“’Wilmet, when you work for your living – and I hope you may never have to – you find that there are some days when you can hardly bear to do your work, and others when you definitely cannot bear to. This has been one of those days. I woke up this morning knowing that I couldn’t bear it, so I didn’t go.’
I hardly knew what to say. Neither sympathy nor reproach seemed quite what was called for.”
Barbara Pym, A Glass of Blessings
I’m finding the return to working five days a definite challenge. It’s been many years since I had to do that, and when I did, I had a cleaning lady twice a month, so I didn’t have to spend my precious weekends cleaning my spacious apartment, and I (usually) finished work around 3:00 pm, so I had time to run errands and go to the gym as I walked home up and down the San Francisco hills.
Now I get up about half an hour later than I did then, but I get home around 5:00 pm if I’m lucky, and I drive about 250 miles a week to do it. Everything is closed when I go to work, and it’s closed when I leave work. It’s not easy going back to prison once you’ve escaped, and it’s been a long time since I was in the hamster cage. However, the cage is currently the best case scenario – the alternative being a tent or cardboard box on the family property – so I have had to find a way to cope. I’m working toward a sort of transcendental acceptance. Not there yet, though.
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
- A dear friend sent me a book on how to do yoga anywhere, including while washing dishes, brushing your teeth, in the shower, even at your desk in the hamster cage, and I’ve been doing that as much as I can. I try to be conscious of my posture and breathing, even in the car.
- I downloaded an app called Calm to my phone, and every day I go and sit in the car and do a five minute meditation. I forgot to do it this past Saturday, but before that I did it every day for three weeks.
- I try and jump on the treadmill at Mark’s before work, and succeed most days. Unlike the rest of the world, exercise makes me tired and hungry, but not notably more tired than I already am from getting up at 5:00 am. Not for the first time, I wish my parents had sprung for the deluxe package with the endorphins. Bonus: it’s extra reading time! So far, I have found reading is the best distraction from the horrors of exercise.
- I savor every moment of joy, whether it’s just cuddling Roscoe in the early morning darkness before I get up, or the golden sunlight slanting through the eucalyptus trees, or the parting of the trees when I get my first glimpse of ocean for the day.
- I spend as much time as I can with my family and friends. This is also one of my resolutions for the year, and just knowing I’m meeting Megan, Lu, and Rik for dinner and a play this weekend can help raise my spirits (even though I have to fight not to be depressed on Saturday afternoon because it’s almost Sunday and who can enjoy Sunday with prison doors yawning?) Also, you can either have fun or get things done on the weekend, but you can’t do both. Nor will you have time to recharge your aging batteries.
- I try to be thankful for what I have: a roof over my head (admittedly quirky); a car that goes (though not paid off or even close to paid off); family and friends nearby. Angelika says she tries to be thankful for even small things, like a cup of coffee, and I’m trying to do that, too, though I’m more successful on some days than others.
Neither sympathy nor reproach is called for, though I’d be glad of any advice or suggestions!
A YEAR AGO: Rob the handyman.