Racing the clock

Each thing I do I rush through so I can do
something else. In such a way do the days pass—
a blend of stock car racing and the never
ending building of a gothic cathedral.
Through the windows of my speeding car, I see
all that I love falling away: books unread,
jokes untold, landscapes unvisited. And why?
What treasure do I expect in my future?
Rather it is the confusion of childhood
loping behind me, the chaos in the mind,
the failure chipping away at each success.

– Pursuit, by Stephen Dobyns

The other day, I was trying to console Anya with a calendar. She was huddled in my lap, crying for her mother – and not only did I have to work, but I had to work late. So I pulled up my calendar and showed her the current date. I pointed out the days – three – that I would have to do a lotta lotta work. I then pointed out the weekend (no work!), and my upcoming time off (no work and a trip to the zoo and a birthday party!). And it all meant nothing because she wanted her mommy and she wanted her mommy RIGHT NOW.

Sigh.

Children do not understand delayed gratification. And why should they? It sucks. I’ve been delaying for a couple of decades now, and I’m freaking sick of it. I am ready to have some sort of reward for all my hard work. So I paused for a bit after work and took her for ice cream before picking up the freelancing again.

The culmination of this line of thinking came later that evening. I worked til 9:30, then started my nightly routine – which I usually start around 8, so I had to hustle. I was blitzing through my shower, listening to the gears in my head go okay gotta get up at 5:30 tomorrow so I’ll just shower real quick (gosh it’s late I’m going to wake up with wet hair again) and then Anya and I will meditate and maybe read a story then watch cooking show oh what if Kai needs to nurse that always throws a wrench in it maybe I should nurse him then meditate, and some internal voice rose above the chatter and said Stop.

I realized why I have such a hard time sleeping on nights like this. It’s not because I have so much work to get through in such a short period of time. It’s because I get myself all amped up just thinking about it – and who can sleep in those conditions? I had already mentally prepared myself to have a crappy week (just buckle down and push through it, rush rush rush, you can have relax and fun on the weekend), and it was only Tuesday.

I’ve lived my whole adult life this way.

And now it’s going to stop. This is no way to live a life.

I took my time in the shower; gave myself a scalp massage, and slowed down my usual shaving routine so I didn’t give myself razor burn. And I let myself play on the internet a bit after Anya and Kai went to sleep, though it was quite late, because I need down time. (We did meditate, but I did so while holding a squirmy, nursing toddler – not the most relaxing meditation session.)

This is not a race. I won’t get a prize for finishing my work quickly. I do derive some benefit in that the faster I work, the more I can do…but I should never, ever let that come ahead of taking care of myself and spending time with my family.

We are worth the time.

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