I should have brought my laptop.
Traffic on Highway 1 is at a crawl. The 15-minute trip from home to town is going to take 20. Maybe more.
Irritation tightens my neck and stomach. At the traffic, yes. But mostly at myself for leaving my laptop at home.
It was a last-minute decision. I’d reached for it and then decided against it.
If Daniel runs late, I’ll sit at Starbucks, sip a mocha, and relax.
Which sounded appealing in the moment—like recreating a poignant movie scene. With, say, a little saxophone mood music in the background.
But now that I’m on my way to do errands before meeting Daniel at the end of his bike ride (our form of couples exercise), panic settles in in.
Sip a mocha and relax? When I have so much work to do? What was I thinking?!?
My returns at Home Depot go quicker than expected, increasing my anxiety.
The sooner I get done, the more time I’ll have to
waste spend sipping that mocha at Starbucks.
Grocery shopping is a breeze, but then—to my absurd relief—I get stuck in a never-ending line at Customer Service.
I’d rather wait in line than sit and sip a mocha and relax?
Sitting & Sipping
I arrive at Starbucks twenty minutes ahead of my meet-up time with Daniel. As I order, he texts that he’ll be half an hour late.
Irritation crawls up my neck, across my temples, and into my scalp.
I should have brought my laptop.
The hamster wheel in my head spins into overdrive:
- Tank up the Pathfinder!
- Make your returns at Target!
- Get a pedicure!
Clearly, I’d rather do anything than sit and sip a mocha and relax.
When my drink is announced, I thank the barista, sit in a comfy chair, and start to sip.
This much, I can make myself to do.
A woman enters carrying a baby.
About two weeks old … still tiny but not red.
Instinctively, I flash an I-remember-those-days grin. Waiting in line, the young mother smiles back, swaying unconsciously, resting her chin lightly on the tiny head tucked against her neck.
One morning she’s going to watch that baby boy hop into a car crammed with his stuff.
She’s going to wave as his sister drives him back to college.
Then, she’ll spend the rest of the day kicking herself for leaving her laptop at home.
My mocha becomes blurry.
I want my laptop so I can stay busy. So I can avoid that terrifying oxymoron known as “doing nothing.”
After all, being busy is my favorite way to avoid feeling. And to avoid my over-reactions when I do start feeling.
Like texting Annemarie and Jonathon—who are navigating very dangerous freeways—twenty times an hour: Praying for your progress! … How’s the traffic? … Where are you now? … ARE YOU STILL ALIVE AND SAFE?…
Which, of course, I don’t actually do.
Because I didn’t bring my laptop. And my phone has died.
So it’s just me and my feelings, sitting and sipping and relaxing together in Starbucks.
- It’s the the first time in seven years I’ve not driven a kid to college.
- The empty house is gonna be really quiet once we got home.
- I’ll feel so much better when Annemarie gets back.
Turns out, I don’t want my laptop.
I want guarantees.
I want to know for sure that Jonathon’s going to have a great year of school, that Daniel and I are going to adjust well to a new season of marriage, that Annemarie will arrive back safely tonight—and every night.
Relaxing feels frivolous when so many things might go wrong. Staying busy feels like protection.
But I’ve lived enough life to know it’s not.
Staying busy only gives the illusion of control.
So, watching the young mother with her newborn, I sit and sip and remember.
As I remember late night nursing in the rocking chair, cleaning up spaghetti-covered faces, and smiling every time “breakfast” was pronounced “bref-cast,” my irritation and anxiety subside.
Gratitude wells up, as it always does when I slow down to rest.
And I finally remember:
When I’m the most desperate to be busy, nothing may be the very best thing I can do.