Free Time Makes Me Nervous

I love a schedule. The whole family loves a schedule. Even our dog loves a schedule. In fact, he has a pretty solid routine. This is Jazzy on most days: morning walk, breakfast, play time, sitting at human’s feet, nap, lunchtime walk, treat, nap, afternoon walk, lap time, dinner, fetch, couch, nighttime walk, and bed.

As I imagine it must be for Jazz, I find my own routine both comfortable and comforting. It’s hard to overstate the joy that checking things off of lists brings me. Even though my days may not look identical day in and day out, I’ve pretty much chained myself to my calendar. And I think, I must be productive if I stick to a plan, right? And for most days, that’s what I—and I’m assuming (hoping) most of us—must ask myself before choosing to answer in the affirmative.

But sometimes I have to wrench myself away from my calendar and do something off the schedule. It doesn’t usually feel right immediately. Like I’m being undisciplined. Like I’m cheating or flaking on something. Like I’m letting my responsibilities slide. It makes me feel like I’m 19 and deciding to ditch class (again) and lounge by the dorm pool all afternoon instead. You do that enough (and I did—I had the deep tan, blonde highlights, and shitty grades to show for it), and you start to feel like a slug. And now, as the days start to lengthen and the rays of the sun filter onto my skin, I’m drawn once again to the outdoors. I’m so torn—do I skip an afternoon of essay grading to sit on my porch, catch a few rays on my calves, and finish my Tom Perotta novel instead? Or forgo a day of chipping away at my latest work in progress to attend a Sunday Phillies game with Josh and Virginia? For me, a schedule is good for the soul, but so is goofing off. Too much of either and I’m rendered as useless as a slug.

Our plans this weekend fell through, and to be honest, I’m nervous. I could easily fill my time with work. In fact, at this point in my semester, I won’t have much choice but to read through and grade a few stacks of papers Saturday and Sunday, otherwise I’ll be buried all next week. But I’d like to carve out at least one afternoon of free time to spend with Josh and VA, doing who knows what. I’ll figure it out when I get there.

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