As with all milestones, achieving the dubious milestone of ‘having all one’s kids in school full-time’ has saddled me with some considerable baggage – in the form of expectations for how I will spend ‘all my free time’.
The expectations are largely self-imposed, a result of all those days I clung to the thread of hope that someday ‘all my kids would be in school full-time’ and then, when that happened,…...I would exercise, have a tidy house, and tackle all the projects that I never managed to accomplish during those seven, slightly chaotic years spent with little people.
Thus the weekend before the boys’ first day of school, I spent a large amount of time in front of a blank piece of paper, staring at it, trying to create some sort of roadmap for the six kid-free hours each school day would provide. I tried to create slots for things that had to get done, things I hoped to do and the inevitable avalanche of volunteer opportunities and meeting requests that begins as soon as the kids file into school on that first day.
Care to be classroom mom? Can you help with mulching? Free for a meeting on Wednesday? Friday? How about next Monday and next Friday? Costco run? Special lunch volunteer?
And on it goes.
Staring at my blank piece of paper with its kid-free time slots and a lengthy list of to-do’s to fit into those hours helped me understand, rather quickly, that if I wanted to emerge from this coveted year with something tangible – other than instagram pictures of latte art and a calendar full of things I don’t want to do – I would have to become someone else.
I would have to become ruthless…in managing my time.
After years of overscheduling and trying to fit it all in, of saying ‘yes’ and ‘sure’ and ‘I think I can make that work,’ without even looking at my calendar, I am learning to lean heavily on the words ‘no’ and ‘sorry, can’t make it.’ It’s a paradigm shift, to be sure – not saying yes the instant a request for help appears in my inbox, or worse, saying no. One that I hope will result in a more sane, productive person by the end of the school year.
Unfortunately, the saying no extends to things I like, too. Netflix (and the binge-watching it enables) being the first item on the chopping block, followed by the ol’ world wide web. And the minutes that turn into hours as I fall into its rabbit hole of browsing and link-chasing. Instead, I am determined to become a person who reads every day. You know, books. Because I’m not getting any smarter reading three-sentence paragraphs about what Kate Middleton wore.
Most nights now, ruthless Nicola goes to bed around ten, grabs one of the four books on her nightstand, and reads for approximately thirty minutes before turning off the light. Having always been a person who devotes herself to one book at a time, typically finishing it within a week, it is somewhat demoralizing dividing my attention between books and making so little progress. But allow me to imagine my reading is more focused and meaningful as a result.
How else to reconcile the fact that I will be reading these books until Christmas.
One of the books on my pile – and lately the recipient of all my reading time because the copy belongs to a friend – is Mari Kondo’s bestselling ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.’
A friend mentioned the book to me about a month ago, describing it as ‘one of my top 5 life-changing books’. I saw it at Costco a few days later, but decided against buying a copy because ruthless Nicola is also on a ruthless budget. Luckily another friend loaned me her copy and I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on my tendency to hold on to things I have little use for – never used wedding gifts (from 19 years ago), receipts, art projects, emails and books I fully intend to read. Someday.
If you’re similarly inclined – to hang on to things because someone gave them to you, or because you might need them – you should definitely read this book. Though perhaps not at the same time as you’re reading Steven Pressfield’s ‘War of Art’, which is all about the inner battle and what keeps you from doing what you ought or want to do. He labels it Resistance.
Tidying Up might well be my current form of Resistance.
But there’s no denying the spark of joy I feel when looking at my insanely tidy closet and drawers.