Learning From Thoreau

Most Sunday nights, I have a hard time falling asleep. I think part of it is that I sleep in too late on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but part of it is feeling like I didn’t do enough over the weekend. I didn’t grade enough, didn’t spend enough time with my family, didn’t spend enough time with my friends, really didn’t do enough good in general, and before long, I am in bed castigating myself and blaming myself for everything from my students’ inability to turn in assignments to global warming.

But last night was epic. The list of things for which I counted myself responsible grew…and grew…and grew…until it was 11:30 and I still hadn’t fallen asleep. My alarm goes off at 5:30 AM, so if I’m not asleep by 11:30, the situation has reached critical mass. Drastic measures were needed.

I pulled out Thoreau.

In the light of day, Thoreau can put me to sleep in three sentences. But not last night. Last night, Thoreau begged me to “simplify” and “suck the marrow out of life” and to live “free and uncommitted.” And then he judged me, reminding me that I was frittering away my life with details.

Instead of lulling me to sleep with paragraph-long sentences, Thoreau kept me awake for two more hours.

So when my alarm blared at 5:30 this morning, I knew I was in for a rough day, but I also knew I needed to take at least one piece of his advice, even if just for today. I need to simplify my life. So I canceled piano lessons. I was home by 4:30, in my comfy clothes, and on the couch hoping to catch even a little bit of a nap.

It worked; I slept for about 45 minutes, and I feel like I can tackle a stack of papers without going crazy.

I love teaching piano lessons–not only for the extra income, but also because I get to end my day seeing immediate results of something I teach. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep teaching ten hours a day. Perhaps I can get a little creative with my scheduling–just like school has vacation days, maybe I need to take a week off here and there from piano lessons. These are decisions for another day, when I don’t feel quite so panicked and desperate.

But for today, I can simplify. And that should be enough to get me to tomorrow.

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