I’m a list maker. I like making lists and plans, then recording my progress in various colors of ink. On my
walls are two dry erase boards, each with its own purpose, three calendars, and giant post-it notes for brainstorming. All are written in many colors.
I have charts for recording my writing progress each day, and charts for how much exercise I’ve done, of what sorts. Each evening, I make a plan for the next day, and most days, I stick to it. This probably goes against the picture a lot of people have about the creative personality–all this planning and listmaking seems very type A, doesn’t it? In truth, it’s the only way I’ve ever found for reigning in both my ability to be absolutely languorous and conversely, mentally racing through 500 tasks at once. I have trained myself to do One Thing At A Time (breaking the rule for household tasks and talking on the phone–I don’t consider that multi-tasking. Obviously, God designed the phone for women to have someone to talk to while doing chores).
This week, I had lots of plans. I meant to finish the hard-copy editing of Cooking for the Dead, and block out the scenes I need to add. I had planned to go to yoga twice, work with weights twice, walk 30 minutes each day.
Instead, I’ve been gently derailed all week. I say gently because it was nothing dramatic. No one is ill or upset. I’ve had a minor virus that’s not doing much of anything except making me really tired, so I drape myself like a cat over this couch, that pile of pillows, yawning and dozing and learning how to flip houses from 700 shows on about the art. I’ve been arranging a trip, which seems to be going slowly, too, and we had a very intriguing surprise guest from Argentina, and of course, I had to gently coax her story from her, because that’s what I do, collect stories. Charming woman. And tomorrow, I’ll be orienteering again, another orange. (CR has been training all spring for this week’s events, so if you can spare a thought for speed his way, please feel free.)
I have maybe read about six chapters. Scribbled notes about one scene. Captured a new character who walked on stage and insisted she be heard for the new, brewing book. Walked the dogs two or three times, but even that was almost too much.
As I headed home from one such walk, I felt guilty that I’d missed yoga. I missed because I was just too weary to imagine it. I did an ambling walk in the fresh cool morning to ease the kinks, and that took all I had. (It sounds worse than it is, so don’t anyone worry or anything. ) It occurred to me that I’d listened to my body, which is what yoga would tell me to do. I hadn’t the energy for vigorous asanas. I hadn’t the energy to work with weights. I didn’t have the mental acuity to edit my pages.
What a lovely recognition. In peacefulness, I slept a lot more in the basement. I watched three episodes of the Sopranos back to back, and the Kate Winslet move Holiday, and My House in Umbria, with Maggie Smith, which was absolutely charming. I read two novels. Today, I was refreshed enough to take a long walk with the visitor from far away, and listen to her story.
On Sunday evening, I’ll make my lists and plan my time, because that makes me more productive. On those empty blocks of chart I have waiting on my walls, I’m going to draw smiley faces in different colors, because what I did was recharge the batteries, and that needs doing, too.
But this is also something I need to notice, something I tell my students and then forget to practice: I need down time. A lot of it, actually. I tend to overextend myself mentally, and then fall to an exhausted heap as I did this week. I like to order my time, but I need to notice when that little voice is saying, "Um, can we go to the movie? Please." And go. Play time needs to go on the schedule.
Goes back to being present. Now. Every day.