Like many people worldwide, Omicron threw a wrench in our family’s vacation plans. There we were, all set to drive down from Georgia to Florida as we do every year to visit family. But then a few symptoms and a positive result – and then another and another – meant that we would be staying home instead. Thankfully, we were all vaccinated and could therefore deal with our cases at home.
For the first time since I entered the working world so many decades ago, I found myself working for a place of employment that closes up shop for the holidays – almost two weeks’ time. I was also in between semesters (I now have one remaining until I earn two master’s degrees). What it all meant was that when I wasn’t sick in bed, I’d been given the gift of free time.
In fact, I still have one more day of this fabulous gift left. Today.
I found out that I, like teachers I know whose households were also hit by Covid-19, was able to clean out cabinets and closets, organize pantries, empty out boxes in the garage, hem pants, take care of bill paying. It might not have been the most exciting vacation, but in a way, tackling the never-get-to-it list, even if only in a limited fashion, gave me a sense of accomplishment.
And this, to me, is odd. Not only because keeping an organized house isn’t the end all in life. But because I also didn’t get to finish the book I had hoped to read. I didn’t get through the interminable pile of papers on my desk need to be filed or dealt with. Nor did I sneak in the work I wanted to get done for my job.
Instead, I tried to nap when I felt like it. I watched quite a bit of television (let me know if you want recommendations!). I worked a little on genealogy research (okay, that one I tend to do year-round anyway). While I successfully ignored the time-suck of a game on my phone for the first half of the break, I caved in and played during the second half. And so, I actually felt unproductive. And this makes me regret not using this precious gift of time more efficiently.
For many, January 1 is the time of resolutions, of promises one makes to eat healthier, exercise more, get organized, stop bad habits, accomplish goals. And very soon, we all let those goals fall by the wayside.
Part of the reason resolutions are not kept is that we fall back to doing whatever it is we have been doing, behaving however it is we have been behaving, instead of taking the long-time steps needed to make change. Especially if that change requires self-discipline.
Knowing that changing habits is not easy, all kinds of tools exist to help people. Apps that take a 21-day or a tiny steps approach to making change. Paper or online organizers and to-do lists. You name it. I know, I’ve tried many. But none can force people to use them, to adapt the habits of incorporating the tools themselves into one’s life. The desire for change has to outweigh the comfortable inertia of not making change.
So what do we do? We hope. (Not a strategy, by the way.) Maybe we visualize. Then again, maybe we prioritize and make our goals so overriding that we do change our behaviors. We have to want something more than we want to do whatever it is that we are doing (or not doing) at this moment in time.
So, when we are given the gift of free time, it becomes a one-off opportunity, one I haven’t had probably since I was once unemployed for a few months back in 2006. While I regret not utilizing it to its fullest and am certainly sorry I was not able to visit my Florida family at this time, I am also grateful. These two weeks were a gift. Though my scratchy throat lingers, yesterday I finally tested negative. And for this I am thankful too.
May we all have a healthy year. May it be both productive and restful. But no matter what it brings, may we find reasons in it for gratitude.
Now, off to read that book!