May 30, 2014
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

I do most of my pleasure reading as I drift off to sleep, which is a large part of why I go to bed so early.  It so happens that 2 nights ago our younger dog, Sweet Pea awoke me at 12:30 am with some inexplicable yet insurmountable need to huffle at the bedroom door until I let her out in the backyard, where she spent an hour charging around, eating grass, and doing important other things. 

I have 3 children under 7, but sometimes it's the dog that wakes me up at night.

Anyhow, as I lay on the kitchen futon (yes, we have a futon in our kitchen; yes, it's awesome), I decided to start on the next book on my list, courtesy of a book club: Brigid Schulte's Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

Big mistake.

Schulte sucks you into her harried Washingtonian life, where she's late to a meeting where the grey-haired male academic tells her she has at least 30 hours of leisure a week.  Yeah, right.  It's a good read, I'm only partway through--largely because even after Sweet Pea emerged from the night and I was ensconced back in bed, thoughts about the book kept whirling through my head.  For 2 hours. Not a good book to drift off to.

My reactions thus far are two-fold and completely contradictory.  One part is: "sing it, sister."   I too spend large amounts of time harried and trying to catch up with everything work-wise, house-wise, child-wise.  Here is Schulte on page 2 "I am always doing more than one thing at a time and feel I never do any one particularly well.  I am always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door."  Mmm-hmm.

The second, and contradictory reaction is "there but for the grace of God..."  Unlike Schulte, I do have leisure time, and I know it.  I credit my job, my town and my husband for that. 

This is not to say I'm slacker lawprof kicking back with mai-tais while my students toil.  I work hard at teaching, and I'm pretty sure my students know that.  This summer I am planning on revising an article I sent out in the spring, writing a spin-off essay from that article, and writing a new article.  That's a lot.  Yet I do have leisure time.  I exercise often.  I sit down with the paper over breakfast for 15 minutes every day.  I have lunch with colleagues sometimes, or take 15 minutes out of my day to lunch, again over the paper.  I chose to leave DC and its frantic lifestyle and head to Athens, Georgia, where the pace is slower and nothing is more than 15 minutes drive away.  I've never regretted that choice, and Schulte only made me feel better about it.

Oh, and my husband.  Here's another quote from Schulte:

As I began to think more about leisure time, I realized that I kept putting it off, like I was waiting to reach some tipping point: If I could just finish picking all the weeds, chopping the invasive bamboo, cleaning out the crayons and shark teeth and math papers and toys and bits of shells and rocks and too-small clothes in the kids' closets, buy more cat food, fix the coffeepot, complete this story assignment...

Well, you get the drift.  Again, I found myself nodding.  There's always something more to do, if you're willing to do it.  And I probably would try, except that my husband is good at leisure.  And he reminds me, by word and by action, that there will never be an end to the work of life.  So at around 8, after the kids are in bed, we open up a bottle of wine and have dinner and talk.  Just about every night.

So far I'm 3 chapters into Overwhelmed, and I don't know when I'll finish it, since apparently I can't read it at bedtime.  The last chapter is titled Toward Time Serenity, so Schulte clearly has more in mind than just diagnosing overwhelmedness. If she's figured out an answer, I'll let you know.

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