People who have heard me speak (or read 168 Hours) know I often tell the story of where I first heard the line that “I don’t have time” means “it’s not a priority.” When I tried to get in touch with an extremely busy woman (small business, 6 kids, etc.!) to set up an interview on a Thursday morning, she was not available to speak with me. Of course, right? But the reason she was unavailable to speak with me was that she was out for a hike. It was a beautiful spring morning and she wanted to go for a hike. Time, she explained to me, is a choice. Within the life she had built, saying she didn’t have time for a hike really meant it was not a priority — and there are good reasons that could be true! But if it was a priority for her, within the framework of life she had created for herself, she could do it. Perhaps she would work later that night to solve whatever problems brewed in her absence, but those wild windy early spring days after a long winter are rare and wonderful things. Best to seize them if you can.
It stuck with me, and over the years I have realized that one of the perks of working for myself is that I can do similar things if I want. While I spend plenty of time on the phone and traveling to speeches, or dealing with kid during-the-day events, I can often clear a day or two a month for adventures.
So yesterday, I did just that. I saw that the weather would be nice (sunny and 70) and I had little scheduled, so some triaging made the day clear. I got the boys on the bus, then drove up to Lehigh Gorge State Park’s Rockport access area.
(Side note: On the 25 minute drive from Jim Thorpe to the park entrance, I saw exactly one Clinton-Kaine sign. I saw hundreds of Trump-Pence signs, many of them hand-made — quite a testament to both fervor and a perhaps disorganized Republican party, which Nate Silver described a few weeks ago as a “flaming dumpster fire.” I have read a number of articles lately — like this, and this — attempting to understand how rural PA became prime Trump country. The congressman in the Lehigh Gorge area, Lou Barletta, made his name with some early Trumpian policies (read to the middle of this article that is ostensibly about the Cubs’ manager) and he is popular enough in the region that his yard signs just say “Lou.” We shall see how this all plays out next week.)
Anyway, I parked at Rockport, got on my bike, and rode 10 miles to the White Haven access area. Then I turned around and rode back. The trail was flat and well groomed, and I had it mostly to myself. The leaves were perhaps a bit past peak, but beautiful nonetheless, and while the air was chilly at the beginning, it (and I) warmed up soon enough. I listened to the rushing water, and just pedaled and pedaled, thinking of nothing in particular.
After, I drove into Jim Thorpe for a late lunch. Some day I’d like to park at White Haven, bike the 25 miles into town, have lunch, and then bike the 25 miles back. I’ll need to be a bit more in shape for biking, perhaps, and have a way to carry snacks and water. I didn’t take anything with me for my 20 mile sojourn, and it was fine, but 50 might be pushing it. In Jim Thorpe, I saw advertisements for the bike train. It takes you 25 miles up to White Haven, and then you bike the 25 miles back. I’m not sure the kids would be able to bike 25 miles yet, but if they were, that would be fun to try. One of these days.
Anyway, I made it home by 4 for the afternoon kid rush, and did about 4.5 hours of work for the day between the early morning, the afternoon and the late night shift. That’s something, if it’s not 8 hours, or anywhere close to the 10 hours I would be working regularly if I were going to hit the “50-hour weeks” I still work in my mind. I recently added up my work tallies over the past 6 months. During the first year of time tracking, my non-vacation week average was 40 hours/week. During the past 6 months it was down to 35 hours/week. This is true even though I have considerably more childcare now than I did during much of that first year. It is just that there are a reasonable number of 4.5 hour days like yesterday.
For now, I think I am OK with that. The upside of my business model transitioning more to speaking is that it is an efficient way to earn a living. My work hours will likely ramp up whenever I get another book project underway. Another issue: I am still not sleeping as well as I’d like; my average is holding steady at 7.4 hours/day but it’s disjointed. Last night the baby woke up at 2:45, and I fell back asleep at 4 but was in and out until he was up for good at 5:15. When I have limited energy, self-care becomes a big priority. I feel better when I get outside and have a few adventures.
And oh my, the leaves are something now. Driving north on I-476, you go through a tunnel as you enter the Poconos. The mountain spanning the road was such a festive array of red, orange, yellow, and evergreens. In three weeks the evergreens will be all that’s left on a drab slate of bare branches. These moments do not last. I like to see them when I can.