Wednesday, August 13, 2014

That's My Spot

I got up on Monday morning and looked out onto my patio to see something disturbing. My husband, who was off the first few days of this week, had set up his computer on our patio table.

He had taken over my outdoor office. I mean, who told him he could do that?
When I told him (à la Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) that he was in my spot, he very nicely offered to share.

Share? But, but, but…I usually have the whole patio table to myself on Monday mornings. I get up and pack my daughter's lunch, she heads off to her volunteer job and I set up shop on the patio table, where I work until my laptop battery hits the red zone, at which point I take a shower and do things like eat lunch, run errands and grab a Starbucks. It's a tough life.

It's funny. Of the three of us in this house, I am the least routine dependent. My daughter and I joke that my husband is the Sheldon of the house. She's change-resistant, and I've always been the flexible one.

By comparison, I still am the flexible one, but the older I get, the more stressful I find flexibility to be. No, I wasn't really stressed out by moving my laptop to another location, nor would I have been stressed out by sharing the table with my husband, had we not had a workman a few feet away fixing our door. The noise from the power tools, coupled with the usual low-grade Monday morning neighborhood noise was enough to distract me from the task at hand: turning a blank page into a blog post.

One of the nice things about having the house to myself during the week (besides the lack of distractions) is that I have the freedom to work wherever I wish. That said, with the exception of my patio, which serves as a universal workspace, different tasks tend to be done in different places. If I'm not out on the patio, I usually write in my office or at the dining room table. Class prep can take place at the dining room table, in the family room or in the living room -- but rarely in my office. Some of the issues are space related -- my office affords much less space to spread out than the dining room table -- but others are sheer habit. The basis of routine.
The power tools at my house and the mowing a few yards down were eventually silenced, allowing me to join my husband on the patio. Then again, I'd already used my own virtual power tools to break through the wall of silence created by the blank page on my computer.

Last week, one of the secretaries at the college said she couldn't imagine retiring because she needs a routine. I responded immediately that she would quickly develop her own.

As it turns out, one of the things we fear about retirement is the possibility that days will just dribble away -- the very thing we long for when we are working full-time and vacation days are finite, delicate and rare. And so we do what we know: we create lists and routines to make sure that at the end of the day, we've done something useful.

But it's also important to remember, not just at the end of the day, but all through it, that what is useful in life is not just things. Days where we check things off the list are nice, but there's a reason we spend much of our lives longing for days we can just while away. It's not practical, but perhaps practicality is overrated.

I suspect that Sheldon would disagree, but that's okay. I don't want to be Sheldon.

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