When a groove turns into a rut

S

ometimes things get into a rut without me even noticing them. I work 24/7 it seems. At school, I teach, talk to students during office hours, prepare for class the next day, then go home and continue to work–grading papers, doing more class prep. In addition to these responsibilities, I respond to requests for letters of recommendations, opinions on departmental issues. I often work late into the evening–if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that I ofen post in the middle of the night–and through the weekend. There is a rhythm to this life, a groove of sorts. I do certain things on certain days and I accomplish my work with a relative degree of success. In between I try to make time for family. On Friday we grocery shop, on weekend evenings, we watch DVDs or other TV shows to relax. But this is not enough. This is not what life is all about.

I was reminded of this fact on Friday.

Yesterday, M and I had to go to the fingerprinting office for her Permanent Residency, that fiasco that is slowly being resolved over time and money–lawyers fees and change-of-status petitioning fees now preclude me from buying a computer I desparately need, one I thought I could treat myself to as a Christmas gift of sorts. Anyway, we went to the office in Alexandria and the fingerpriniting went fine. M waited patiently as I began to grade a stack of quizzes, but the wait was not as long as we had feared, and we were out in little over an hour.

We then went to Burlington, a discount clothing store that centers on coats and jackets. Her youngest son is in need of a parka–down, at M’s insistence–and we found a nice one for a reasonable price. As fate would have it, there was a Ruby Tuesday’s right across the parking lot, so we stepped in for a beer before heading home.

At the bar, we talked quite a bit about buying Chrismas presents and about her friends in Japan, and how one was still not married, and other basically non-essential matters. When it was time to leave–two and a half hours later–she cheerfully told me how fun it was to have a conversation with me. There was no sarcasm or irony in her delivery. She genuinely seemed happy.

And it struck me. I never really thought that I was ignoring her before, but confronted with such a statement, I began thinking about our life at home, and it occured to me that our conversations center around essential matters: Are the bills paid? I have to go to a meeting today. What do we need to buy at the grocery store? The more I thought about it, the more mundane and boring our life seemed. I had not been paying attention and before I realized it, I had dug ourselves into a rut. Working to survive. Surviving to live.

This is not what I wanted. This is not how I had envisioned our life. So starting today, I will focus on the “non-essentials” of our life. I will create opportunities to spend more time with M, and hopefully figure out how to get out of this rut before it gets too deep…

I will continue to devote myself to my work, but I will cut back on the non-essential essentials. I suppose I should be glad that I came to this realization just when college football is winding down. Geez, or else I would really be confronted with a dilemma…

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