Usually, my Thursdays this semester have been spent in a hodgepodge sort of way with errands and student appointments. I try to keep myself on the clock as much as possible or, at least, make the most of my time, but, invariably, the day ends with me having earned little in the way of money and accrued much in the way of frazzled nerves and stress.
This past Thursday started out rather typically. After an extremely short night of restless sleep (at one point I was standing on my precariously narrow bed, convinced a large rat was in my room. Sorry Ashley), I was off to campus for an 8:30 am appointment. To fill in the gaps in my schedule, I had stuffed my backpack with things needing my immediate attention. Finishing one appointment early, I decided I should go sit in the sun. Vitamin D is so important.
I sat for an hour, busily involved in returning phone calls, making future appointments, outlining my latest freelancing gig, making lists, and trying my damnedest to resist the green mountainside view on the lower part of campus. It’s hard to say what was louder—the buzzing of insects or the buzzing in my head. I had taken a perfectly good opportunity to relax and turned it into a detached moment of forced productivity. Friedrich Schiller would be so disappointed.
Finally, my thoughts (or I should say, my To Do List) turned to this week’s blog, yet I find the single-clutched shift from business writing and course prep to creative writing nearly impossible. While my ability to punctuate a sentence and creatively approach problems lay in a common pool, my business-self and expressive-self, more often than not, exist in two different oceans separated by continents-worth of subtly shifting moods. It is only after my subconscious tide has quietly ebbed in one direction or the other that I can truly work, producing pieces (or syllabi or spreadsheets) I am proud of in an almost Marxist sense.
So basically, that all boils down to “I’m screwed when working on deadline.”
By branching out into private tutoring and editing as well as freelance writing, not to mention six classes this summer and four this fall, deadlines have become a constant fixture in my life. In a word: Gulp!
To survive, I somehow need a way to double-clutch: shift out of one gear into a neutral space to allow easy shifting into an entirely different gear. Otherwise, I was going to burnout my clutch, er, nerves (maybe I should drop the extended metaphor here). In any case, Thursday afternoon, I was searching.
I found a labyrinth.
Several years ago, a labyrinth was built in a small glade near the ACM athletic fields. The design is not even remotely Bowie-inspired (not a Muppet in sight), merely pea gravel and sand-colored stones.
Walking in, the buzzing continued. Lines for this blog, since forgotten, tasks left undone, jokes and questions crowded my mind, flapping to get my attention. Forcing the thoughts away is like negative reinforcement: by focusing on the thoughts as thoughts you are only encouraging more thoughts.
Instead, I listened.
Eventually, my inner buzzing subsided. The rumble of the commercial lawnmower, the metallic clack of the baseball bats, the hum of traffic: the layers of sound were so complex and rich.
Finally, after saluting the four corners at the center and meandering back out, the layers of sound peeled away, and I was with my breath. In and Out. Sacred and Mundane.
I found my neutral gear.
I would not say the experience made me more productive or made me work harder. Besides that was not really the point in the end. I felt happier and clearer headed. And more aware. States that are valuable in and of themselves, which may also lead to better work. I do feel more relaxed and confident, but I also gave myself the evening off (Friday evening, too). I remembered to value the empty bowl. Do you?
*Note: This blog is meant for edutainment purposes only, and to that end, I may occasionally use some literary license. The author would like to apologize for the overly extended car metaphor (she can’t even drive a manual), but she is more than a little excited that the best little sister in the world gave her a car.