Tuesday, June 22, 2010

White Space Rules!

Last Thursday was the last day of school, so I designated Friday as my transition day - a day to switch from school schedule to summer schedule. Unable to keep school details and summer plans running simultaneously in my head, I had just been jotting the summer stuff down where I could reference it, waiting to use that first day off to make the mental switch and transfer everything onto its appropriate calendar page.

Except that first day off wasn't last Friday, it was the Friday before that. Oops. Not even two weeks into vacation and already, my weeks are running together. My calendar is organized, but my brain refuses to follow suit.

I've realized that there are two factors at work here. One is that transitions, no matter how desirable, take time. They require a mental adjustment and aren't nearly as simple as flipping a switch and saying, "okay, I'm adjusted!" Consequently, just entering appointments into the appropriate slots does not successfully complete the transition from one way of life into another.

During the final weeks of school, for example, the kids were downshifting into summer mode. Some - many in fact - looked as though they were revving up, but what all of them were doing was preparing for a change. Some parts of that change would be good (lots of free time, no homework), and some would be difficult (saying goodbye to teachers and classmates, uncertainty about what lay ahead). Depending upon the children and their ages, this downshifting could look very different, but regardless of age and circumstances, it was a process. None of them simply flipped a switch on the last day of school. All of them (subconsciously, at least) prepared for it, and took some time after the fact to adjust to it. They didn't know they were doing that, of course, or that they needed to, but instinctively, they did it.

As adults, we often deny ourselves transition time; witness my foolish belief that taking a day to update my calendar constituted a transition day! We assume we should simply glide from one thing into the next, regardless of any adjustments that may be necessary.

Which brings me to the other factor at work in this flawed plan. One of the most wonderful aspects of summer vacation is that it doesn't need to be planned to within an inch of its life. I learned when my daughter was young that we needed to have some structure in the schedule - today we're going to the library, next week you have a camp - but that it's just as necessary to have days where we simply sleep in, lounge around and figure out what we want to do as the day goes on. (Those days are still my favorite!) And, strange as it may seem, moving from a packed schedule to one where relaxation prevails does take some getting used to.

So, what I really did nearly two weeks ago was map out a structure, an act that not only defined parameters and made sure the important stuff was scheduled, but that also revealed that blissful benefit rarely present during the school year - white space on the calendar pages. Now the trick is to protect that white space, and not allow projects to take over, turning the summer schedule into an annex of the school year schedule.

Maybe my brain has the right idea, refusing to go along with this organization thing. Fortunately, I have some time to get used to the idea.

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