Still learning the hard way

by Kristin on July 20, 2010

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by Gustty

Every summer since Jason and I have been together we’ve spent a day at the Pitchfork Music Festival, listening to loud music, waiting in the longest lines ever to use stinky port-a-pottys, and getting all hot and sweaty with thousands of people who are mostly younger than us.

This year, it didn’t happen. Some might decide we’ve reached that tipping point, where we’re too old for such folly, but we would adamantly disagree. In fact, here’s proof that we’re still like youngsters at heart: We don’t really understand how time and scheduling work. We think we can do anything and everything.

The sad, true story

Essentially, we bought Pitchfork tickets for Sunday, and put the event on our calendars. A month or two later, when we were trying to schedule our second local foods dinner (I wrote about the first dinner here), we saw the Saturday of the same weekend was open. Without hesitation, we said we could easily cook for 25 or so people that day.

Technically, that was all true, if you looked at the two days as individual days. But days are part of a week, which are part of a month, and all together it looked harsh. Add in an unplanned circumstance, like some of the most unbearable heat and humidity known to this area, and we were facing the most exhausting weekend imaginable.

By the time we finished cooking for 30 and doing everything we could to make their evening enjoyable, we couldn’t even pretend like we were going to get up the next morning and drive to Chicago to spend a full day on our feet. We tried self-pep talks, and kicked ourselves around a bit, but in the end we cut our losses and bailed.

The moral of the sad, true story

So what did I learn? Because oh yes, the only silver lining this cloud has is the one that’s based on learning valuable life lessons.

I learned that my optimism and love for being busy are two wonderful qualities that can spin pretty quickly out of control, especially when they’re working in tandem.

I learned that traditions are really nice, but the world doesn’t come to an end if you miss a year.

I learned (once again) to give the “what if’s” a swift kick in the butt. What if we had thought to sell the tickets? is not a helpful thought, so I refused to entertain it.

I learned that while we shouldn’t be casual about wasting money, sometimes cutting losses is the right choice. In our case, not using tickets that we already bought was more critical to our overall health and happiness than being determined to get our money’s worth.

Managing time is an art, not a science

And more than anything, I learned a lot about time. An activity might take a certain amount of time, and a day encompasses a certain amount of time, but planning our time is more than a simple equation. Time isn’t just something measured in minutes and hours, like a clearly-defined cup measurement that can be filled with a specific amount of liquid. Those slots on my iPhone calendar might look like defined vessels waiting to be filled, but, as it turns out, what you fill those slots with matters.

You have to consider how certain you are the activity can be contained in the slot you’ve allocated for it, and what sort of mess it will make if it spills over, out of control.

You also have to think about how the activity in question drains you, physically and/or emotionally. A two-hour movie date with your spouse or a coffee date with your closest friend is a lot less draining than hosting a two-hour birthday party for your eight-year-old daughter.

Ultimately, the stress level of each activity is linked to the activities that filled the previous hours and that will fill the subsequent hours. What this means for me, when I’m casually looking at “open” time slots on my iPhone calendar, is I have to look at the big picture. Is there balance? Is there alone time, rest time, work time, and play? Will the activities require more of me than they give in return? Have I scheduled an entire week of giving and spending, without factoring in time to refill the tank, and replenish the account?

That’s my lesson for the week. Now can someone out there please learn from it and save yourself some grief? That would definitely add some shine to my dingy silver lining.

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  • Ray Hollenbach

    Be careful, or you’ll lose your claim to being young at heart! In my experience, only those who have run several laps (decades?) begin to figure out that we are the sum of our choices. “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 Peace!

  • dorie

    I was wondering if you made it to the fest and was thinking to myself, “Goodness! How could they possibly?” Days at home are incredibly important to me. Glad to hear you got your rest.

  • Trina

    I’ll take this as a good reminder to strive for balance, and to have no regrets once we’ve made a choice.

  • Kristin T.

    Ray, I know! I think I approach life like someone younger than I am, but sometimes I sound like an old lady! But you’re right (I mean the Psalmist is right)—we are the *sum* of our choices. I often put too much pressure on a single day/event.

    Dorie, I’m so glad to know you’re backing me! Not that it should matter, really, but we all like to be affirmed in our decisions. :)

    Trina, yes—to make a decision and then to *embrace it* is a good thing, indeed.

  • The Modern Gal

    A million times yes to this post! This is a lesson that for some reason I have to keep relearning. My life was been overbooked from November to June — some of that within my control, other things not in my control — and I’m still working to recover from the lack of balance. I knew it was out of balance, yet I couldn’t quite put it as eloquently as you did. The lack of balance really messes me up and pushes me toward those early days of depression. Fortunately I’ve been able to regain a little control of my attitude with some more downtime, but it’s been hard.

  • Kristin T.

    The Modern Gal, it’s funny, after I wrote this post and not many people responded, I had this strange feeling that I am the only one who struggles with this sort of thing! Thanks for making me feel less alone, and for extending my thoughts toward another experience I can relate to: “The lack of balance really messes me up and pushes me toward those early days of depression.” I hope we can be an encouragement to one another as we press ahead.