I’ve been trying to write this post for days, but it hasn’t been happening.
Which is totally nuts. Because I can always, always, always write. Even when I can’t sleep, I can write. Even when I can’t think, or talk, or dream, I can write.
But not this week. Or last week. Or possibly even next week.
I’m just empty.
It’s been a crazy few months in my life—running around promoting my new book, doing thing after thing to help it. And when I say crazy, I mean good crazy. Awesome crazy, even. And also, a little bit: exhausting crazy.
I guess I normally try to structure in a lot of leisure time. At least, as much leisure time as a parent of little kids who’s squeezing a full-time job into part-time hours can hope for. I’m a napper. And a lounger. In my regular life, I try to stay in my pajamas as much as possible.
But I gave up leisure time—personal time, quiet time, nap time, gym time—for the book, for a little while. There are only so many hours in the day, after all. A new book has a short season when it’s out on display in bookstores and when it needs a lot of attention and care. I was happy to give up leisure time for the book. Kind of the way I’ve been happy to give up sleep for my kids. Some things, you just do.
But maybe six weeks ago, I looked around and thought, “I am running on empty.” And then I never filled back up. And now I’m running on whatever comes after empty. Fumes, maybe. And there are no filling stations anywhere in sight.
So that’s the question I’ve been carrying around lately. How do you fill back up? I’ve traveled so much in the past few months, and written essays, and schmoozed, and blogged, and nursed sick kids, and planned birthday parties, and spoken at luncheons, and rocked my wakeful son at 3 a.m.—every single 3 a.m. for weeks and weeks. At this point, as the busy season comes to a close, I’m absolutely ready to relax or recharge or rejuvenate.
But I think I can’t remember how.
I want to make a to-do list. I want to attack the project of getting my equilibrium back with verve and moxie. I want to have a plan. I want to feel like I’m using my time wisely. There is so much I need to get done every single day that I don’t get done. Hours are precious, and minutes, too. I find myself wanting to turbo-recharge. Thinking maybe if I go for a pedicure, and take the New York Times Magazine, and bring my iPod loaded up with Sarah Vaughan I’ll come out feeling triply refreshed! And then maybe I can use the time I’m saving to get some work done.
I’m just ready to feel like my regular self again. But, of course, being me—the regular me—means lots of time frittered away. Lots of daydreaming about remodeling the kitchen and doodling plans for a butterfly garden and watching my kids sing and dance on the coffee table.
In general, I believe that downtime is essential for creativity. That the brain has to be allowed to wander. But I’ve been moving-and-shaking for so long now that being busy has started to seem like the only way to be productive. I’m a little afraid to let go of this efficient version of myself.
But then I remind myself of things I used to know: that opposites can work together, that you can only hear certain things when it’s quiet, that—as they say—not all who wander are lost. And while pushing yourself is certainly good for you, it’s also good to be comfortable. I am grateful for the busy months I’ve just had, and I’m also grateful for my pajamas. And tomorrow, if I wear them to the grocery store by accident, I will be grateful for that, too: For any way I can manage to hurry up and slow down.