A morning when I can sit and write, dog curled up on my left and coffee cup on my right, is usually something I only daydream about. Yet here I am, having this morning today.
The day won’t be all relaxation and leisure — there are always things to do and places to be. But for now? I’ll take this bliss. When I opened my writing file, the title of the following piece caught my eye. I kind of remembered the content, but not specifically, so I opened it. Written a year and a half ago, the piece focused on our often chaotic everyday life, and how I recognized “slowing down” as something to pursue.
Looking back now, I’m satisfied with my efforts to simplify things in my life. Granted, there are still times when I’m in maximum overdrive mode, but for the most part, things have calmed down. The one thing that had fallen off my radar was the concept of scheduling down time, so even if a day is spiraling out of control, I know there will be a set time to stop for a while. Stop moving. Stop stressing. Stop worrying. Stop planning for tomorrow and days ahead… Just. Stop.
I decided to reprint the essay here, because reminding ourselves to just stop is often a constant battle, even though things have gotten easier. Our current status is three high-schoolers and one in elementary. BUT, two high schoolers have their own transportation now, so I’ve been relieved of shuttling duties for the most part. I do feel like an Uber driver some days, but they’re fewer and farther between. Regardless, scheduling a quiet day (or even a quiet hour) would be welcomed. And let’s face it… a few minutes’ respite is always a good thing.
A Good Thing
While I’m not a full-throttle Martha Stewart devotee, I do love me some Living magazine throughout the year. I generally take her ideas, tips, recipes, etc. with a grain of rosemary-infused sea salt, integrating those that fall in line with my abilities, pantry inventory and required effort. (Although she almost lost me as a follower the day I received an email titled, “Life-Changing Laundry Tips.” Seriously. Want to give me a life-changing laundry tip? Tell me someone’s coming over to my house to do all the laundry.)
One of the magazine features that never fails to catch my eye is Martha’s calendar, in which the gentle reader gets a glimpse of what I’m sure is a scaled-down version of M’s monthly To Do list. In my most recent issue, the calendar spanned December and January. I’ll admit — I did enjoy a little wistful daydream as I read of her pre-holiday prep, which included decorating her tree and taking a horseback ride the same day. Imagine! We were lucky to have gotten our tree completely decorated in one day, with rearranging the living room to accommodate said tree, weeding out the strands of lights that decided to crap out on us this year, and tasking the kids with selecting only a few of their personal ornaments to hang among the wide array of family ornaments that needed branch real estate.
And then I saw it.
There is was, on January 10 — nestled between “make lemon curd” (and a horseback ride!) on the 9th, and “prune topiaries in greenhouse” on the 11th:
“Quiet day: plan garden for spring.”
Of all the daily agendas I’ve read over the years, I don’t remember seeing anything like this. Let me be clear — it wasn’t the garden planning that stopped me in my tracks.
Leave it to Martha to reach into her hand-knitted bag-o-tricks and pull out a show-stopper like that, which, as she would say, is a “good thing.”
My own inclination toward slowing the pace in 2016 was instantly reinforced. I mean, if Martha’s going to stitch in a quiet day every once in a while, why shouldn’t I? The truth is, I’ve been really needing one. Or two. Or twenty. Here’s a sampling of what could be considered a “busy” day for me so far this school year:
5:20a Wake and go for a 30 minute run
6:00 Home, coffee, shower
6:20 Wake middle-schooler
6:25 Wake middle-schooler
6:45 Threaten middle-schooler
6:50 Drive middle-schooler to school
7:20 Home, wake 1st grader
7:40 Walk 1st grader to bus
7:45 Home, wake high-schoolers
7:50 Wake high-schoolers
8:00 Threaten high-schoolers
8:15 Drive high-schoolers to school
8:45 Arrive at work
1:45p Leave work
2:15 Pick up middle-schooler
3:00 Home, fetch 1st grader from bus, work at home remainder of afternoon
4:15 Pick up high-schoolers, transport to off-site sport practice
5:00 Home, begin dinner, begin laundry
6:30 Pick up high-schoolers from practice
7:00 Home, dinner
7:30 Help 1st grader with homework, clean up kitchen, continue laundry
8:00 Start 1st grader pre-bed routine
8:30 1st grader to bed, tell middle- and high-schoolers to shower
9:00 Remind middle- and high-schoolers to shower, continue laundry
9:15 Threaten middle- and high-schoolers
10:00 Lights out for kids, continue laundry
11:00 Tell myself to get to bed
11:15 Remind myself to get to bed, finish laundry
11:30 Threaten myself
This is just an average sampling. Some days are less busy, some are even more chaotic. My husband is a firefighter, and works a 24-on/48-off schedule, so the days he’s on duty, I’m the Alpha Parent. (Those are the truly chaotic days!) On his off days, he totally picks up on critical items like cooking dinner, which is awesome. So, you can see how the idea of scheduling a Quiet Day is more than just a little appealing to me — and after 2015, it’s a requirement. Looking back over the past 12 months, a high-level glance would show a roller coaster that lurched to incredible highs and devastating lows. In between the peaks and valleys, the ride was rickety, bumping along at breakneck speed. Sure, there were enjoyable parts, but the feeling of constant busy-ness kept me from ever really relaxing enough to fully recharge and restore myself.
I had already planned some changes for the new year — not so much solid resolutions, but rather a general change of lifestyle. I need to slow down, place my focus where it should be — on my family, close friends,… even myself. I’ve grown tired of reaching each weekend feeling like the preceding week had chewed me up and spit me out. I was spending weekends feeling like I was treading water, and before I knew it, the week began and I was pounded with waves again. Yet despite doing this week after week, I still felt like taking time to relax and recharge was selfish. How could I possibly justify sitting down to write, read a book, or cruise HGTV with unfinished projects, clutter and laundry waiting in the wings?! I know a lot of other moms feel the same way. How did we get to this point? How many times have we forfeited what we “want” to do, for what we feel we “should” do? Cue the Mommy Guilt.
If all it takes is actually inking in a Quiet Day into our schedules, then let’s get on that train. Pick up those calendars, planners and smart phones. Pick a day, any day. Write it down. Make it official. We owe it to ourselves to set aside one day a week, or month, and regroup. Recharge. Rejuvenate.
My first Quiet Day is scheduled for Sunday, January 17, 2016.