I love when the Google calendar notifier greets me thus. Normally each day pops up in a range of colors: purple (family/personal), green (work) and blue (Surfrider). How lovely to have no commitments outside of the inevitable feed the people and keep the laundry going. Unfortunately my hopes of going to the river remain dashed this morning after spending an hour last night searching for a rainless, relatively warm weather forecast for a location within day trip driving distance. Ah, well. At least the surf forecast for this morning suggests a couple hours of family fun await.
Of course, I am grateful for the typical busyness – I cultivate it, don’t I? I am so very lucky to have not only a job, but a job in which the work I’m doing is valuable, in which I myself feel valued, to have side jobs writing and doing radio – what fun! And Surfrider, struggle as it’s been at times (keeping the volunteer coordinator position filled), continues to eke out an eventual stronghold against threats to Humboldt’s beaches and waves.
But the pleasure of stretching out and reading a book for hours yesterday, the prospect of hiking today – or maybe playing Frisbee or lounging by a swimming hole – all of it serves to keep some balance, prevent burnout, infuse the joy of being both outside the norm and inside the moment.
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
— Edward Abbey
Sometimes, when operating on the shallow and more immediate planes of existence, I confess: I am grateful for my job because I get to leave behind the domestic duties. The laundry, the dishes, the grocery shopping, the cooking, the dropping off and picking up, and worst of all, the squabbling, exacerbated by the fact that we live with teenagers – all it becomes something I can flee. Something, in fact, I have no choice but to flee. “Would love to help, really, but gosh, have to go to Crescent City for a few days. For work. You know, to pay the bills. Good luck. And – bye!” While the domestic goddess role is one I’ve filled most of my mothering life, always having other roles has ensured a foothold on sanity. I love my children very much, but am not one of those women for whom the sun rises and sets on wife-ing and mothering. Yet, the balancing act, the challenges inherent in being both a mother and anything else continue on. Society is little help: stay home with your kids and you risk becoming boring; go out and busy yourself and you risk being seen as neglectful. Are women always judged by double-edged swords? Virgin/whore, mother/careerist, bimbo/brain? I’ve witnessed improvements over the years. Compared to my own school experience, my girls have had far less sexism to either tolerate or rail against. We’re hardly out of the proverbial woods, however. (Which reminds me of Little Red Riding Hood and thus, Angela Carter’s electrifying Company of Wolves.) (Academic types: more here.)
Back to family. Don’t get me wrong. We’re all together often, both by habit and by orchestration. If they wanted, I’d have them by my side during my travels and then some. But they are teenagers, seeking their independence, so it is not inappropriate that I relax in my own as well. After all, when you’re being pushed away, it’s a relief to have somewhere to go.