Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday Nights Since...

Back in high school, every Sunday night was torture. That was when the homework for the weekend that I'd been putting off finally couldn't be put off any more. I finally had to face it.

The same held true in college, and, weirdly enough, even in grad school. Then in my faculty days, Sunday nights were usually devoted to class prep and/or grading, so the dynamic didn't really change.

For a few years, after entering administration, Sunday nights were relatively calm again. Then I got the bright flippin' idea to start blogging five days a week. And now Sunday nights represent the return of deadlines.

You'd think I would have figured this out by now. But nooo...

Between my own overeducation, this career choice, and parenthood, I've been responding to 'school night' imperatives since 1973, and there's no end in sight.

Granted, there was a minor lull during the intense dissertating period, but that period really taught me that I have a choice in life. I can have deadlines, or I can be a sullen, unproductive lump wallowing in his own angst. I've chosen deadlines, which seems like the right choice about 80 percent of the time.

(I haven't had really good angst since my twenties. I agonize over decisions, but that's not the same thing. Decision agony isn't about what kind of person I am or where I fit in the universe; it's about solving an external problem. It can be stressful, but it's a kind of stress that doesn't shake my emotional center the way so many things seemed to in my teens and twenties. Whether that's 'maturity' or just 'angst fatigue' I'll leave to the psychologists.)

Between parenting and the job, I'm now very much a creature of habits, structures, and deadlines. When those fall away, there's a brief period of euphoric relief, followed quickly by a period of complete non-productivity and a sense of being lost. The blogging is very much a function of the job and the routines of daily life, which is why I usually suspend it for vacations. When it's one deadline among many, that's all it is. When it's the only active deadline I have, it feels oppressive.

Infants are no respecters of external routines, which is why early parenthood is unspeakably tiring. It's one thing to schedule yourself to within an inch of your life. It's quite another to do that, and then have the baby air it out for a few hours overnight. During TB's first year, I literally walked into walls at night. TW still laughs about the time I fell asleep in the middle of my own sentence. (In my defense, I wasn't very interesting.) When you're overcommitted, which early parents generally are, routines are the only thing keeping you from going completely around the bend.

The frustrating part of it is that I'm not the type who elevates (most) routines to Holy Writ. (I'll make an exception for the morning newspaper-and-coffee, which is what separates us from the animals.) The content of most routines is utterly unimportant, and amenable to change. But stuff that doesn't fit into routines tends not to happen, or at least not on any kind of reliable basis. I didn't start going to the gym until I figured out how to incorporate it into my routine; now it's fine.

I should be disturbed that I pay so much deference to constructs that are no better than any other, but somehow, I'm not. It just seems like the only reasonable way to get anything done. I've got four different routes I take to get to work; on any given day, there usually isn't any special reason to choose one over the others. But I do, or I wouldn't get there. It's not worth angsting over, and not worth vesting with any great significance. It's just the price of getting stuff done. Sometimes, even an arbitrary decision is better than no decision.

So I still panic on Sunday nights, facing those school night deadlines that have stood since childhood. And I still resent them, silently envying all the people who can just relax. The difference is that now, I know I just don't have it in me to be one of them.