This past few days have had their usual share of frustrations. The kindergartner’s virtual learning on Friday resulted in, among other things, him hiding under the chair and refusing to come out unless I sat next to him for the duration (thankfully he started in-person school again today). The baby fought sleep.
But every time something unpleasant happened, I would remind myself that “In a few hours you’ll get to do …” — fill in the blank with some sort of treat. On Thursday I knew I was going to my in-person (masked and socially distant) choir rehearsal and recording session, so I’d be singing part of The Messiah among other things. On Friday, I went to the new house and played the piano and sang Christmas carols for a delightfully uninterrupted hour. We ordered in sushi for dinner. On Saturday our nanny came to work for a few hours and my husband and I went out to celebrate my birthday (with a walk around our new neighborhood, and then a dinner at a mostly-empty restaurant). I’ve got my solo Longwood Gardens trip coming up.
I was conscious of planning in fun stuff because it was my birthday weekend — I wanted to feel festive. But I’ve also been thinking lately of how different time can feel whether you have something to look forward to or not. It’s the difference between a calendar that feels bleak, or one that induces the same feeling a kid might have looking at lots of wrapped presents stacked up under a Christmas tree.*
Of course, a kid is generally not responsible for having put all those presents under the tree– and here we encounter a major obstacle to turning a calendar into the equivalent of a full stocking. Most of us will need to do a lot of that logistical work ourselves. It seems like a lot of bother. We’re tired.
I am able to overcome that inertia around my birthday because I want to make the time feel special. If I need to do the time equivalent of wrapping presents for myself, so it goes.** I’m less motivated for a more average stretch of time.
But nothing I arranged was over the top. It was more about frequency than intensity. Frequency requires intention. As does spending time well in general. Happiness takes work. This is a challenging lesson to learn, but not really more complicated than getting a tree to stand up straight in the stand and hanging the lights roughly equally over the boughs.
*Or stacked for a birthday, or any other gift-giving occasion.
** I should mention here that I did receive real presents from my family, which were wrapped, and not by me!