When I first left California, someone expressed envy. “I wish I had all the free time you do.”
It wasn’t the most sensitive thing to say. I was sick, exhausted most of the time, and my days were filled with anxiety about the future. “My ‘free time’ costs a lot,” I wanted to say, but bit back. I would have given almost anything to be healthy and run off my feet with work. What others saw as liberty was in fact a prison.
Now I have almost served my time in that prison: with rest and some discoveries, my health has improved enough that my days are starting to look more like “free time.” With the first hints of returning energy, I started to plan major projects. Now, before I go back to school, is surely the time to race through a first draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I should be reading a list of books the length of my arm. I should be writing my own cookbook. I should be sewing a new wardrobe.
I sincerely doubt any of these projects will be finished by the time September comes. One reason is that I still don’t have all my strength back. At a deeper level, I have been learning a lesson about myself: I am a person who works best with a demanding schedule. I wrote more poetry and invented more recipes while I was in school with five classes, two jobs, and rehearsals five nights a week than I have in all this sea of “free time.” I am very good at getting all my readings done in between seven hours of class and other appointments; I am not so good at filling a whole day with projects I want to do. Time is lost to daydreaming, to summer novels on the porch, to friends.
Let me rephrase that. Time is not lost to these things, it is given to them. Because somewhere inside this lesson about schedules and productivity is another lesson.
This summer, I have learned how to rest.
One part of resting has been cooking more simply. Oh, if I have friends to cook for I’ll spend an hour and a half making homemade pizza or a gluten-free pie. But most of the summer, I’ve been cooking for lazy days.
Then again, perhaps someone else is looking for something to eat on a lazy day?