Last Saturday I caught myself doing something I don’t usually do: I woke up without a plan and let the day roll along without making one. Ordinarily I’m one of those people who’s manic about scheduling something for each hour of every day (and I get so defensive when people tell me my life is overplanned– I’m like “I know, damn it! But I gave myself sixteen nanoseconds on Wednesday to do nothing, so there’s that! Dick!”), which probably began when I was a lot more busy with work and taking classes and still trying to have a social life. But now I just find myself wanting to plan things all the time because there’s this gnarly, woolly, black cloud of anxiety that starts creeping across my sky when I have nothing but days and time ahead of me.
When did that happen? When did free time become so daunting? I swear I can remember moments when stretches of nothing to do felt fun and full of possibility (wasn’t college good for that? You’d start the day promising to yourself and good God in heaven that you would study for that biology exam and you even cracked open the books and unwrapped the index cards, but before you knew it, you were napping on your friend’s brown couch and then you were sharing meatball subs down by the lake and the day ended at an impromptu party of someone from your freshman dorm and you’d been wearing the same sweats all day, and you gave your number to that hottie hot body from your Hemingway class and you’d started laughing and you didn’t stop until you get home and saw the open textbook on your desk, but you didn’t really give a shit and you’d fallen asleep on the futon but before passing out you felt a piece of mozzarella stuck to your tooth and you prayed that it wasn’t prominently displayed when you gave that guy your number– and none of that, none at all, would’ve happened if you’d tried to plan it), but now I just get scared that free time means me time which means thinking about my life time which means shit, what haven’t I accomplished time which means nap time drowsy time I have to sleep time because it’s too hard to ponder time.
And man oh man, holy mama mia, have I been sleeping a lot. I don’t think I can blame it on my rigorous work schedule (seven-eight hour shifts, four days a week), and I think I’ve been home too long to chalk it up to jet lag. Since getting back to New York, I’ve been turning any free moment into an opportunity for delicious snoozing. I sleep at least nine hours at night, I get on the subway and sleep through my commute, and then after eating something heavy and carby, I have a beer, eat a cookie, smack my lips and say “Nap time!” Usually I never have to set alarms– I’m ordinarily a morning person and can wake myself up pretty early– but jeezum, don’t you know last week I overslept and woke up thirteen minutes before I was supposed to be at an audition in midtown?
So somewhere in all of this, I’ve turned downtime into anxioustime into sleepytime, which stops feeling good and restorative after the third nap of the day. I’m not really letting myself have free time. I miss relaxing. I miss having fun. I miss not paying attention to my minutes the way old people pay attention to their vegetable intake or stool outtake. I recently stopped taking an acting class, and when I talked to the teacher about it, he told me that I have an “anxiety of wants.” I’m not sure what I really want or I won’t let myself own it, so I get spinny and start bouncing from one thing to another and can’t really connect with what gives me pleasure. And that tendency feels most glaring when I start thinking about how I’d like to spend my time.
I caught up with an old friend. She lives in a beach town even though she teaches in Brooklyn. She made that move just because she wants to be near the ocean. Spending time with her is a whirl of beach chair sitting, sunscreen lathering, Budweiser in koozie-covered cans drinking, fried clam eating, and Malibu rum sipping. When I’m with her, we let one thing lead to the next lead to the next lead to the next. And it’s always kind of been that way. The fun is amplified by the summerness of it all, but even when we were living in Vermont, far from bikinis, we let open days mean good days.