Tuesday, June 20, 2017
A Chosen Busy
I have a mini poster on my file cabinet at work. It says, “I don’t have time to be this busy.” These are true words. However, busy is what I am. And, busy is what I’ve always been.
My parents tend to forget that I have always been busy. The sighs and the “oh you’re so busy” comments began when I was young and continue now into my middle age. To me, it is not a deficit or a sign of weakness that I am consistently occupied. One other thing you should know about me is that I crave structure and predictability. I am not spontaneous and even the first days of a vacation are a little unsettling and anxiety producing for me. There are people who criticize busy, who say that those of us who are, miss the more important things in life. The thing is, I am not busy for the sake of being busy. I am not occupying myself to escape other things or to stop me from being in the stillness of life. Whatever I choose to do, I want to do it well. I am all in and fully invested in the things that feed my soul, my body, and my family.
When I was a kid, my summer activities had three basic categories – the pool, summer camps, and community education classes.
Basketball Camp and Vacation Bible School were in June. Church camp was in August. Those weeks of camp provided even more of the structure I craved. That left July and small spaces within each of the other months for me to fill.
If I were lucky, I would get to sign up for more than one session of swimming lessons. Swimming was something I was good at doing. My only problem was my age. One had to be a certain age to pass each level. Because of that inescapable requirement, I would take some classes two or three times. I would pass each of the skill tests, not be old enough to pass, and would sign up again for the next session. Today, I’d be called a pool rat. Lessons were in the morning. After that, I’d bike home and make myself lunch and then head back to the pool. I was usually waiting outside the gates when it opened at one o’clock and then would swim until five o’clock when it was time to go home for dinner. A few nights a week, I’d head back to the pool for the seven o’clock to nine o’clock evening session. Inevitably on some of those nights, it would be family night and that meant the pool was only for families from 7-8 and then would open to the rest of us from 8-9. On the bench outside the fence, I’d wait out the hour with my towel around my neck and my bike in the rack. Toward the end of the summer, it was getting darker and colder on my ride home, but I’d still stay until the three whistle blasts told me that it was time to get out. I’d speed home as fast as I could on my blue banana seat “Sky Queen” and hope that no bugs flew into my mouth.
My earliest “organizing my life” memory comes when I was eight and I devoured the community education brochure. Every May, the brochure would come in the mail, or some of us would pick it up from the community education office early to get a head start on things. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, every community ed class was free. You just signed up for what you wanted to do.
My bike and I were the best of partners in the summer. The town where I grew up wasn’t very big, so by the time I was able to ride, I rode all over town to get myself to my various activities. This particular summer, I signed up for Arts and Crafts, Floor Hockey, Canoeing, and Softball.
Softball practiced a couple of times a week and we would board a bus for the neighboring communities for the morning or afternoon games. I was a terrible softball player. Catching the ball was not one of my talents, so I played second base. That is, until the game when a grounder hit the base, flew up, and hit me in the face. Left field then became my spot...way out in left field. I didn’t care though, the sunshine and being with my friends made me happy. Batting wasn’t one of my talents either, but I did okay, except for that one time when we were playing Wood Lake. I accidentally threw the bat after I hit the ball and knocked out the catcher. Literally knocked her out. Oops. I wasn’t in the batting order very much after that.
Canoeing was at Memorial park, about a mile from my house. We canoed in the Yellow Medicine River for about 45 minutes, learned a few safety rules, and then slid back to the crumbling concrete boat landing below the big shelter house. My bike would be waiting for me and I’d ride as fast as I could underneath highway 212 to the high school where floor hockey was held. As far as I can remember, not too many girls played that floor hockey. The boys on the opposing teams made sure I knew I was in the minority (before the days of protective equipment) and I would come out of the games with lots of bruises on my shins and if I was lucky, a few goals. Arts and Crafts class took place in the basement of City Hall, just a few blocks from the high school. I am sure there were other classes that summer, but those made the biggest impression.
Fast forward to age fifteen. Finally, I could get a job. So, I got three. I worked as a carhop at Oak’s Drive Inn (which we lovingly called Choke’s), where I’d take orders, bring them back to the window, and when the food was ready, bring it to the cars on little trays and hook the tray onto the window. Picking up the tray was determined when the customers would honk the horn or blink the lights at me. A quarter tip was pretty much what I could expect, but one of my regulars would always give me a nickel with a look that said, “I know I’m cheap, but be grateful anyway.” The tips were better when I waited tables at the Eatery Family Restaurant. It wasn’t my favorite job, but I’m a firm believer that everyone should be a server at some point in their lives. My shoes were always sticky and my summer perfume was kitchen grease. My favorite job was working the front desk at the pool. While I longed to guard and teach lessons, the front desk was the only place I could work at age fifteen. Just as in my years of lessons, I wasn’t old enough to take the Water Safety Instructor and Life Guard course. Sixteen was the magic age. Walking beans was another job, but that was short lived and another blog post entirely. In addition to the three jobs, I still had Church Camp, Basketball Camp, and then got to (finally) add in summer basketball league.
At 45, it’s no surprise since I love structure and predictability that I became a teacher. It’s my own little microcosm of boundaries and schedules and passion for learning and love of kids. I’m also a wife and a parent to three active kids. I coach two sports for the high school and one 4th-grade girl’s basketball team.
My mom recently said to me on the phone, “I’m so glad you can finally relax now that school’s over.” That’s a funny statement considering that during my first week of “relaxing” I coached an elementary/middle school track and field camp, ferried my kids to their activities, and did two days of Staff Development with my teaching team. Oh, and I did approximately 27 loads of laundry in preparation for our cross-country vacation.
We left for our vacation on Saturday. So far, 19 hours into a 25-hour road trip, I’ve read nine magazines, one book, and written two blog posts. The only thing I’m sure of on this vacation is where we are staying. Rest assured, I’ll stay busy because I’m all in for this time with my husband, my kids, and our friends.