Diagnosis: Productivitis

I woke up one morning last week with a startling realization: I was caught up on everything I needed to do. I had turned in my latest writing assignments, sent the invoices, graded that week’s work for my writing class, bought a birthday gift for Miles’ friend, finally mailed that letter to my grandfather, and even remembered to send in the check to the class mom for the teachers’ Christmas gifts. Of course, there’s always more to do. But let’s just bask in the moment of caught-upedness for once, shall we?

One of my students wrote this great essay about buying a hammock for her backyard, only the seasons came and went and she would never “allow” herself to use it. Every time she thought about sinking into that hammock with a good book, she’d remember some bill she had to pay or some errand that needed to be done. Can you relate? I know I can.

So when I found myself all caught up, it was a strange and unsettling feeling. Yet I fought the urge to instantly go find something that needed to be done. Step away from the washing machine! I went to the gym. I bought some magazines. I got coffee. I sat and read my magazines and sipped my coffee in the car before preschool pickup, instead of madly trying to squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store on the way there.

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that finding time for oneself is a recurring theme. But perhaps the real issue is TAKING time for yourself, that is, allowing yourself to -- gasp! -- do nonproductive things on occasion.

My parents both retired recently. Lifelong teachers, they have always had somewhat workaholic tendencies, from my perspective. There were always papers to grade, recommendations to write, books to read, and committee meetings to attend. Now, it’s strange yet refreshing to hear them talk about taking hour-long walks, joining book clubs, watching movies, and making homemade animal crackers for their grandkids. (OK, that’s just my mom.) I feel happy for them, yet envious at the same time. Will I have to wait 30 more years before I can find and justify the time for an hour-long walk?

I fear that this “getting stuff done” obsession of mine will make a bad impression on Miles. Right now, he’s content to lie on the rug and play with his trucks all afternoon. (Not by himself, mind you.) Whereas I can take maybe 20 minutes of that before I’m itching to jump up and check e-mail, unload the dishwasher, get started on dinner, or return phone calls. If I feel I haven’t accomplished anything concrete by the end of the day, I get depressed.

For a couple of days, though, I was able to enjoy the feeling of being on top of things. Then, inevitably, things started to slide. This morning I woke up to find pee on the toilet seat (gross, I know, but inevitable with a potty trainer in the house), an empty roll of toilet paper, gobs of toothpaste in the sink, yesterday’s clothes all over the floor, soggy bath toys in the bottom of the tub, an overflowing laundry hamper -- and that was just the bathroom. Downstairs in the kitchen and family room, the scene was even worse.

So did I sigh, shrug, and skip off to find some coffee and magazines? I did not. I plunged right in, before I’d even been fully awake for 10 minutes. Then I started feeling guilty about not following up with a client I’d been meaning to for weeks, for not yet washing and replacing the shower curtain and bathmat (don’t ask), for forgetting to line up a sitter for next weekend, for not getting a jump on my Christmas shopping. Some say guilt is a useless emotion. Some say, live in the moment. Some say, forget the latte, wash the pee off the bathmat, and get back to work. I wonder who that could be?

Xmas outfitDEAL O’ THE WEEK: I got this adorable Christmas outfit for Miles over the weekend, at Sears of all places. 3 pieces for $20 –- not bad, huh? And how about these tiny stuffed animals from IKEA for 49 cents apiece? You could stuff the stockings of every kid in the neighborhood for that price.

LAUGH O' THE WEEK: Miles and I were having a tickle fight on the couch. He tickled my belly and then asked, "Is the baby laughing?"


katie said...

OK, this is another post that really speaks to me. I strongly believe that kids are really over-programmed and over-scheduled these days. So much of that has to come from the fact that parents (myself included) are freakish multi-taskers always on the go. Good for you for taking a few guilt-free days, and thanks for the reminder to TAKE some "me time".

Also, your laugh o'the week is so darn sweet! And, what a perfect extra little nudge to tell us all to sloooooow down. :)

lizarosenberg said...

This was a great post. I've got one suggestion for a correction, though.

"This morning I woke up to find pee on the toilet seat (gross, I know, but inevitable with a MALE in the house)..."


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