritual, and I haven’t started gathering the year’s worth of checking account statements I need to come up with a monthly balance for my yearly housing renewal. And I’ve got to find my savings account number. I need to e-mail the customer service reps who’ve written to ask if my computer problems have been resolved. I still haven’t retrieved my Word files from the old computer. There’s always housework. And I haven’t even thought about anything as sensible as having lunch.

I remember, when I worked in Washington, D.C., at the National Education Association, how on the weekend I’d bring home what I was sure was five or six hours of work–and steadfastly not work on it all weekend, feeling worse and more desperate all the while, constructing scenarios of doom if I didn’t, till about nine o’clock Sunday night, when I would decide that it was too late even to start or try. And I’d be free, deliciously free. Monday morning I usually got everything done in about an hour. Somehow I never seemed to learn not to bring it home with me in the first place.

This is the first time I’ve thought about that pattern in relation to the feeling of being overwhelmed I have so often now, in the leisure of my enforced retirement.

I remember, too, procrastinating before exams in college, the misery of that, and how studying was usually positively pleasant compared with avoiding studying. When I get to doing the things I put off or am afraid of doing, usually I feel much better than I did.

What if I DID take care of everything as it came up, got dressed and washed my face and brushed my teeth first thing, instead of spending half (or more) of the day in my nightgown? What if I did handle the proverbial piece of paper only once and attended to e-mails promptly? What if I wrote phone numbers in my address book instead of on little pieces of paper that I lose usually more than once?

Then I’d have the blocks of time I say I want, to read, to paint, to make collages, to knit, to meditate, to be. And my photography wouldn’t be a stolen, nine o’clock on Sunday night pleasure the way it sometimes (not usually, thank God) is. That would be good, or so I say–but I might have to face the loneliness that I’m afraid would do me in if I didn’t defend against it. I’ve realized, in the writing of this blog piece, that when I’m overwhelmed with undone tasks and obligations, the “loneliness” feels worse, so I have even less motivation to accomplish the tasks and obligations that I could do in a Monday morning hour. But when I do that “hour’s work,” I can be with, if not necessarily fix, the emotions and issues–what I call the loneliness–I’ve been avoiding. “Being with” is a lot like studying for an exam: a lot less painful than the alternative, dreadful as that may seem in prospect. Maybe I’d better get to work. I can assemble the bank statements tonight; if I want to, I can do the math tomorrow.

Note: “Death and Taxes” can be found on my photostream at Flickr.com.
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