Off the Hook
Updated: Jan 27
On a wintery bright-blue Sunday morning, after a vigorous hike up Whites Hill, it occurred to me to give myself the afternoon off.
So I cleaned the kitchen, enjoying it for a change, and treated myself to a hot tub and a nap. I reveled for a dreamy hour or so in the feeling of having nothing to do, nowhere to go. To rest, to gaze out the window, to just be.
Come Sunday evening, however, the weather began to change and I found myself feeling uneasy, incomplete. Like when you know there’s something you’ve forgotten to do, like when I was a child and rarely had my homework done on a Sunday night—dreading Monday morning. I reviewed my week’s calendar, sent confirmations for upcoming appointments, and went to bed, still feeling apprehensive, unexcited about the week ahead, even though it would include the long-awaited launch of my redesigned website and LinkedIn page.
Monday arrives, wet, grey, and dreary. I sit at my desk, wistfully reflecting on Sunday’s lovely, unburdened hours of doing nothing and feeling good about it. Then it dawns on me that, except for vacations, there hasn’t been a time since my childhood when I didn’t feel on the hook for some incomplete assignment or commitment. And when I did give myself a break, at the back of my mind, was the sense that feeling good was just to remind me about what remained undone.
My life had been one long unfinished homework assignment!
I sit a while longer, watching the rain and reflecting on what I’ve learned about the inside-out understanding: the source of my experience isn’t anything outside of my mind. The belief that ‘If I do this, then I’ll feel that’ simply doesn’t work. I had lived my life mistakenly believing that when I finished my homework, when I completed my to-do’s, there’d be a good feeling and I could move on. But the feeling, good or bad, comes in the moment from my thinking.
As I realize the truth of this particular misunderstanding, yesterday afternoon’s nice feeling returns and slips around me like a flannel shirt on a cold winter morning, taking me through this moment, to these words. Across the bay, the sun has broken through, lighting up the rain outside my window: a sun-shower shot with pristine light illuminates the rooftops below my window.
Maybe I’ll give myself the afternoon off.
I’m off the hook.