6.05.2009

The Power of Now(thing)

Admit it: you have thought, more than once, how nice it would be to live alone with nothing to do. You have thought this when your kids demanded one too many things once too often or when your spouse is the direct cause of many and multiple, painfully boring errands. You pictured yourself, just for a moment, without people to clean up after or without people to argue with under your shared roof. You imagine it would be heaven.

It might be heaven for the first few days but heaven, after a few days, starts to get -- I hate to admit this -- boring.

Being in a long-distance marriage now, I have no one to pick up after, no one to cook for, no one to fight over the remote with. It's all me, all day, all alone. Charlie's working, so his life during daytime is no different. He extends his workday out to ten p.m. since it's what he knows and why he's there. He works on a memo, does his laundry in the break room, works on a report, has his dinner at his desk, works on a policy, and watches something on Hulu while he prints it out.

I wake up when I want, don't shop 'til I want, eat meals of popcorn if I want, and nobody knows differently. What I do or don't do doesn't affect anyone in any way. I don't have to cook according to Charlie's health so I don't.

In fact, I know all the flavors of Ben and Jerry sold both at Target (two for $5 last month!) and Safeway (two for $7 the month before). I don't think I ever ate Ben and Jerry's before. I know we didn't have it in the house before. Charlie didn't like getting tempted so I didn't get tempted. Now we're both giving into any temptation, anywhere. We both call each other up and whine about how much Ben and Jerry's we ate, and we do this several nights a week. Is this because we're bored, we're lonely, or we're not good at resisting temptation alone?

For me, it's a problem knowing it's there and know it's there all day and all night and all the next day, too. Eventually I'll get hungry or worn down enough to talk myself into a little Ben and/or Jerry. There's just not enough going on during the day to get me thinking about much else. There's not much going on during the night, especially, obviously.

You know how you have to squeeze in laundry or shopping on a busy day? You don't have to do that when you have nothing to squeeze. I could do laundry next week and it wouldn't matter. I don't ever have to clean the bathroom. Nobody and nothing's waiting for me to do it. I could sleep all day and, unless someone calls and figures out that I was, in fact, sleeping, I could get away with it for weeks. There's no reason to do anything now so it's an effort to do anything now.

In college I took 26 credits one term and 27 the next. You weren't allowed, but I figured out the system and did it. I was in school from 7 AM to 10 PM. I had a half an hour break here and an hour there. In that time, if I didn't do my homework, I wasn't sure I'd have time to ever do it. You can guess what happened: I made the Dean's list. I got a letter on University stationary and everything. This is within a year of graduating 327 out of 422 in my class. It was the weirdest thing.

In my later college years I was pretty sick of academia, what with teachers thinking they knew everything and all, so picked a major I didn't really have a use for but with which I could graduate in two terms. I only had to take twelve credits for two terms. Even though I was working part time, I had plenty of time. Too much time. I sat around an incredible amount. I got fat, I ate doughnuts, I took too much time analyzing lyrics of the same songs over and over. It was not a good time. I blame my free time.

Now I'm back with too much free time. Doughnuts scare me too much, even though they're free at Krispy Kreme today, I don't want to go backwards. It's Ben and Jerry's or nothing now. Funny how something that should give you a little pleasure, like doughnuts, reminds you of your bad self and you can't even force yourself to eat a free one. Watch out, Ben and Jerry: this could be your future.

I thought I was disciplined. People told me I was and I believed them. I'm the one who always motivated my husband and I don't recall it ever being the other way around. He says, "make me work out," "make me run," "make me fix the electrical outlets." I've never said anything like this to him (particularly about the electrical outlets). I always have a list and I look forward to checking everything off. When you have had four kids and when you've taken 27 credits, you figure you know a little something about motivation and time management. You got a half hour? You'd better be doing laundry.

Turns out that's not completely true. I'm in my time management rebellious stage.

My worst time management black hole is probably yours, too: the internet. It's the biggest time waster since analyzing lyrics of the same songs over and over, but better. You actually look like you're working, as opposed to looking like you're a lazy ass listing to the same songs over and over.

Email is worse. By all appearances you seem to be moving things forward, to be communicating and to be solving problems. I don't believe it. You might be communicating and sending information back and forth but it isn't moving anything toward anywhere. If it is, it's not that way all the time and you're lying to yourself. Just look back at your emails and prove me wrong. As one of my friends says, "When I'm right, I'm right and I'm right."

I could be wrong. Nobody is as lazy as I am right now so I'll stick with what I know, and that's me. And what I know now about me, after living a month on my own, telecommuting my own marriage, is that I really need to know somebody's eventually going to sit in the same room with me and have to smell me. Somebody, besides me, will suffer the consequences of going one more day without showering, one more day in the same clothes, one more time not blow-drying my hair (the worst!), and one more day not playing artist on my face. It's a lot easier to fit a lot into a little space of time rather than fitting almost nothing into any old time.

It's easier not eating the Ben and Jerry's when you don't buy it because your spouse will suffer. It's easy, once you start running errands, too, to keep going and run them all. It's easier to clean the bathroom when you know someone else has to use it. It's easier to get off the internet when you have to start work.

Okay, none of these things are all that easy. The only easy think I know is watching TV and not changing the channel for three hours even though you don't want to watch what's on. That kind of easy is what happens when you're on your own and you don't have to share the remote, the couch is comfortable and the Ben and Jerry's is in your tummy, weighing you down. It's an uneasy kind of easy. You're a lot lazier than you thought you were, and this is something nobody should have an opportunity to realize completely in all its glory.

So the next time you daydream about the day you (or your kids) move out and you don't have to drive them everywhere, or the day your husband is off to a conference for a week and you don't have to cook or clean, the day you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, without restrictions . . . stop! There's a reason Eckhart Tolle wrote "The Power of Now" rather than "The Power of Nothing."

Okay, power might be over-rated, as well.