Sunday morning began in the usual way. Turn off the fan. Turn on the lights. Turn on the lightbox. Move the cat. Check email.
Where the f*** were my emails?
I rebooted my phone. My Gmail account was still empty, so I ran to my desk to check the account on my laptop. Nothing.
This was a disaster.
Google wasn’t much help. The best they could do was restore the mail from my promotional tab so I could relive every website deal from Thanksgiving until Christmas. All of my business correspondence? Forget it. The holiday best wishes from friends and family? They would have to live in my memory. Anyone who asked me to do something or be somewhere, good luck with that.
Then again, I had an empty mailbox, which felt pretty cool.
How much of what was lost did I really need, and how much was I hanging on to because I could? I knew who I needed to ping to get critical information back. As disasters went, I’d survive.
I had a similar situation last month when my computer died. My advice for today–do not drink near your computer–especially if you gesture a lot when you’re on the phone. That sizzling noise the laptop makes as water seeps into the motherboard is your files saying goodbye.
Luckily I had a backup of my files on the server. Luckily I have a server, thanks to my husband to whom I apologize for rolling my eyes behind his back when he talks about security and recovery because like most people, I assume these inconveniences won’t happen to me.
I had a shit-ton of stuff in my archives; Multiple versions of the novel-that-will-never-see-the-light-of-day, Four year old orchestra press releases, Every iteration of the Dude’s college essays.When I thought about the files I really needed access to, it was a small fraction of what I had in storage. Did I really want my new laptop to inherit all of the clutter and chaos of the last one?
I decided to manage it like moving boxes. I’ll bring a file over to the new computer when and if I needed to. Otherwise, it could stay where it is.
Having the Dude leave the nest has had a similar effect on my life. For eighteen years, his schedule dictated mine. I loved being an at-home mother, but I was definitely in orbit, held by the gravitational pull of the Dude. Now that he’s on his own, the slate is wiped clean.
I have always kept a detailed electronic calendar, a throwback to my consulting days. It’s color coded by type of activity, participants and purpose. That calendar was the extra set of hands that kept me from dropping the ball, but the Dude took the ball with him when he left for school, and my calendar still looks exactly the same.
My father-in-law gave me an engagement calendar as a Christmas gift. When I opened it, I thought, “how quaint,” but I’m starting to reconsider.
The beginning of a new year serves as a reboot for me, a time to consider what to take from one year into the next. if how I live my day is how I live my life, how does my electronic calendar measure up? Like my email account and my computer files, maybe my schedule could do with a little electronic obliteration.
The booklet that my father-in-law gave me is beautiful, but not complex. It shows a week at a time, without demarcations for hours and minutes. It doesn’t call itself a calendar, or a planner, but an engagement book. Perhaps the term isn’t one of pretentiousness, but one of intention. An engagement can be a commitment, but engagement is also a state of being. This calendar requires a pen, and writing, and some consideration. I have these 24 hours. What will they mean?
Of course, I have appointments to keep, for which I’ll maintain my Gmail calendar, but focusing on life at the granular level is like bad musical theater, where time becomes no more than filler between songs. Instead of focusing on what I need to do each day, I can decide what I want each day to be.
So I’ll add my engagement book to my morning routine, right after moving the cat. My email can wait, assuming there’s anything there.