“I know you’re insanely busy, but I have a huge favor to ask,” read the text from Jenn, who never asks me for anything. She’s the friend who takes over the cooking at my Christmas party every year when I lose interest about fifteen minutes in.
I owe Jenn more than one huge favor, but still, I cringed.
All she wanted was a ride to pick up a car on Sunday afternoon. The whole trip would take less than an hour.
Now, I will do anything for anyone but I always make sure that anyone knows just how busy I am and inconvenient it is for me to do the anything that I’ve been asked to do.
“Sure, I’ll bring your kid home from baseball practice. But that means Molly will have to wait at cheerleading for twenty minutes while I deposit your little prince at his doorstep. Oh, and they lock the gym so she’ll have to stand outside. Alone. And it will be dark by then. And it’s in a bad neighborhood.”
“Yes, I’ll help with your kid’s college essay tonight that’s due tomorrow. But I have tons of real (meaning paid) work I have to do first, plus a meeting at church and a book I have to finish for my book club tomorrow night that I’m hosting, so I probably won’t get around to it until about 2 am.”
“I’d love to make cookies for the bake sale tomorrow. But, I have to take Leo to the doctor and Max has his SAT tutor and my spouse needs a ride home from work because he forgot he dropped his car off for an oil change and now the place is closed. Leo has a workout with his personal trainer a half-hour away and of course no one else will drive. But, sure. I’ll fit it in somewhere.”
Even after my most passionate diatribes, no one ever said, “That’s okay. I didn’t realize you had so much going on. I’ll see if Donna, who has never done anything for anyone in her whole life and has never seen the inside of the school and does nothing but sit around and watch reality TV with her husband who is equally as unhelpful, will do it this time.”
Not ever. Not once.
When I got Jenn’s text this week, my first thought was to respond in my usual way. Sure, I’ll do it, but…
And that’s when I realized what my buts have become.
“Sure, I’ll do it. But I am hosting my book club tomorrow night .”
But, alas, that excuse won’t work. The house is already clean (well, clean enough) because all the kids have gone back to school. I already bought the cheese and crackers and don’t have to stop for a bottle of wine because I salvaged one from the basement that the aforementioned offspring didn’t pilfer.
“Sure, I’ll do it. But I have to go to church and the gym and then watch the Seahawks game.”
Again, not a problem. Because the children are gone I have sleep-filled nights and can get up early enough to spend an entire hour at the gym before church even begins. And because we don’t go to a church that requires multiple hours of prayer, there’s even time for a nice little lunch of leftovers that, due to the departure of the vultures, is right on the shelf where I left them. All the ducks will fall neatly in their rows allowing me to get Jenn to her destination and back long before the football game begins.
“Sure, I’ll do it. But my check engine light has been on for a week and my tires are bald and I lost my EZ Pass.”
Oh, yeah. I can drive the extra car now that there are three (four, counting the scary one in the driveway) cars for two resident drivers.
So, instead, I just responded like I should have to all those hundreds of other favors that came before.
“Sure, I’ll do it. Just tell me what time.”
As it ended up, Jenn didn’t need the ride after all. But for some reason, that never, ever happened back when I was busy.
I’ve never been so un-busy in my life.
I’m working. I really am. I have a steady enough stream of freelance work to make sitting at my desk worthwhile and to finance a trip (or two…) with the girls every year. I belong to two writer’s groups, a bible study and a book club. I exercise for at least an hour. Every. Single. Day. I sleep eight hours a night. I follow half-a-dozen television shows, catch every televised Pitt and UNC basketball game and try to watch at least one other sporting event a week with my spouse (only because he won’t watch The Voice). I entertain myself by writing my blog, thinking about writing screenplays and stopping and starting many new novels. I clean the bathrooms and kitchen once a week, talk to my daughter every afternoon and text one or two sons whenever I feel strong enough for rejection. Thanks to my sister Nancy, I have taken up playing mahjong on the computer. I read two of our four newspapers (the less challenging ones) and whatever book I’ve downloaded on my kindle at night before bed. I have lunch with Ann and Gail once a month. Dinner out a few times a month. And I vacuum dog hair. Every Single. Day.
I float from day to day.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
I came across a color-coded schedule I had created five years ago to help get us through a weekend. The weekends were easy because I had my spouse to share in the duties. I probably shredded the weekday schedules in an attempt to forget the agony.
But I will never forget.
I have such fond memories of driving in circles. To practice. From practice. To one end of Teaneck. From the other end. To the city. From the city. To faraway cheerleading gyms. To farther away baseball diamonds. To meetings. And more meetings. To two in one night.
I remember screaming. Loud and often.
I remember my insides shaking and a constant feeling that if I took a breath, I might fall off the balance beam.
At one point my spouse surreptitiously placed a magnet on our refrigerator with a picture of a 50’s housewife that reads, “Stop me before I volunteer again!”
I remember wanting it all to be over so I could just sit in silence and think about no one but myself all day long.
Life is a lot different now that I have no more school meetings to go to. No baseball games to watch. No cheerleading competitions to attend. No award dinners. No football games, soccer games or wrestling matches. No Team Momming to do. No Martin Luther King Jr. assemblies. No Sunday School to teach. No Little League board meetings. No school’s closed! phone chain calls. No concession stand shopping, schlepping or selling. No fundraising. No Handy Dandy Trip Packs. No PTA attendance, support or presidency. No homework to check, nagging to do, permission slips to sign. No Back-to-School nights, book fairs or picture days to run. No jaunts to Staples for the third $100 graphing calculator of the year. No frantic trips for forgotten cleats, projects or friends. No bagels to buy. No chicken to fry. No moldy towels to wash. No late-night pick-ups, sports weekends away, basement monitoring to do. Nobody throwing me into a tailspin with a last-minute favor.
There’s a part of me that misses the good old days. The frenetic pace. The constant chaos. The slamming doors.
But I’ll never admit it. After all, I spent too many years of my life dreaming about the sounds of silence.