Sunday, December 8, 2013
The world stopped. But our overly productive selves never stop except on those rare holidays—Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Black Friday started on Thanksgiving night this year, and Starbucks now stays open year around.
This ice storm left me three days to be at home with the possibility to not be productive. Wait, that's impossible. I have so much to do. I. Never. Stop.
But I thought I would practice.
A morning spent trying to keep my 22-month-old fireball entertained left me whipped. I tried to nap during my toddler’s three-hour siesta, but instead I lay there disappointed that I wasn’t being productive. I could write that travel article, get ahead or clean this house a second time. What about those homemade chocolate chip cookies I wanted to make? But sitting and just being was a waste of time, I wistfully thought.
This morning I woke up to my Sunday morning e-newsletter, Brainpickings Weekly, and after my failed napping experience it slapped me in the face.
“’How we spend our days,’ Annie Dillard wrote in her timelessly beautiful meditation on presence over productivity, ‘is, of course, how we spend our lives.’ And nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life – in the city, high on the cult of productivity, where we float past each other, past the buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone earbuds and solipsism… But while this might make us more efficient in our goal-oriented day-to-day, it also makes us inhabit a largely unlived – and unremembered – life, day in and day out.”
We don’t know how to slow down, and we unwittingly balk at leisure, which is something I say I value when seeking life in an ivory tower.
But this weekend it wasn’t safe to drive on the glossy roads, so this busy city and busy girl were forced to stay in.
My husband stayed home from work Friday, and the two of us spent the weekend sharing sweet and simple moments with our baby boy. The snow outside was quiet, and our house even quieter. It is as if the ice muffled the obnoxious buzzing of the outside world, which is especially loud during the holiday season.
We went to the store this morning. Everyone was unusually friendly. Strangers even spoke to each other. People must have been tired of being alone. The same butcher that normally bellows “NEXT” to an army of customers engaged me in small talk about driving on ice. He was cheerful, not stressed. It was as if I was living in a different world for a few moments.
Is this what life could be like if I spent my days differently? I wish to practice presence over productivity more than I have. So I thank this ice storm for forcing me to stop chasing goals and rest with the achievements right under my nose.