The Plagued Parent

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Time See What’s Become of Me

Mother Nature has a bit of a cruel streak when it comes to New England weather. Last week she dumped 14 inches of snow on us and today she come back with another 3-5. My wife checks weather on her phone and says with regret, “Well, I guess this isn’t actually going to keep me out of work tomorrow after all.”

When push comes to shove, we really look to get out of work, school or any other of our scheduled responsibilities. There are days when not having to drive my daughter to her 7pm Friday soccer practice — that’s right 7 pm on a Friday —  is a glorious gift. Don’t even get me started on my level of enthusiasm when my own classes are canceled.

If we want to stay home so much, then are we spending the precious light of our days all wrong? Or, have we simply been conditioned to complain about needing to work in order to survive?

I wonder if, millions of years ago, some Paleolithic man jumped for joy when he looked out his cave at the raging blizzard. I wonder if he scrambled excitedly for his iPhone to see if there was a text canceling that morning’s drum circle and wooly mammoth hunt? Or, fast forward to the 17th century when some Wamponoag Indian sighs when the monthly meeting in the longhouse got cancelled because the plows haven’t come around yet. Oh, what a relief.

I love my job. It’s “easy” — in other words I am good at it — and it offers a sense of fulfillment. But still, given the option, I would prefer someone to pay me to  sit around  in sweats and binge on Netflix and The Walking Dead all day long finally catching up to Season 5. C’mon, priorities people.

Or instead of having to read and correct sometimes dreadful academic papers, maybe I could sit at the kitchen table troll Twitter, Huff Post, the NYTimes, and spew words into the blogosphere without ever having to change out of my pajamas. Or better yet, finally finish the new Don DeLillo novel that keeps getting pushed aside.

I guess it all amounts to our view of “work” and our view of work in relationship to what we call “our time”.

What if it’s not about avoiding the work at all?

Maybe it’s not work we love to wriggle out of, but the increasing and demanding constraints on our time — the sheer over scheduling of things? On one level, I wonder if our true selves reject the notion of perpetual to-do-lists, jammed calendar boxes scribbled with colored inks, or shoehorning our daily lives into hourly increments.

Time, time, time see what’s become of me…

I hear the Simon and Garfunkel song “Hazy Shade of Winter” in my head  — and think that most of our anxiety is bred from our weird-assed relationship with time. The voice of the song laments how he fears the possibility of not getting out all of the lyrics his mind contains — he fears the “winter” of his life while he lives in the blossoming “springtime”.

Maybe that’s our paradoxical hangup — our schedules occupy us with meaning and purpose, but leave us feeling a bit controlled, constrained by someone other than our own selves. While this may be perception, it explains the overwhelming satisfaction at seeing our work or school scroll by on the television news having finally made the cancellation list.

The joy of the snow day, the unexpected cancellation, or cancellation for the purpose of a sanity day, emerges not from any desire not to work but in the relief of seizing control of time and making it your own.

In the end time is the one thing we can never hold back, so I suppose any instance where gaining a little “extra” is certainly cause for celebration.

 

The Bangles’ decent remake of the Simon and Garfunkel song — again a decent song, but totally cheesy 80’s video…

Updated: February 21, 2017 — 8:29 am

18 Comments

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  1. We had 31 inches of snow in the Bangor, Maine area where I live and it was the first time in many years that absolutely everything was cancelled! I share your love for all things cancelled and the reclaiming of time. Trouble is, I had not anticipated how much time I would spend outside helping to shovel over and over again while the snow fell in drifts. Then there was the roof raking and more cleaning up with another storm two days later…..Ugh!

    1. The roof raking is the one thing I am so glad we don’t have to deal with being south of you guys in Bangor. I cannot even imagine. This is the price we pay when the beauty of summer emerges. Sorry it was such a time-suck for you. Rest up and get ready for the big thaw… Thanks Molly.

  2. Last year we had a huge blizzard on a Friday that got cleaned up over the weekend. The kids had school on Monday. They still complain about it!

    1. I am with your kids on this one, they should have gotten the Monday off — it ought to be a rule for weekend snowfall. Thanks Shari.

  3. There is something very soothing when the white fluffy stuff if falling from the sky. That’s the only part I like though. Driving through it is a b****.

    I live on the other side of Lake Ontario from Buffalo. We got about 6 inches 10 days ago, but that was the first snowfall since December. We had a heat wave over the weekend (around 50 F) and it’s all melted away.

    I remember so much more snow when I was a child. While I don’t really mind that we don’t see much anymore, I really do worry that this is a result of global warming. Am I allowed to say this on a U.S. site???

    1. You can say whatever you want on this U.S. site. I can’t believe that your winter has been so mild, it astounds me and of equal astonishment is the fat that anyone would dispute that our globe is warming… any fool can see and should acknowledge that fact… Thanks Marian.

  4. I agree that it is not the work I want to avoid (easily said when I work for myself) but the luxury of unscheduled time.

    1. I wonder if the “self” is the toughest boss after all…

  5. When I worked in Higher Ed we had snow days every season and they were always a bit magical. While I love being my own boss (most days…), the excitement about a surprise “free day” is certainly missed.

    1. Thanks Amber. Let me know and one of us can send you an “official” email ordering you to cancel due to bad weather, good weather, or just your general sanity.

  6. We have been in Summer in Australia and it has been so hot I can’t imagine the snow. I agree that it is the busy lifestyle we lead now that makes us yearn for time away from our responsibilities. It isn’t easy to take time out and especially with a family however I’m sure we would all be happier if we were able to just take five, breathe and enjoy the moment.

    1. Thanks Sue. We all too often forget the value inherent in rest.

  7. This whole post is what I like to tell my students about their leisure time and the structural constraints that prevent us from enjoying that time. I wish WE had snow days where I live. Great post and I hope that these unexpected days produce unexpected fun and leisure!

    1. Thanks Terri. Next time we have several feet of snow I ship some your way.

  8. This has been a strangely warm winter in Iowa and we had ZERO snow days. Now, I’m a nurse so I don’t get snow days anyway but my kids are so saddened about not having any impromptu days off this year! There is a certain blessing and lovlieness from a day to hunker down with your loved ones.

    1. Thanks Mandi. I cannot believe that this late in the season you guys have not had any notable snow. Good thing climate change is a hoax. Tell your kids that I’m sorry for their pain.

  9. Yes! I definitely think it’s down to not wanting to be scheduled. It’s certainly great to get a day off from a job you hate. But, even when you like your job, or don’t mind school, snow days are still amazing. And I agree – it’s the break from forced routine. Forced routines can be slightly soul destroying even when the activity itself is not something you mind. There is still something about having no choice but to do it that is draining.

    1. Sometimes having a set routine is comforting, but I love when the routine is broken to pieces sometimes even if its only an unexpected appointment I’ve forgotten about or a last minute meeting — but those instance are rare and I guess that’s the point.

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