I teach time management at the college. Informally, usually, although I am working on systematizing some of my college preparedness tools, but even if that never happens, I always have a student or two who comes in, early in the semester or late, ready to improve or frantic, for whom I trot out the old reliable daily planning calendar, daily to-do list, ticklers, prioritized task lists, and so on. The tools of the trade. Some of them take to it quite handily. Stickers and colored pens help enormously.
stupid bloody tuesday
I usually own two planning calendars at any given time — one which I had hoped would work for me and one that I actually use. You’d think that after a number of years I’d know the difference, but needs change and what was practical and functional in 2012 is overkill in 2013 and inadequate in 2014.
not bad for a wednesday
The pages of my 2013 planners are nearly empty, especially the summer and fall. That does not mean that nothing happened. Far from it. It means that nothing happened that I could have possibly planned.
Now, Fall semester 2014, my pages are full. Scribbled, erased, rewritten. I have places I need to be, copies I need to make, appointments I’m supposed to keep, students who are supposed to show up, and, threaded throughout, the things I want to do — the research and the papers and the craft projects and the meal planning and the wouldn’t it be nice if I could walk across the basement floor without tripping and man-do-I-need-to-clean-the-oven-so-the-smoke-alarm-stops-going-off.
saturday in the park
At the beginning of the semester I thought I was going to hate my two days without classes. I was afraid of the couch. My grief stranded me on the couch last year, and for long empty stretches of days I would embark the couch, ride the loneliness and pain and wait for something to happen. What has happened is that the bits and pieces I used to try to fill my life up have spilled over and I actually kind of like my unhurried Tuesday morning and my open Thursday afternoon. I get to participate in school events, in committee meetings, in unnecessary but fun Milton research. You know how I am about Milton.
keep the sabbath
Next month, Thursday, December 18, will be fifteen years since we moved into this house. It was a Saturday that year. I remember standing stranded in the middle of the kitchen surrounded by boxes and Dan muttering fearfully, “We’re never going to finish this.” I remembered that today and I wondered, what did he mean? In time for Christmas? Ever? Moving in will be a perpetual process, a ceaseless parade of cardboard and can’t find the grapefruit knife?
We finished, by the way. In time for Christmas, actually. I did a lot, maybe most, of the work. It wasn’t too hard. I was happy to do it, glad I made him feel better. And when I thought about it today I was thinking that was the ushering in of the happiest years of my life.
And then I stopped.
Those happy fifteen years also contained:
The death of my mother, three weeks later, January 5, 2000.
Dan’s death, thirteen years later, on Good Friday, March 29 2013.
The eighteen months since then, some of the emptiest and most painful moments of my life.
How can I possibly call these past fifteen years “the happiest”?
William Faulkner, who was nearly obsessed with our perception of time, writes that we “confus[e] time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.”
There are enormous meadows of time within those fifteen years which, when remembered in the abstract, are happy. And then there are calendar days which ache with poignant memory.
That’s true of the present, too. There are horrible days that stand out on the calendar; yesterday was one; stupid bloody Tuesday, but if someone whom I haven’t seen in several months were to ask me how I am doing, I need to say, “Better,” because I am, because it is better, in the abstract. That doesn’t mean some days aren’t downright awful, in the close-up, through the bottleneck. Good Fridays. Stupid bloody Tuesdays.