1. Sleep in.
Step one doesn’t go so well. It’s been a busy week, and the combination of stress and poor window shades snaps me awake at the unholy sunrise. I pretend to be asleep for another half hour (almost convince myself a few times, too) before I give up and start pretending to be awake. I’m usually better at that one — fake it ’til you make it, I suppose.
I take I-90 west from Worthington, fields of wind turbines stretching out around me. While driving, I don’t have any other responsibilities; until I park the car, everything on my list of things that must get done keeps a holding pattern. Temporary freedom. The slight hills and divots in the earth become higher, lower, a tad more extreme. The number of trees starts to multiply — fractionally, but there are more, and closer to the road. They box me in; they wake me up. I am learning to love this landscape — even-keeled, all sky, wide open — but tightly-parceled forests and hills that warp the roads still feel like home.
I’m not much of a shopper, but I’ve recently noticed my closet has all the same clothes in it as it did this time last year, only thinner and with more-permanent wrinkles. I have a list of things, too, that I can’t seem to find in town.
I find a mall and wander but can’t seem to find anything I like: all the clothes seem misshapen, too large or too small, the color choices dull or glaring. I try out a new lipstick, only to realize the shop assistant is standing less than two feet away from me, watching me, saying, “Hmmm,” and “Want me to find a different shade?” This is not a day off, I grumble to myself; this is a makeup interrogation.
I must not be in the shopping mood.
I leave the mall for a bookstore. Oh, I think. This is the mood I’m in. I walk through the aisles, checking for new installments in series I read as a kid, locating my favorite authors. I buy a book — T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, for those of you who like poetry — and spend ten minutes geeking out like I haven’t since university.
Then I find a cafe and a cup of coffee and a table and my notebook with the broken spine and I write. The first few paragraphs are exhausting, words squeaking reluctantly out of my pen. It gets easier after that, and then there are pages full. I’m learning — why does it take me so long to learn the simplest lessons? — that writing steadies me. It makes me more certain of some things, more flexible toward others. Today, it relaxes my shoulders, tensed since step 1 — since before, honestly, since the week before last. I am hunched over a low table in an uncomfortable chair, but I already feel more like myself.
I leave the coffee shop and meet a friend and a very happy golden retriever at Devil’s Gulch state park. “Jesse James Jumped Here,” the sign at the head of the trail reads. One side of the trail has thirsty tree roots grasping around crumbling rock wrapped in climbing tree roots; the other side opens to what seems to be flat grassfields. I stand close enough to the edge of the gulch to make me feel dizzy, looking down into the slow running water. I’m not good with heights, but they make me feel more myself, too.
6. Ignore the list.
All day I have half-heartedly postponed the list, but when I get home I push it aside in earnest. What’s a day off for if you can’t enjoy it?
I’m a skilled procrastinator, I remind myself. Even if I haven’t had half a weekend off, I’d write that blog twenty minutes before it goes on the page anyway.