There are 15 people in my musical group. We are trying to find a time this summer when we all can meet to have a new group photograph taken. But between now and two months from now, there does not appear to be one day when our collective schedules will allow this to happen. My friend, who is 73 years old, and “retired” after 30 years of teaching school is still out of her house from morning until night most days, caught up in a round of volunteer projects, seeing movies, lunching with friends, counseling former students, driving cross town to cheer on grandchildren in soccer, hockey, baseball, dancing.
When can you meet, they will say to me. When can you come for the photograph, the lunch, the rehearsal? What is the best time for you?
My days are open, I say. I am free any time.
I think they raise their eyebrows at me when I say this. I think they are wondering - “What is wrong with her that she has nothing on her calendar? Why is she not busy?"
For a moment then, I wonder too. Should I be busier? Should I be booking my days full of activities and plans and meetings and appointments? Should I be at the art fairs, the exhibitions, the shopping centers, buying more things I “need”? Should I be doing more?
But then I recall the fullness of MY days, with walks to take, birds to feed, plants to water. There are books to read, books to write, music to play, sky and clouds to contemplate, wind to rush through my hair. My bicycle awaits. The new yoga classes at the studio on the corner are enticing. Thursdays I can wander through the farmer’s market, have lunch at the bookstore/cafe in town. I can spend the afternoon with my mother, sitting on her patio drinking iced tea and chatting about this or that.
I feel like I have waited a long time for days such as these. Perhaps they won’t always seem so full, so satisfying in their quietness as they do right now. After many years spent on that treadmill of places to go, people to see, things to do, these empty days feel like the penultimate reward.
I still sometimes take on too much, say “yes” too often. When I do this, the price to pay is dear: it is anxiety, impatience, unhappiness. So I am learning. When I say “yes” I do so with a reason that makes sense to me. Maybe it’s to help a friend. Or to learn something new or get better at something old. But I notice if any particular “yes” truly hardens my spirit, I hope I will remember to say “no” the next time.
For those who question my lack of ambition, maybe it’s true. I am not a striver. I don’t yearn for success or fame or glory. I’m not ever searching for or desirous of the Next Big Thing. I have the Big Things: Health, Safety, People To Love. Give me some quiet days with long stretches of time to enjoy them, and I am golden.
Is this a privileged position in which to be? Yes. Oh how I know that.
Will it last forever? That I don’t know, can’t know. Five years from now, I could be flipping burgers in order to pay the mortgage. I hope not, but life is unpredictable.
While I have these golden days, I mean to make the most of them.
My days are open. I am free most anytime.