A few days ago I was talking on the phone to a friend and after about an hour I told her that I had to hang up because there was lunch to take care off. She felt I should have told her in advance that this wasn’t an open-ended phone call. I, on the other hand, hadn’t thought about that because there is no such thing in my life. Things are always in between other things, before others, and such. Open end is something that happens to other people. (Or that I’ll regret bitterly the next day.)
That remark got me thinking about how I always tell people that I have only little time, and how most of them don’t understand why. I found that I know quite a few people who have a life where they putter around at home and do little else; like people who are retired, or people who are between jobs.
On the other hand I know other people with children, and while those usually have a lot of things to do, and places to be, they still don’t really get my life. Take today as an example: my son went to a friend’s house because he wanted to ask her to come over to play. A little later the friend and her father came over to ask whether my son could go swimming with them. My husband and I both answered the door, and helped find my son’s swim gear but though it looked as if we were both at home and available in fact we were working at that time, telling our students to please excuse us for a minute, we’d be right back. But the friend’s father couldn’t know that. My parents are here for a few days as well, and I find that it’s hard for them to tell if we are working or not. From the outside we look like people who hang around all day with quite a few visitors popping in. (For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I are both working as music teachers from home. Singing, piano, guitar, bass, you name it, we teach it.)
So to give you all a glimpse into my life, and so you understand why I keep saying that I don’t have a lot of time, here is my regular schedule:
6.15: My alarm goes off, and I try to wake up. Since I went to bed too late that’s hard, and at first I don’t succeed.
6.30: I finally managed to wake up enough to start writing morning pages.
6.45: I should be getting up now but my morning pages aren’t finished yet.
7.00: I’m finally done. I wake up my son telling him to please hurry because we’re already running a bit late.
7.10: I start doing breakfast, calling out to my son to get dressed already while I make breakfast and his snack to take to school.
7.28: I yell at him to finish eating already and get his toothbrush ready because his friend will pick him up soon.
7.35: Wave my son goodbye, start eating breakfast myself while reading a book.
7.55: Meditate for ten minutes. I just returned to this again, and right now I just clear the table, set a kitchen timer and sit down at the table again, close my eyes and try to focus.
8.15: Still sitting at the kitchen table I take out my notebook and write 500 words on my new story.
8.40: My husband gets up and prepares his breakfast. I stay at the kitchen table and knit a bit while he eats and we talk.
anywhere between 9 and 11: We finally get up from the kitchen table, clean the kitchen and debate what to do next. We either do something together, or we do errands or housework or I sit down at the computer, or – sometimes – we use that time to fight which throws the rest of the day off kilter.
11.30: When I have turned the computer on after breakfast this is usually the point where I realize that another hour of my life has gone by without me doing anything productive. What happens next depends on what day of the week it is. If it’s Thursday or Friday that’s the time when my son comes home from school. On the other days there is a bit more time to do grocery shopping, exercise, or housework.
12.00: My husband and I both are angry that the morning went by without us noticing, we’re both hungry, and too late for starting lunch.
12.45: We all sit down at the table to eat lunch.
13.15: I realized that I didn’t take a shower yet, and rush off, leaving my husband and son and the pile of dirty dishes and pots behind.
13.35: I try to force my son to practice the piano right now because later the piano will be occupied by students.
14.00: I teach. If you meet me at my computer during that time it’s usually between students. (Like now. I started this post earlier when I had 15 minutes, and the next student is supposed to be here this moment. ((And I wrote that sentence two days earlier but now I’m waiting for another student who isn’t showing up because of the world cup, and so I’m back to blogging.))
19.30: I’m done teaching for the day. (Well, on Mondays and Wednesdays, on the other days I’m finished earlier which means I get to have dinner with my son.) I go upstairs to my mother-in-law’s and fetch my son. If everything went well he will be in his pajamas, teeth brushed, and dinner eaten. When something went wrong I do whatever isn’t done yet. I talk to my mother-in-law, this is like a mini-conference two or three times a week. Who has to be where when, and such.
20.00: I tell my son to please hurry, and read to him. I then allow him to read a bit on his own and go to the kitchen to make dinner for myself. (My husband usually eats earlier but that depends on the day.) I finally eat dinner, often with a book. Sometimes my husband pops over and we talk a bit.
20.30: I tell my son to turn off the light. At this point usually my husband takes over, and settles himself in the bedroom to practice violin. Our son doesn’t like being alone at night so one of us has to stay in the kitchen or bedroom at all times. Our annex where we make music and watch TV and such is almost soundproof so only one of us can be there at a time. Until last week this was the time when I would plop down in my easy chair and watch an episode of something on DVD but since this week this has become my practicing time again. So I try to sing, and play the piano or guitar for about 45 minutes or so.
21.15 or so: I come back from the annex so my husband can go off and have a bit of fun either watching soccer, or reading, or playing guitar. If I were smart that would be the point where I prepare for bed but since I’m apparently a bit thick at this point I usually sit down to read or knit or spin. Well, at least I’m no longer spending all my time watching TV shows.
about 22.00: I prepare for bed lamenting the fact that I won’t be able to get enough sleep again.
Throughout the whole day we do laundry, dishes, errands and such, and I find that having dozens of people here every day does make a bit of difference. At times when we aren’t teaching we only have to clean half as often.
The thing that’s hardest to explain is the morning between breakfast and lunch preparation. That’s when our whole life happens. Cleaning, doctor appointments, the writing, the music, the reading, the knitting, the spinning, the yard work, sex, meeting friends, phone calls, office work, the grocery shopping, the laundry, the errands, the internet surfing, the blog writing, the recording, the thinking, the exercise, and I’m sure I have forgotten something.
Mondays my husband and I usually reconnect with each other after the weekend. Tuesdays I go to the health food store and do errands. Wednesdays I try to go to the farmer’s market. Thursdays I do the real grocery shopping. Fridays I try to clean the house. On weekends we like to spend some time as a family together and to do everything we didn’t get around to do during the week.
Since we talk to people the whole afternoon we’re usually “talked out” in the evenings. So we’re not very social then. We’re also totally behind on everything right now since my husband spent the last three years making his new album, and I was sitting around depressed for months on end.
I’m a musician. If I spent all my time making music that wouldn’t feel enough. If I spent two hours each day practicing that wouldn’t feel enough. And if I don’t play I get cranky.
I’m also a writer. Writing 500 words a day does take the edge off but it only feels like dipping my toes in the water.
I’m also a mother. Only spending mornings and evenings with my son feels like very bad parenting.
I’m also a housewife. Having the house all dirty and cluttered doesn’t feel right either.
I’m also a person with a big head full of ideas and projects but I have made my peace with that.
The thing is that I’m never sure whether I’m doing as much as it feels like or if I’m just a lazy people who never stops complaining. What do you think?
Most people we know now-a-days live in between things, as far as I can see. Didn’t your friend call you? How can anyone expect if they call someone that the person will be anywhere but in between. We are not living in the 1950s any more. If anything, as your post so aptly points out, even if there is a moment of shared timelessness over a cup of tea before the mammoth of work begins, we do not rejoice in it, but often get angry at ourselves for having dipped our toe in it.
Personally I think an hour is quite a long time for a phone call anyway. What takes more than 60 minutes to say?!
Lia, interesting point. I do try to enjoy the moment, and especially when it’s spent with people. The problem for me – as for anyone else – is to find the balance between enjoying the moment, and achieving something in this lifetime.
Jo, she’s just a friend I’m about to make (and might have lost already through writing about the telephone issue on my blog), and we’re just starting to get to know each other, and her marriage is wobbly, and she’s depressed.
I know lots of people who can’t make a call under 60 minutes but then those are people whom I never see in real life, and only talk on the phone every other month or so.
But then the only people I talk to more than that are a) my husband and son, b) my students, and c) the members of my writing group because we meet once a month.