Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spontaneous Usefulness

My weekdays are usually booked from 8 a.m until about 8:30 p.m., starting with work and followed by skate practices and dance class and, if I have a modicum of energy when Thursday rolls around, trivia team. At work, it is exhausting trying to get things done. Frequent short timelines mean the work is often rushed. A micromanaging boss means the days are frustrating and even the most interesting projects are drained of joy. Overall, it has become an unfulfilling ordeal, and after nearly five years, I feel totally burned out. What feels like a crushing workload means I can’t even take a sick day until at least January 22. Lately, I find myself fighting back tears as I drive home at the end of yet another unsatisfying workday.

The weekends swing between two extremes – either totally busy or a blank slate. This weekend was mostly a blank slate. Friday night was sans plans, and was spent at home writing and proving that projects, no matter how small, do indeed, expand to fill the time allotted. If there is an hour to write a blog, then that is how long it takes. If there is an entire night available, then that is how long it takes. Consequently, Friday night produced one bit of writing, many conversations with the dog, and not much else.

The only commitment on Saturday’s plan was an appointment with the heating/cooling company. There was also the foggy notion of attending yoga class (depending on how long the service call took), but nothing else on tap. Sunday’s schedule had an afternoon belly dance meetup in Nashville, which I then withdrew from to attend a meeting. Bummer, because I haven't invested much time in dancing lately. Then the meeting was shifted to a later time, so I could have done part of the dance event, but I’d already cancelled by that point. Oh well.

Saturday morning, the heating/cooling company was due at 8:00 to fix the thermostat connection to the outdoor sensor on my system. Since last February it has been reporting that the outside temperature is either 115 degrees or “- - “, both of which I knew to be incorrect. I am certain if it really was 115 here last winter, it would have made international news and been touted as irrefutable proof of global warming.

In any event, the regular service hours for the heating/cooling company are a super convenient Monday-Friday, 8 to 4. (This is in contrast to the general willingness to meet any time, any day when they are trying to sell you a system.) I work 8 (ish) to 5 (ish), making scheduling service tricky, as they were not sure how long it would take. For the last few months I’ve been slammed with projects on short deadlines, so taking as many aas two or three hours off from work to eal with a service technician feels like a virtual impossibility. I’d have to get into work at some crazy-ass hour (or on the weekend) to make up the time or take the hit to the paycheck. Perhaps I am the only single homeowner in town who has a daytime job, which would certainly explain the hours of most of the banks and service providers.

Anyhow … I was up at 7:30 drinking coffee, feeding the four-legged housemates and goofing off on the computer. At precisely 8:00 the service technicians arrived to address the temperamental thermostat. By 9:00, they were done, and I had the rest of a wonderfully unscheduled day stretched out before me. There was still plenty of time to get to yoga. The lawn needs a final mow/mulch, which takes about 30 minutes, but the lawnmower is out of gas, so that requires a preliminary trip to the gas station. The trash and recycling need to be delivered to the transfer station. Fall/winter wardrobe needs to be pulled out, but the recent 50 degree temperatures make that feel less urgent.

Options were floating in my head as I was scrolling through Facebook updates and saw a friend’s update about needing help painting. . I still remember how helpful it was when my basement needed painting and a friend provided much-needed company and labor. And suddenly, painting a house seemed like exactly what I was supposed to do. Screw yoga and grocery shopping. This was the perfect chance to help someone else, but just as important, it gave me something productive to do. Because I know how things work – I would have wasted a good six or eight hours thinking about what to do for the day, until it was finally too late to do anything at all. I know this, because I have done it countless times.

In taking stock of the day, it felt better than most days in recent memory. I got to spend some time with Aimee, who I usually see at trivia where it’s too loud to talk. We got a lot done on the house, and I got to meet a couple of her and Joe’s other friends. We painted until the rain came, then we hung around and ate pizza. And it was fun. It was fulfilling. I was smeared in random patches of blue paint like Smurfette. And it was satisfying to get out of my own sphere and be useful.

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