That odd sense of weightlessness, of floating adrift; the feeling that something important, some thought or memory, appointment or task, is there, but hovering somewhere on the periphery, just out of grasp. Is there something I forgot to do, or should be doing right now? Some pertinent task that needs to be done or the world as I know it will burst apart from the center outwards?
That was my feeling as I wandered around my garden this evening.
Yes, I needed to put those tomato and cucumber plants I’d bought in the ground before they withered up and died. Yes, I needed to pull the damned crabgrass out of the ground before it choked all the plants that were supposed to be there.
But wasn’t there something else I should be doing? Something on that mile-long to-do list I’d been working off for the last two weeks or so?
The end goal in my house lately has been to get said house up on the market. I had two weeks to do all the things I’d let slide over the last few years, the things that don’t have a fighting chance of ending up on the priority list when you have small children. Scraping the tiny stray hairs off the bottom of the medicine cabinet. Ridding the wood in the dining room of dried milk droplets once and for all. Magic eraser-ing the bejeezus out of my living room walls.
The phone rang, books went unread, writing went undone.
And after one last marathon night stretching into the wee hours of the next morning, my husband and I somehow had the house ready for the real estate agent to take photographs and post the listing. I took that afternoon and evening to revel in my newfound freedom. Yeah, the basement could still stand some purging, the garage some cleaning, but for now, we’d earned a respite.
Until the next day. So used to being on the treadmill (or hamster wheel is more like it), my anxious mind felt like there was something I was missing. For days on end, everywhere I looked, everything I touched, begged to be fixed, cleaned, put away. It felt dangerous to shut that off. Though I know I couldn’t operate at that level much longer. The systems were breaking down. Exhaustion – mentally and physically. Blood-shot eyes. Cranky. Irritable. Snappy. Emotional (or is that just every time I see the ‘for sale’ sign out front?).
And I suppose that’s the point. When I get to the point where I feel like I’m at the center of a system – objects, ideas, responsibilities swirling around me in a swiftly moving orbit – it’s time to step back before the whole thing collapses in on itself. Or I end up in the nuthouse with a nervous breakdown. Which reminds me of another thing that would help me keep perspective, too. So what if I miss one of those things that seems supremely important? Would the world end? Would I end up checking out? No and no. The world doesn’t revolve around me and I can’t possibly control it all.
But I can help those tomato and cucumber plants from kicking the bucket – and if the squirrels don’t get a hold of them, end up with some tasty produce at the end of it. Digging in the dirt always grounds me (no pun intended). There’s something soothing about the quiet, the repetitive nature of digging, weeding, deadheading.
Maybe if I’m that present in all I do, I won’t see the ghosts of to-do lists past floating in my periphery.