It has been over three years since I spend more than three days without doing something productive or additive. These days, if I climb for more than two days in a row without checking my email I start to grind my teeth. Or rather, with current technology, it is more like 6 hours without a quick run through my phone. This might come from obsessive behavior, or the need to feel important via a sense of being busy. But I think it has deeper roots in self-reliance. This weekend, driving to catch the 2 feet of fresh at Wildcat Mountain, on day four of dereliction, I realized I could just keep going.
Friday was ice climbing, Saturday a skin/ski, Sunday ice in the snow. Monday morning and it was packing up the car for downhill. We pulled out of the house and I left the rest of my life and my responsibilities behind me. I planned my continued escape: I could ski all day, come home, make squash soup, lemon tart, start stuffing figs with whole almonds for Christmas. I could do the same thing the next day. And the next.
Except I can’t. Because if I do, it will all disappear. I’m the engine.
I wasn’t telling the truth about the three days of dereliction. Yes, Friday was an all day event, but I wrote for most of the day Saturday and only skied for 2 hours. Sunday started with a few computer hours as well. Grand total, I likely worked half and half for those days. But while the 23” of snow blew off the roof of my van as I drove towards Pinkham Notch, it felt off-balance.
I’m not sure if I don’t know how to stop, or if I am afraid that I know too well how to stop and thus it’s the starting up again that makes me keep going.
Yesterday, it turned out there was no skiing to be had at Wildcat. 120 mph winds whipped off Mt. Washington’s summit and the lifts were closed. We could have skinned up, could have tried another hill, could have came home, switched gear, found an alcove of ice and had at it. Instead I came home and organized. Everything. I switched out my picks on my ice tools, I re-taped the shafts, I vacuumed the living room, twice, I put old things up on consignment, I did my bills. I did everything I could think of that could keep me from the work I had sitting in my computer. The words I needed to write. In the middle of all of that, I started to realize that I might need to re-conceptualize my definition of work.
When you get up and go into a job at an office every day, the very physical threshold you cross signifies work. You could pay your bills in that office that day, Twitter, search for a flourless chocolate torte recipe-- but you were at work. When you work at home there is no distinction.
It’s 8:38 am the day before Christmas Eve. Already I have fought a twenty-minute battle with steel wool against the roasting pan from the other night, vacuumed (again), and stared at the opening lines of the chapter-to-be. When did my day start? Does it count that I woke up at 6:03 and stared cross-eyed at my pillow and thought about the writing? When do I recognize that I need a break as well? When do I let myself take one- and then make myself take a real one. Because I can hear you all out there telling me that it doesn’t count if I turn on my computer. That my half days of fun count as full days without the on-switch.
So here is what I am thinking. A Holiday Break for the Un-breakables. Who’s in?