In some ways, the most interesting thing about the past year without working has been my ability to organize myself. In The Happiness Project, Rubin learns that one way to free up energy is to tackle a nagging task. You know the ones -- they are the tasks that you don't want to do, so you put off. Or maybe you don't particularly mind the task, but preparing to do the them involves doing something you find annoying or boring. For example, I don't mind going to the dentist, but I hate the phone, so I put off making the appointment. It's not just chores that are like this, though, but also emotional tasks.
The past year of not working has allowed me space to tackle some of these nagging tasks. We did some things around the house that we've been meaning to do: we fixed the basement ourselves; we re-insulated our house; we got the garage door fixed. But also, I've dealt with some nagging emotional tasks. I talked to my parents about things that have bothered me; I talked to other family members who had hurt my feelings, and I am starting to work through them.
As I've crossed these nagging tasks off my mental to-do list, I've noticed how much it feels like I am getting ready for something. I feel like I am getting my proverbial ducks in a row, so that when it comes time to start working again, I am ready, instead of constantly struggling to keep my head above water, like I was in the past. I was also surprised at how much tackling these nagging tasks has made me feel like a real grownup, rather than someone playing at being an adult. I don't know if other people struggle from the weird phenomenon of feeling like a pretend grownup, but I have in the past. I don't, so much, anymore.
Not everyone has the luxury of actually taking time off work to tackle these nagging tasks, but I am surprised at how much of my energy has been spent "remembering" all of these tasks -- keeping them in my head, worrying over them, hoping I get to them before there are disastrous consequences, or being annoyed at things in my life not "working" quite right. This makes me think that, perhaps, had I spent a bit of time each day focusing on crossing these nagging tasks off my list, maybe I would not have felt so frazzled to begin with.
Of course, there is also the possibility that Kathy and I have some kind of crazy bad luck, which means that we have a disproportionate number of nagging tasks in a particular year. When I consider this possibility, I'm just glad I actually was home to manage all the catastrophes, both physical and emotional, that we've had to cope with over the course of the last year.
Either way, here's to 2012.