“Lightning Photo” by Johannes Plenio.
Many of us in the United States like to use the phrase: “the calm before the storm.” It is fitting, really. You have a period of enjoyment, relaxation, and leisure. Life reminds you of its blessings without the curses, even if by giving just a taste of it.
Then suddenly things pick up all at once. Chaos spills in from the Far. And it all happens at the same time. You have to get up, do your routine hygiene care, and rush into work. Sometimes there is an appointment. Work hours end up longer. After work might require more activities and maintenance of you than the long, eight-hour shift, somehow feeling more labor-inducing than if you just stayed at work. Maybe some events hit you outside your zone of awareness, and more than a little effort goes into trying to get back on your feet. A day later, repeat. Somehow, you could count the hours of sleep in the week as less than half the fifty six or more everyone says you need.
Somehow, you survived this week.
And the other week ends up being more intense.
These are the storms before the calm. You feel like planning something or doing something after work, after one activity or the next, is normal. Instead of waiting for the storm, you are waiting for when you are in the middle of it. The eye. That calmness that reminds you that somehow, you can breathe. Did you know you could still breathe? Sometimes, no matter how regularly one meditates or builds in pranayama (controlling of breath; breathing exercise in Hatha yoga) in their routine, they still forget they can breathe. When one is working multiple jobs, or in my case in my position of privilege, me trying to work a full-time job. (dramatic pause)
Oh. And I am doing this gig, while also doing research, writing, poetry, brainstorming the revising of my second novel beginnings, gradually building in physical activity after losing my Krav Maga classes, and then trying to schedule time to take breaks (and working instead of “br[e]aking”). Sometimes juggling other projects from organizations I am part of, or finding opportunities to help in local (or nearby) activism. With anyone who fills their schedule beyond work (or works) and the adulting that sometimes seems to fall on the wayside more than we want to admit, there is, hopefully, the storms before the calm. A moment one can look forward to as a break from everything, a moment to just be. No obligations, plans, or need to be there for anyone. Self-care. Resting for a full eight hours if so desired.
Storms before the calm are a way of being. And when I do find myself finally having a period of grace, I sometimes am unsure what to do. Plans for this weekend were cancelled, and I decided that I wanted to make a trip to the Zoo this Saturday, anyway. Labor day weekend, and no deadlines I need to meet, that is something. That calm after the storm, instead of the one before the storm. Is there much a difference between the two, really?
Yet whenever I get a break – whenever I whine to myself I want a break and I eventually get one – I do not know what to do. What do we get with a break? I usually take it as time to fill my schedule with many other things, when I sometimes probably should be okay with being lazy (versus having too much to do). I sometimes log into a game, turn up my cognitive dissonance, and play a little bit, but for the reasons mentioned in a previous post, I cannot do that often anymore. Sometimes, I can enjoy something on Netflix, but I do find often, after I had taken my literary criticism class, I cannot view some content the same as I once did.
So, I sometimes end up planning activities to do when there is a calm, anyway, as if I do not know how to live my life any other way. This is not to say I am not grateful to have the opportunity to potentially slow down and take a rest. On the contrary, I really look forward to this weekend. However, it is not to say my mind and body are not left confused, uncertain, and looking for the next dangerous wind to sail. Sometimes, this is just how our mind is like.
I do hope I learn how to recharge myself better. Perhaps one day, it will feel an equal amount of storms and calmness. We cannot have color in our lives without the water to grow and make such splendor. Yet too much storm can destroy the landscape, leaving one confused once the storm passes. Then we sometimes scramble to prepare for the next storm.
Nonetheless, I am grateful for the privilege to even have some breathing room. I have some activities planned not long after the weekend. Hopefully, all of it will successfully make the world a better place so we can strike the true balance between a verdant serenity and the crashing waves of the sea.
If lucky, we might have a chance to move forward after this decade. The way things are going, some of us might not even be around to make it happen.