Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Best Moment of a Busy Day

When I attach myself to a project about which I feel passionately, or to a project that seems huge and has a deadline, or to a project that has many steps, I have a tendency to work on that project until it is done. I have been known to immerse myself for hours in such projects---sometimes days with only breaks for the necessities. I love to focus on something and think it all the way through---one of the reasons I loved lesson planning. Some might say I get a little over-immersed, at times forgetting to eat or staying up all night. This trait probably helped me reach some of the high points of my academic life, though certainly it isn't limited to that realm.

With the impending move, there is a large part of me that wants to work straight through until next weekend (our big move date). I know that I could pack and pack and pack and then unpack it all in one big adrenaline rush---the urge to make progress and to create the new nest is very strong. I have felt that way about many projects since Kate was born---and that trait is one reason why I knew I needed to take a break from teaching in the classroom until I better learned to manage that trait and to incorporate into my life a new kind of balance that having a baby has asked of me.

One of the most difficult adjustments for me as a new mom has been starting and stopping tasks at someone else's pace. This is different for me than simply multitasking---I multitasked everyday as a teacher. With multitasking there is a sense that you are working on several tasks at the same time and making equal progress on all of them still at a pace mostly under your control.

Letting go of this "focus on what I must get done" mentality is challenging for me. I have had to work on shifting my sense of time and to recode my to-do list each day into tasks essential for happy survival (making food, providing clean clothes, etc) and, well, all other tasks. What I "must get done"---while in my teens and twenties would have been my preoccupation to the exlusion of other things until it was done---now becomes "what I hope to get done in a few days."

In short, Kate is teaching me how to slow down and how to put playtime in the middle of tasks, as opposed to at the end of tasks. She is teaching me how to be fully present with someone even when my mind thinks it needs to be planning or strategizing its way through a project. She is teaching me to accept that there is time enough for everything, and to have faith that all things will be done in their due time. She is teaching me not to comparmentalize my time into work and play but instead to turn all moments into a hybrid of play-work.

I have also learned that if I really take time to be fully present with her, say, in the morning right when we wake up, that she is more likely to have the confidence and desire to self-entertain for some moments after that I can catch up quickly on correspondence or write the grocery list, etc. On days where I have been more hurried and goal-oriented, rushing through breakfast, getting dressed quickly, I have noticed that she is not as content. So, I have been building a slower start into some of our days, take time to reassure her that she is loved through play and attention.

This is difficult during a move. I am basically running around every spare second and putting something in a box and making mental lists...and yet trying to give an unhurried, unchaotic vibe to my daughter. Everyday I learn more about having patience---especially with myself.

When we got to our new house this morning, I unloaded my boxes and bags (we try to take a load of things over everytime we go to work so as to be most efficient). The old me would have wanted to unpack them immediately (and then drive home to get more, but that's waaaaaay out of my league these days), but I knew that my priority was to make Katie feel loved, to give her a happy memory at our new home, to make her day stimulating and fun, something to dream about when she sleeps.

So, we blew up the wading pool and tucked it in part sun and part shade under the overhanging pepper trees, which were dappled with golden sun. Katie seemed to enjoy herself, and there was a magic about the pool hidden away among the branches and leaves. I felt more relaxed too, as if there really is time enough for it all...

Katie in her cover-up with her ball


Amie fills up the pool and Kate tests it

Playing with my baby

And there was time enough for it all...and more. Uncle David and Evelyn came for a visit, and there was time for a walk, time for building a snail a bed out of rose petals, time for delicious Peony's for dinner, time for Kate's bath looking out on a fir tree...and yes, time for unpacking and talking about the move and prioritizing the remaining projects to be done before the move.
Life provides all the time we need, or rather, all the time we have. We may think we need more, but I really believe that everything is, was, and shall be---all at once. Time is a human concept, but science and religion agree that it doesn't really exist anyway. So we should feel the beauty of each work or at play.