In 1816, twenty-year-old Mary Shelley and her husband traveled to Switzerland for a summer vacation to the home of their friend’s house, Lord Byron. For three weeks, however, the weather was so bad, so fraught with storms and high winds, no one was able to leave the house. With a few other guests staying with him, Lord Byron proposed a challenge. A competition to see who could use the time to come up with the greatest ghost story. ‘I busied myself to think of a story,’ Mary Shelley recalled. ‘A story to rival those which had excited us to this task.” Her story would be Frankenstein.
That line, that story has been popping into my mind the last few days. Like a weird memory. Or a mantra. It repeats over and over, as if trying to remind me of something. Use this time, I think it’s trying to tell me. Use it wisely.
As of late, I haven’t been using the time. And I think it’s because I’ve been overwhelmed by it. I find myself faced with more time in front of me than I’ve ever had. More hours in my day than I’ve ever seen or felt, and I don’t know what to do with it all.
Isn’t this what I wanted? I ask myself. Of course, it didn’t come in the form I expected. I didn’t want to be worried about my job security or find myself at home with my parents for months on end. But I did want the time to relax. Time to settle a bit. Time to double condition my hair. Time to work on my writing and baking and well-being. If I’m being really honest, I wanted a break from the world. And now I’ve got it.
Isn’t it weird how when you finally get what you want, you sometimes don’t even realize it? Or worse, you resent it. Chery Strayed wrote about this phenomenon when she was finally given the time and space to write her first book. Having made the decision with her husband to live financially dependent on him for a year to stay home to write, she found herself doing everything but writing. As the hour approached when her husband would come home from work, she’d start scrambling to hide the evidence of her procrastination, becoming depressed as the days slipped by. She finally had the time she craved to write and she didn’t know how to handle it. She later chalked this behavior down to fear. Fear of failure. Because once you have nothing stopping you, you no longer have excuses.
I think that’s what’s going on with me right now. There are no more excuses. No commitments, no engagements, no dates to be kept. And for the first time in my adult life, I’m faced with an opportunity – to grow or regress. To build or complain. To change or remain. To take on a challenge.
It’s in times of crisis people grow. The rich get richer. The bold make their moves. And while I won’t get the chance to buy low, sell high or pounce on foreclosing properties, I am able to build up my own stock. To capitalize, rather than waste the moment that’s been given to me.
It was Mother’s Day in the UK yesterday. I only knew because my British friends were posting about it. Of course my husband didn’t remember to remind me so I could buy a card or send flowers to my mother-in-law, so for the fifth year now, I’ve completely forgotten to celebrate her.
But what if now I used this time to get organized, so next year I don’t forget. What if I put reminders in my Google calendar for her birthday and my mom’s birthday and my parent’s anniversary and did all those small holidays I never had time to remember before.
This is my time to get down into the nitty gritty details of myself, my life, my passions and explore them for once. Learn what a routine really looks like. Eat well because I don’t have the excuse to go out. Try something new. I told myself I wanted to practice patience. That I didn’t want to rely on Amazon and I wanted to take more walks and spend hours reading without feeling guilty.
This is the time the world has given us to get back to ourselves. Get a handle on the core. Return all those loose threads that have been hanging out there, latching onto superficial things, weighing us down. Let’s renew ourselves. Let’s take the time we’ve so been longing for and do all the things we’ve been meaning to do. Let’s take this challenge and run with it.
1.Teach yourself to make puff pastry (all you need is flour and butter) so you can make the perfect mille-feuille for the dinner party you’re going to host when you can have friends over again.
2. Write letters- birthday cards, Mother’s Day cards – to your friends and family. Pile them up and send when special occasions come around next year.
3. Write long detailed letters explaining exactly what you’re doing all day to all your friends and mail them now – because we all need something nice to get in the mail for a change.
4. Stretch every morning so when the gym opens again you can be that girl in yoga class with her leg around her head.
5.Learn how to make a signature cocktail for the next time you find yourself behind a bar.
6. Take a shower, exfoliate, and rub expensive lotion all over the dry skin you’ve been avoiding all winter.
7. Find the perfect spot in your apartment, house, where the shadows fall, so whether you have a view of a sunset or not, you can experience the revelatory feeling of day turning into night.
8. Go through your wardrobe and take pictures of all the different outfits you can make with your staple pieces of clothing so when you’re back at work you don’t have to spend another minute thinking about what you’re going to wear.
9. Go through all your subscriptions and cancel the ones you don’t use and treat yourself to one special one you now know you will.
Some Other Ideas from Women:
I put on some music, Billie Holiday. Her voice flooded the room, climbed up the walls, spilled over the carpet, caressed me. I smoked. I fixed a Bloody Mary and took it with me into the bathroom. I poured bath oil into the tub and let the hot water run. I painted my nails a dark red.
— Margarita Karapanou
It is a most wonderful comfort to sit alone beneath a lamp, book spread before you, and commune with someone from the past whom you have never met.
I’ll cut my hair off. I’ll be Jeanne D’Arc. I’ll write the script, I’ll play her life. I’ll burn for what I believe.
—Carole Maso, The Art Lover