Pardon me as I type a few words and then step aside to mix a drink. – OK. I almost took today off. Grand plans. Gods laughing. You probably know how it is. I recently resolved to take at least one day off a month, at least through October. A good idea. It almost happened. Instead, I decided to do something radical, I worked a bit, rested a bit, got a few chores done – and cancelled all my plans that sounded grand, things that I should do on a day off. It was that ‘should’ that changed my mind and reminded me of some frugal fundamentals. So far, my abandoned plans have worked out well, and the day isn’t over, yet.
It is August, a month when, despite common perceptions, Seattle becomes one of the driest places in the US. Rainfall so far is 0.16 inches. Evidently, even the deserts in the Southwest get more. That’s an easy bar to clear because one good downburst can produce more than that; and Seattle gets fewer downbursts than almost anywhere. Don’t worry. We’ll make up for it real soon. With weather like that, it’s a great time to head into the hills and hike. That was my plan that I wrote about in July. August is even better for hiking. The dry weather means the mosquitoes run out of breeding grounds. Summer rules, and the days are warm. No rain, no bugs, warm air, and views stretching for miles – if you can climb to them and if the dry weather hasn’t kicked off forest fires. The region is dry enough that even the Olympic Mountains, home of rainforests, is burning.
My plan was to hike to Surprise Lake, and maybe Glacier Lake above it. Sure. Not a problem. I’ve been there before. It would be good to get back; especially, if I had enough time to climb to the ridge over the lake and see the interior of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. To hike it right means two nights at the lake. Hike in. Set up camp. Spend one day roaming and relaxing. Hike out the next morning. Work two half days and take one day off in the middle, and it all fits my bizarrely Typically Atypical Trimbath Workday. I’ll get to it. I’ll get to it. That’s what I kept saying throughout the month; but I was busy finishing up a significant study, presentation, and web site redesign for one client while investigating several intriguing new initiatives with some fascinating folk. In the middle of the week I realized the end of the month was less than a week away and my schedule was almost fully booked. That’s okay. I could squeeze this in. I said I should.
Plans meet reality. The only time slot open was the weekend. Get the rest of my work done. Find time to pack. Check out a few worrisome bits about my truck. Then jump from work to pack to drive to hike to camp to climb to return and get back to work. Sounds relaxing, eh? And yet, I almost did it. The main thing that stopped me was the reality of the weekend. Even if I switched destinations to an easier hike, I’d be camping on a Saturday in August. One thing I learned from writing a series of books about the Cascades was that Saturdays in August are busy. Duh. Imagine hiking up 2,700 feet and 5.5 miles in just to find that all the campsites are taken. Last year I tried a hike like that and found four dozen vehicles at the trailhead for a lake that had fewer than a dozen tent sites. Alpine areas are fragile, and a lack of tent sites means a long hike back out. That didn’t sound appealing. I postponed those plans. In only two weeks, Labor Day would be past and the crowds would be gone.
Fortunately, there’s always more than enough to do on the quiet island that is Whidbey. I won’t list the weekend’s events because it would be hard to know where to stop. I will, however, include one example I looked forward to: the Island Shakespeare Festival, pay-as-you-can performances of Billy’s plays. I can afford that. I don’t even need to know which play they’re performing. I’ve never seen a bad show there. For a variety of reasons, I prefer to bicycle to their circus tent. Parking is easier (not that that’s an issue), and I get a workout. I usually avoid the Saturday performances because they are so popular; but I could make an exception. And yet, I didn’t; and it had nothing to do with them.
I need a day off. I continue to work to my slightly modified Rule of Seven where I take off one day every two months, with the recent exception. My productivity is fine, but it takes more effort than it should. My client base is basically unchanged, and my revenues are basically unchanged, as well as my expenses. A small improvement in my business can mean a big improvement in easing my anxieties; but for now, it pays to work. From the long list of things to do on a day off (of which I’ve only listed two) I realized that few seemed to fit my mood, schedule, and finances. The philosophy of frugality centers on concentrating on value. If an experience looks valuable to everyone else, but doesn’t feel like it is providing value; then reconsider. Maybe it means doing it anyway, but in a new way.
A friend instilled in me a motto that is very useful in turbulent times that I’ve experienced: hour by hour, day by day. Yes, it is good to plan; but sometimes the best thing to do is to take each hour as it comes, each day as it arrives.
Last night, instead of creating a strict schedule I did the opposite. I decided to take each hour of the new day as it came by. There was enough time to get in a hike, if I wanted. I could make it to the play, if I wanted. I could steer myself to any of a long list of options.
This morning I woke, and rolled back over for an hour. After breakfast, I realized I wanted to check in on the world so I might as well do my regular newsfeed for PretendingNotToPanic. From there, I was curious about the software trials we’ve initiated at the museum, so I worked at that for an hour or so. Thanks to some extra time yesterday, I was already done with my work for Curbed. It was lunchtime, I knew I could rush and pack and hike and camp and climb, and I didn’t. Instead, in a very relaxed fashion, I puttered. There were six hours before the performance, five if I allowed for the bicycle commute. I took a Clarity Break, as described by Steve Smolinsky, a practice I’ve always done but for which I am glad now has a name. After a short break, weeds were pulled, gardens checked, an operating system updated, a nervous truck repair handled with far less cost and fuss than I imagined, read the recent edition of The Economist, plus had a nap or two. By the time I was done, it was too late to bike to the play, and that was okay. I decided to take the time and write this post while a simple dinner slow-cooked its way to doneness and some fine aromas.
I will take a day off, honest. But, it can be more valuable to break convention, challenge assumptions, and oddly enough, take a break by getting some work done. The next slot in my schedule isn’t until September, but that’s only a few days away. Then, when I take that time I won’t be as worried about weeds, a truck overheating, or delays in my clients’ projects. The hike will be quieter and less crowded. The plays will continue for another week or two. August will be gone, but I prefer September. Maybe I’ll do something really radical instead and take two days off.
Now, pardon me again because dinner is almost ready, I’ve barely touched my drink, and I have a stack of movies and books to pick from for the evening. Popcorn may even be involved. Ah, luxuries.