Saturday, November 3, 2012

Shelter in Place--the Paid Time Off Edition

For the past 3 years, this week-end would be the one I would spend at Mepkin Abbey: communing with monks, walking the grounds, reading, reconnecting with friends, and working on writing projects. But because of a series of events, we moved our monastery trip to February, and I found myself home alone while my spouse flew to his board meeting in North Carolina.

I decided to go ahead and take yesterday off. I'd gotten my Paid Time Off leave time approved, and the end of the year approaches, when my PTO evaporates. I decided to have a day spent in writing projects and contemplation.  I had planned to have a monastery-like week-end here.
It both happened that way and didn't happen that way. I did get some work on writing projects done, but not the ones I planned to work on. I did do some cooking, but not the bread baking that I planned to do. To be fair, even the Mepkin monks no longer do their own bread baking, since Brother Boniface died. I walked the grounds here, but I was mowing the lawn.

Once again, I am struck by how easy it is to get a variety of projects done when one doesn't have to go to work.  I put together the care packages that I've been wanting to complete and get mailed.  I went to the post office and got a free parking space, and even though there's always a line at my post office, it moved quickly.

I went to the library.  I got books that are hot off the press, including the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook!  I always feel like I've won a rare prize when I find a book at the library that I'd consider buying, so I get to read it for free.  I also got Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home, which I read much of yesterday.  I'll do a more complete review later, but for now, let me just say that I liked it much better than her original happiness book--but the stuff that I liked about The Happiness Project is still there:  it's rooted in her daily life, and it's got good lessons for all of us as we try to live good lives.

I'm most intrigued by silence issue.  One of the things that exhausts me most about work is the constant interactions with people, people who are often not in a good mood.  Not all my days are like that, but far too many are. 

So, yesterday, I looked forward to having minimal interactions with other humans. It both happened that way and it didn't.  I had a few interactions (at spin class, during errand running), but for the most part, I didn't talk much.  I didn't talk much, but I had NPR on most of the day. Our NPR station doesn't switch to music until much later in the night, so my day was filled with talk.

By the end of the day, I was feeling a bit of anxiety. I often feel a bit of anxiety as the sun begins its slow descent. But I think I also felt anxiety because of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Would I feel the same anxiety if I didn't live on the other end of the hurricane corridor? There's that survivor's guilt that comes from having dodged a bullet. There's that terror in knowing that the odds are against me. How long before it is me without power and water, picking up the sticks of my smashed house/life?

After our disastrous hurricane season of 2005, I was desperate to move.  For a variety of reasons, that didn't happen.  In the years since, I've noticed that no place seems safe on a wrecked planet.  At least you can see a hurricane coming, in a way that you can't with tornadoes or earthquakes.

I am amazed at all these people who are so surprised/outraged that it's day 4 or 5, depending on how you count, and they still don't have power restored.  Really?  Really???!!!!   I could have told them that it would take time.  After Hurricane Wilma, we had people down here who were without power for 3 weeks.  And our storm was much smaller.  Our power was restored after 8 or 9 days, and I understand the exhaustion that comes from being plunged back into parts of the 19th century.  My friend, who got power restored even later, came over to take a hot shower and to bake the muffins that she eats for lunch.  I told her to stand under the hot water until it ran out.  She did.

But I am also so deeply sad for the people who lost everything.  Still, part of me thinks, didn't these people watch the Weather Channel?  I spent all of last week-end monitoring the storm, and I knew it would be a disaster.  These people in the path of the storm could have evacuated, unlike me, where evacuating would take at least 8 hours.  Why didn't the people at the New Jersey shore load all their valuables into their cars and flee on Sunday?

Ah, hindsight, my mother would say.

By the end of the day, I was ready to turn off the radio.  It's not as quiet in my neighborhood as it is at Mepkin Abbey, although both places have gun noise in the background.  I should explain:  we usually go to Mepkin Abbey, which is deep in the South Carolina rural countryside, during hunting season, and in my neighborhood, I'm always hearing noises that might be cars backfiring, firecrackers, or guns.  Those of you who live in more peaceful, less populated places might be horrified, but down here on the southeastern, non-Keys tip of Florida, very few neighborhoods are immune from pops, bangs, and other loud noises.

We grow used to our surroundings, so I fell asleep easily, undistracted by random noises or the possibility of future storms.

And while I like getting away during my Paid Time Off days, I found yesterday very nourishing too.   It was great to get chores done, great to have time to focus on writing tasks, great to have time to read--without having to drive or deal with the airport.  And there's the happiness of a week-end still to enjoy!

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