Apr 22, 2011

Leapfrogging my Wife

No, this isn't some rural hick sport, nor a funky new sexual position. It's a question about why I get more Stuff Done when my family's away. Are they an obstacle to be overcome? (Sarah, I think the answer's no, but we'll see what comes out.)

In almost four weeks alone, I've Accomplished much, in many realms. Garden much further along than the continued frost might warrant. 6 trees cut and bucked. New chicken brooder built, and 2 batches of chicks still alive and kicking, as well as 30 old ones and 3 cows all well-cared-for. Cowshed roofed, and re-built after mama cow pushed the main support beam over. Caught up on work, blogs posted, friends visited, concerts enjoyed, karaoke sung, bad movies watched, guitar lessons enjoyed and piano practised. And oh ya, bedroom extension on the rental cabin way way ahead of schedule.

So where did this miraculous energy and time come from, and why isn't it always there? Is it my family's fault? Let's look at what didn't happen:

I didn't cook. Friends took care of me sometimes, but I just went simple and cut alot of prep time. Fresh kale smoothies and a monster-batch of potato-spinach-carrot mixture that kept supplying morning hashbrowns every morning, Jesus-style. Eggs eggs eggs - didn't have to go shopping for that. Leftovers, skipping meals, I just took a lot of energy and time out of thinking about food, shopping, prep, clean-up, even eating, and sublimated that into other work.

I didn't take care of anyone. No kids to dress or entertain or break apart or play with or spend an hour a day taking to school. No wife to interrupt or enjoy or console or celebrate with. Apart from probably 20-30 minutes a day on Skype or phone, I was free to choose when to interact with others and when to stay focused.

I didn't clean. Swept part of the house once before a friend came over, and did dishes once a week - just used the same plate and utensils and glass for every meal, and the same frying pan or pot. Yes I made the bed and kinda picked up after myself, but there wasn't much to pick up - grown men just don't drop that many toys and origami creations on the floor.

I didn't negotiate. Didn't explain myself or get clearance with anyone else's schedule or vision. A B&B guest once commented about how much Sarah and I communicate about plans, who will do what and when. While that is a key to household and family management, it's a mental energy I didn't have to invest in. Just did what I thought best, when I was ready to do it.

So looking at that list, I see time and attention. Time saved from not having to care for family, and willingness to lower standards. Attention that is normally devoted to the social fabric of family now fully focused on me. Add to that a self-imposed obsessive drive to maximally use this window effectively, and it's a perfect storm - a man with the time, focus and passion to Do.

Lest this sound like a treatise against being Married-With-Children, know that part of the magic was that it was a vacation. The task list was an indulgence to dive into, but also a much-appreciated distraction from the loneliness at the edge. The best part of my day was Skyping the family, maintaining that connection that gives my everyday life its rich meaning and vibrancy.

Is my family an obstacle, a big heavy rock pulling me down and blocking the flow of my mighty river? No, it's more like a widening of the river into a broad beautiful babble, water learning to slow down and spread out, skip over stones and find deep swimming holes to plunge into. Together we move slower and less powerful, but also carve a wider, more varied and interactive swath through life. I've been thankful for this rare chance to dance solo down the rapids, and am now just as eager for my family to return and splash their loud interrupting chaos, muddy my clear strong waters with our spectacular swirl.

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