Unemployment, Or Defining What You Do By What You Aren’t Doing

I got dressed the other day in street clothes for the first time in two weeks.  Not hiking clothes and not yoga clothes, I actually took off my pj pants and donned real shoes (cowboy boots for those of you that need to know) and went out to visit a friend.  Not working has been like that: not leaving the house unless I’m going hiking or going to a yoga class for 10 days at a clip.  This is fascinating and noteworthy to me, not a complaint or a concern but simply of interest.  I’m shifting into a life that is defined by what I’m not doing (going to work), and apparently by what I’m also not wearing.

The house gets pretty freaking quiet by about 3:30 p.m. each day.  My own thoughts are loud; my voice, when I speak to the dogs, echoes self-consciously in my head.  I am busy all day every day but my head is starting to get a little emptier.  I have stopped having intense disturbing work dreams every night.  I think the psychic purge is over and I’m starting to settle into this new “routine.”

I say routine with quotes because there is no routine.  Each day has the same routine it had when I did go to work: walk the dogs at daybreak.  Walk the dogs after breakfast.  Feed the dogs in the afternoon.  Walk the dogs again.  Stoke the fire.  Make dinner.  There are vast expanses of mental energy and hours on end that are unaccounted for in between those six activities.  Some days I fritter them away.  Some days I hike.  Some days I don’t really know what happened – it was all a mishmash of dinky tasks, laundry done and bathrooms cleaned and stuff.  Stuff.

I have time and space to think.  I can notice both my own inner workings and real world stuff I need to address.  And then I can address it.  I can think a thought through from beginning to end without getting interrupted.  Mostly what I’m noticing so far is how grateful I feel for this opportunity to stop.  And along with the gratitude is a hefty dose of guilt and a complete inability to hold still: I drank the work ethic Kool Aid.  So far since getting laid off 13 days ago, I’ve split half a cord of wood, climbed 8 mountains, scrubbed the mildew off the bathroom cleaning, written 8 articles, made several loaves of bread, attended two yoga classes… but I still feel like I don’t do enough.  I’m still keeping track, counting up the accomplishments, weighing and measuring to determine worth.  I discount those things I do for me, looking for worth by being productive for the good of others.  Loading music onto my MP3 player doesn’t count as being productive.  Cleaning the bathroom does.

Hiking is the magic two-for-one miracle.  It is for me.  It is completely for me.  It is my church and my yoga class and my therapy session and my visit to the gym.  But it does double duty as my dog walk.  Better than the perfunctory three mile road walk that we manage on days when we can’t get into the woods, hiking restores my dogs’ sanity as well.  There is nothing so peaceful as Iske, Cinder, or Lily after a full day in the woods.  They are content to their very bones.  And being surrounded by three beings that radiate pure contentment is for me too.  Win-win.

I have no idea how long this will last or what will come next.  I have never lived this way before, and stand in awe of my ability to tolerate the not-knowing.  This watching and noticing and staying with it, whatever it might be, is my yoga.  Those yoga classes I keep buying online?  They are fine.  I get off my chair at the computer, and in population for a while.  I stretch and tone like the rest of the female population in America.  But my yoga practice is happening somewhere else.

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