This morning as I set up office in my new favourite cafe, my lemongrass and ginger tea brewing silently in its pot as the toddlers noisily bustled around their mother’s legs, I had one of those moments of bliss. Those moments where you realise your kids are independent enough to be at an activity on their own (kung fu and school) and I have 40 glorious minutes to just be me. With a calming sigh, in delicious anticipation of doing some writing I gently lifted the lid on my MacBook and pressed the start key.
But instead of that welcoming ‘da-daaaaam’ sound, I was shown the ugly face of the red light, battery symbol.
How could I have been so stupid! My heart pumped faster, my legs crossed in indignation and my mind raced to all the ‘issues’ I’d have now because I couldn’t get 1, 2 and 3 things done in my allotted time.
How could I not have known this was going to happen?
Well, the truth is I suspected it but ignored my beneath-the-surface suspicions. I remembered in an instant that I had had a dream about whether there was battery life left in my laptop and whether I should try and charge it in the morning amongst the bustle of breakfast and lunches and hair ties, or whether I should get up in the middle of the night and trot down to the studio in the cold to plug it in, or whether there was an accessible powerpoint at the cafe where I like to sit… or rather, whether I am thinking way too much about work in the middle of the night……
In that moment of horror I thought:”What a waste of 40 minutes. What the hell am I going to do now?”
You see, I’m not very good at doing nothing. I’m not very good at sitting still and just being. I’m not very good at unplanned inaction. I CAN do it when I’ve organised it….in fact I’m pretty good at lying on the beach with a book for hours…but I’m not at all good at suddenly finding myself in a situation where I have nothing to do but just sit, especially when I had wanted to be so productive in that allotted time.
But as I’ve aged and become more aware of these tendencies, the universe has decided to offer new options to me. And this morning was no exception.
Seconds after my open-mouthed, ‘what the’ kind of state, a fragile beauty from an another era started talking to me. We were on a shared table and she wanted to know what I had my computer there for and why I had that alarmed look on my face. I told her (without sounding like a complete workaholic nutcase) and she started talking about how wonderful it is to have moments where you find yourself in unexpected situations and where you’re forced to readjust your expectations. She reminisced about her working life (in an era where most women didn’t work) and how she never had a moment to herself or a minutes opportunity to break from routine. If she wasn’t under the boss’ watchful eye, she was making dinner for her husband or keeping children quiet so he could rest after his hard day’s work. She remarked at how wonderful it is for women like me to be able to have fulfilling work, be a parent, be a lover and do it from anywhere I please. She appeared to empathise with the pace of modern life, though she obviously chose not to participate terribly much. She said that she used to worry about what she would do in retirement, but that now she’s there she has never enjoyed so much simply having nothing to do.
This beautiful elderly body with the remarkably modern soul gently put me in my place – a place where there was nothing more important at that time than to wrap my hands around my tea, stare out the window, and be grateful that I could go with a clear mind and without rushing to pick up my little Kung Fu Panda.