Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
The alarm I set for myself at 4:10 a.m. chimed, and I climbed out of bed to take one of my children to the airport. He’s off to a conference at Harvard, and we can look forward to seeing him again late Sunday night. Yet on Monday morning, at the more reasonable hour of 6 a.m., I’ll be driving him again to the airport to head to Costa Rica for a school trip.
This sort of thing makes me consider a time in the future that some parents anticipate with glee but I personally dread: when all the children are out of the house. I have, by design and sheer force of will, constructed a life in which I can spend a tremendous amount of time with my family. During my own childhood, I hardly ever saw my dad, and I have very few memories of any times we had together. That only became clear to me deep into adulthood myself, as my kids can barely turn around without their beloved father being there (they aren’t annoyed by this yet, but that day will come).
This ties into something larger, though, which is a persistent need I have to be industrious. I realized a long time ago that in order to bring myself satisfaction, there are two requirements: I need to (1) be busy and (2) have that busy-ness be self-directed. I had a “real” job in my early twenties, and it didn’t take me long to accept that I was absolutely unemployable and had no interest in following anyone’s orders but my own. Thus, the amount of time in my entire life in which a boss told me what to do and I did it can be measured in months, not decades.
However, if you strip away (a) a daily commute (b) innumerable meetings (c) peer reviews (d) reports (e) office politics (f) company functions, you realize what an abundance of time we have in our lives. Couple this, as I have in my own life, with (a) no time-consuming hobbies like golf, fishing, etc. (b) no television, then I have nothing but time on my hands. I have no life, so I get the opportunity to actually create one.
Maybe it’s the Puritan ethic in me, but I cannot tolerate being idle. Thus, I am always seeking out active projects, and I’ll keep creating them until I feel sufficiently occupied. At the moment, I’ve got seven live projects going on, some of them long-standing (like this blog, approaching its 12th birthday and 20,000 posts) and others rather new (like the screenplay I keep bragging about, which I am hellbound determined to see in the theatres).
On top of these seven projects are a host of default activities, such as the fact I take care of virtually all the housecleaning, the cooking, paying all the bills, driving hundreds of miles each week toting kids around, doing all the taxes, and basically making the U.S.S. Knight running smoothly. When even one kid is out of the house, I find myself with so much extra time that I freak out and will have to fill the space with, God knows, reorganizing a closet or something.
The day will come, of course, that they’re gone, and I seriously don’t know what I’ll do with myself. There’s only so organized a household can be. And, as the “market” has demonstrated, the activities with which we populate our lives don’t always behave in a way in accordance to what we find pleasing.
Even the prospect of scoring a big chunk of cash isn’t invigorating, because I at least have garnered enough wisdom to recognize how banal and dull such an event is. The thrill is gone within days.
So, anchored with all of these thoughts, and driving back in the pitch-black morning having delivered my son, the angst weighed upon me. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that can lift one’s spirit. And in the distance, over the hills, a tangerine slice of moon appeared, looking larger than I thought possible. The feeling might only last a short while, but I realized then that maybe it isn’t so bad here after all.