Have you ever had an encounter with a meticulously planned weekend that obviously unimpressed by your planning skills, grabs your schedule, and without even looking at it tears it into small pieces and throws it over its left shoulder? Well, then you will easily relate to what happened to me. You see, every second weekend I am “kids free”. My three sons spend the weekend at their father’s, my ex-husband. So every second Friday night I take a deep breath, stretch myself – and then off I go ticking things off my to do list. My several to do lists, I should say.
You see, since I read somewhere that the most effective to do lists only contains seven items – otherwise you feel overwhelmed and do not even start to work on it – I do not only have one to do list but several: One for the online magazine Deutsche in Melbourne that I run, one for books and essays I like to read, which by the way I have split into “work related” and “private”, one for my tax return and other financial necessities, one for tasks around the house, one for tasks in the garden, three for every to dos for my three children, one for the things that need to be added to one of my to do lists. I assume you get the idea of my concept …
Roughly 54 hours of freedom
In other words, my kids free weekend is jam packed. However, I also need to find time to recover and re-energise for the two weeks with the kids ahead of me and I am determined to use the next roughly 54 hours of “Friday night plus Saturday and Sunday” freedom for my relatively rare private life. Since, although tested and proven to be an introvert, I do feel quite sociable sometimes. I am even tempted to say “adventurous” and I love to dance. So some sort of social activities need to be cramped into my weekend too.
So last weekend I had my plans meticulously worked out and one activity seamlessly led to the next one. However, as it turned out, nothing really worked. My youngest fell sick and did not want to spend the weekend at his father’s. All of a sudden, instead in the big wide world, my weekend happened to take place on our two sofas in our living room. Carrick on one snoozing and occasionally opening his eyes to watch a bit of television. Myself on the other one keeping him company.
Appointments, invitations, date cancelled
I grabbed my phone and cancelled appointments, invitations and a date, got a pile of old “Brigitte Woman” – my favourite German magazine – dropped it onto my to do lists and put my feet up. I lay on my sofa only to be interrupted by requests by my unwell patient like making a tea, frying meatballs, mash potatoes, buy coke and Strepsils, check fever, fluff up pillows and the like.
There we were enduring our time out that the fever has inflicted upon my son therefore upon myself. Sure, I could have ticked my to do lists while Carrick was sleeping. But you know what? I somehow spat the dummy. If the weekend messes with me, I mess with the weekend! Does not make sense to you? Well, neither to me, but that was how I felt.
Suddenly the Gordian knot gets cut
And guess what happened? With that rather strangely stubborn not at all making sense attitude I must have somehow cut the Gordian knot. Utterly unexpectedly, completely out of the blue she appears. Who? Time! The time for things I would have liked to do since ages but that never ever made it to the top of my strict scale of importance – the point from which they could jump onto one of my to do lists.
Suddenly the time showed up, so I could read my old magazines, to attach hooks on my shelf to display my hand bags like I had seen it months ago in one of the Home Improvement Television Shows Australia (myself included) is crazy about. The time to sort out books my kids have outgrown, to list the old trampoline on Ebay and also the time to watch my son play one of his play station games intensively and really get into how hard it is to beat “the big boss” as a team with his friends in other living rooms across the world.
Daydreaming about a time out in Ireland
I am also talking about the time to daydream: Daydreaming about the time out in Ireland on the coast of Killybeg where it is sometimes so windy that the ocean flies like sparks around you as one of the journalists in my magazine described it, who travelled to Ireland to learn the art of weaving. Nice! Or to daydream about a time out on a picturesque Italian island, that her colleague treated herself to, since she needed to find herself again – without any internet, mobile phone or her kids who stayed with her husband. It was actually him who told her to book this – as he told her – very important time out for herself. Interesting!
However, while late at night I was still reading page after page in my beloved magazine and indulged in being taken away into different parts of the world, my son was chased through his feverish dreams and called out for me. Like in the old times when he was little I sit on the edge of his bed and am at his side. I call his name, like he tells me to do, I hold his head and his hand – at 11:31 pm, at 2:47 am and at 5:28 am.
Fever conversations about time travel
We have long fever conversations about time loops and time travel, about new techniques he invented for even more skilled somersaults on his trampoline, about god and the world. During some of these conversations I have to laugh out loudly since they are so funny. However the next morning when he awakes feeling much better, he cannot remember a word he said.
We have breakfast together and are back on our couches. In the afternoon when he is feeling even better we drive to the next suburb and drop of some books and clothes that he has outgrown at the OP shop. We treat ourselves to two chais, sit in the sun, talk about old times and laugh a lot. At night we entertain ourselves while watching trivial TV shows and marvel at my handbags from all over the world that now hang neatly displayed at their hooks on my shelf. We have an early night and I sleep so safe and sound, I simply cannot remember the last time I did that.
Mindfulness – the art of being in the here
As I open my eyes, I think of the 62-year old mindfulness trainer from Hamburg I read about the night before. “I gaze at the grains, I sense the smell of the cheese and I listen to the soft blob of the milk froth in my cup. Only then I lift my bread towards my mouth, take a bite and lower it down on my plate again,” she had told a journalist. Wow! Mindfulness – the art of being in the here and now, the switching off of the inner autopilot – at its best.
I am not sure if, I will ever be able to eat that mindfully (or in fact even aspire to). However I think last weekend I actually managed to be – without conscious intention – to be more mindful than usual. Mindful towards myself and mindful towards my youngest son and what he needed: me being there for him. Paired is that mindfulness with being happy and being grateful: My youngest will not be needing me that strongly for very much longer as he rapidly grows up following his two older brothers.
Naturally ticking items off to do list
That is why I actually took my Monday off. I wanted to feel the mindfulness that, for me, is so difficult to capture a bit longer, since intuitively I know how important it is for myself as well as for all of us. On Monday I went to the gym in the middle of the day and interrupted my morning routine. I watched how different my familiar place looks and was amazed about all the different people training there. I also caught up with my friend over a coffee after I had to cancel our little get together twice during the weekend, since I wanted to show her how important she is for me.
And I ticked several items off my to do list. Without planning, without too much effort. It almost happened naturally. As if the weekend fuelled me with a lot of energy. I almost felt I had a time out like the ones that were described in my magazines without even boarding the plane on my own to head towards Ireland or Italy and – I had at least one of my children with me. Let me tell you: It felt brilliant! I am going to try it again!
The article was first published in German in the online magazine www.deutscheinmelbourne.net