This weekend I decided on the spur of the moment to drive to Neighboring State and visit my friend Clarabella. A while back, she had invited me to come up for this weekend, but I’d thought that some prior plans would prevent me from going, so I’d had to decline. Once it looked like the prior plans were falling through, I got the brilliant idea to just head up there to see Clarabella as a surprise anyway. Boy am I glad I did!
I am not at all the type to engage in spontaneous travel — it’s pretty rare for me to drive the 8 miles to Neighboring TOWN to go to Target spontaneously, so a trip to Neighboring STATE usually takes at least a month’s time to decide on and plan. I suppose it was partly the stress and rottenness of the past week that led me to the conclusion that I urgently needed to escape New Wye. It may also have been, however, the daunting length of my to-do list that had me literally heading for the hills.
I had two classes’ papers to grade, another class’s midterm exams, a conference paper to write, and a pile of paperwork to prepare for my annual review. Not the best time for an out-of-town trip, you say? AU CONTRAIRE, MON FRÈRE. It was exactly the right time.
Some might be inclined to think that postponing these pressing tasks is some form of self-sabotaging behavior, but here’s how I think about it: it’s almost always at the times when we most desperately need to clear our heads and recharge our spirits that we are least likely or able to do so. Usually when we have heavy responsibilities pressing down on us it seems to mean that there is just no time or opportunity for the “non-essential” things — and we tend to think of a few things as “non-essential” that really aren’t. Err, that are not non-essential. That are essential. (Yes, writing teacher here, what of it? Editing, at this point, really is non-essential.)
In trying to be more conscious of my health both mentally and physically lately, I have realized that a few things I’d once had the tendency to neglect are actually of very high importance to my sanity: cooking good food at home, exercising, quiet time for (non-scholarly) reading or writing, spending time with people I care about and miss. If I don’t have these things, I tend to get a little off kilter. In other words, “no TV no beer make Homer something something.”
This may all be a way of rationalizing skipping town to drink whiskey and talk and watch Dollhouse with my BFF, but results don’t lie: before I decided to surprise my friend by showing up for the weekend, I was staring down the barrel of that daunting to-do list with dread, frustration, and resentment. Once I made the decision, however, I was able to get work done before the trip with a new sense of purpose, and since I’ve been back I have quite spiritedly and efficiently busted through a shitload of those daunting tasks. (Possibly partly attributable to the pot of coffee I’ve had between 6pm and now.) Plus, when I showed up at her door unannounced (and I can’t believe I managed to keep that secret for even 24 hours), my friend was literally jumping up and down in her kitchen. I think I will have to make it a goal to make my friends jump for joy more often.
All in all, I think taking a little time off — in spite of the looming deadlines — was the best thing I could do. As far as the deadlines go, I’ll make it work; I always do. And you? Do you need to recharge your spirit too? Go ahead and do it. You can tell Them I said it was OK.