Usually I feel like I have way too many things to do, and days go by way too fast. I am shocked by how little I get done, and I don’t know where the time went, and I start the next day feeling behind. I expect you know what I mean. This sense of being harried is why we’ve had writing groups and the Top Left Quadrant group, after all.
However, I have recently discovered the secret to slowing down time, and for what it’s worth, I’ll share it.
Don’t do anything.
Since the beginning of November, I’ve been sick with some sort of respiratory crud. Recovery is steady but very slow. For the first week, I didn’t even try to do anything. If I wasn’t in bed, I was on the couch (or on one warm day, on the front porch). I did a little bit of scholarly reading in a book that is sufficiently off my usual path that, although it is surprisingly useful, I would not have checked it out if I were not on leave. Mostly I napped or stared out the window or read fun books, since I’m not a big fan of TV, and anyway the TV is in Sir John’s lair because he likes to have it on when he works at home. So I could read a few pages, and look out the window, and read a few pages, and zone out for awhile, and then find that maybe 30 minutes had passed. I did not cook, I did not do any housework, I most certainly did not go to the gym.
Now I’m back to doing some work, and some cooking, but I’m still taking it easy and the days still seem long. I’m sure the sense of pressure will return as my health improves and I get more worried about Doing All The Things. That is, I would love to believe that this experience has somehow permanently changed me so that I can maintain this zen-like calm for the rest of my life, but I doubt it. It is definitely an interesting shift in perspective, though, and while I’d rather not have got sick, I’m enjoying the sense that the main thing I need to do is rest and recover, and any other little things I get done are gravy.
So I guess this is why people try things like the “Three Things” approach to to-do lists (no more than 3 things per day) and why you get advice about going out and staring at the sky for 10 minutes when you feel stressed. Looking at nature is a way of slowing down time and getting away from the harried feeling.
If I were teaching, I’d be very worried about missing classes, and would be pushing myself to get to school or keep up with students via online assignments, and it would all feel awful. And then I might be like my colleague who had this or a similar illness and for whom it advanced to bronchitis so that she has been sick even longer than I have. I wonder whether next year, if I get sick, I’ll be more willing to stay home and get over it rather than toughing it out. The thing is, I usually wonder if I’m malingering, if I just don’t want to go to school and deal with people. This year, I’m quite sure that that is not the problem! The problem is that I’ve had a nasty virus. And since I’m sure of what the problem is, the usual nagging voices (you should go to school, you’re such a slacker, you’re not that sick) have shut up and are leaving me alone. I don’t feel guilty about staring out the windows, or watching the cats, and when I get back to work it’s because I really feel like doing a bit. If I can retain even a little bit of this calm after I’m fully recovered, I’ll be grateful for this illness.