My paying work the last six years has been as an IT contractor, working in a technology called SharePoint. As a contractor I get contracts – specified term assignments at a company – the job lasting only as long as the contract and then I have to hustle up a new one. My last contract ended December 10 and about a week ago I landed a new one, lasting through the end of the year, which was to have started today.
Yesterday about 1 PM I heard from the recruiting company (that’s how you get these contract gigs) that the manager I’d be working for at the new gig said he wasn’t ready for me to start and I would have to start next Monday. As an aside, this adds to my concerns that my new boss is either totally disorganized or in over his head – but we’ll see about that.
What this created in my life is “bonus days”. I have spent the last week hustling like crazy to get things done prior to starting work. The new job is about an hour drive each way – so my Monday-Friday life will mostly be about work, preparing for work, and getting ready for the next day – not a lot of leisure or chore time during the week. So I was out buying new clothes and shoes, washing floors, getting routine appointments (oil change, chiropractor, etc.) done. I even had all my stuff ironed for the first week. Ready to go.
Now I have four unexpected days off with all the chores I had planned to do done.
I find that I am much more solicitous and mindful of these days than I have been over the past four months of time off. When the time off seems limitless (in ways both ‘good’ and ‘bad’) I frittered away plenty of it. I also got a lot done. But I didn’t fret about playing “one more game” of Bejeweled or Words with Friends or Mah Jong – after all, I had all day tomorrow and next week to get to what I wanted to accomplish.
But this feels like such an unexpected gift (unless it goes beyond next Monday in which case it will feel like a curse!). What do I do with this gift of time?
Each day we all get a gift of time. Life seems unending – an ocean of minutes, rippling in little waves. And then one day, we’ll see the shoreline, sometimes coming up quite abruptly.
When my friend Becky was dying I was shocked to come over to visit, finding her watching old Andy Griffith reruns on TV. “Doesn’t she know she doesn’t have much time left?”, I thought. Not sure what I thought she should be doing – composing music? Something Grand and Important, no doubt.
But it could be that the sages are correct once again. For wasn’t it St. Francis, who, when asked what he would do if he knew that he was going to die imminently, said “I would finish hoeing this row” (what he was doing when asked). I’ve probably mangled the story, but you get my point.
So whatever I do in my bonus days if I am wholehearted, fully present and looking to live life full out, it will be just fine. I do know that sitting by myself playing computer games (my equivalent of watching TV, I guess) does NOT feel life-affirming or full-out. So it’s not an “Indolence Pass”. But neither is it the Accomplishment Olympics.
How about you? When you get unexpected bits of time – be they weeks, days, hours or even minutes – what is your response? And what do you think of St. Francis’s rejoinder to the ‘time slipping away’ question? I’d really like to know!