Those Elusive Blanks| January 10, 2023
No destinations penciled in. No times jotted down. No deadlines marked. Nothing
very time I do it, I promise myself that I’ll never, ever do it again.
And then I do, of course.
Inside one of my kitchen cabinets hangs the calendar that has all the unremarkable nitty-gritty details of our family’s collective life on it. There are appointments and weddings and reminders, vacation days and deadlines and plans. All routine, penciled in with great haste and zero pomp.
Then there are days, and sometimes even weeks, that stay blank. They’re plain squares of white noise, portending days that will be perfectly unremarkable, and I love them.
Anytime life gets overwhelmingly chaotic — and that happens with astounding regularity in our blessed frum lives — I find myself looking at the calendar, wistfully eyeing those rows upon rows of empty squares waiting for me. They’re usually only a few weeks away, those blank squares all lined up, so full of lovely, wonderful nothingness. No destinations penciled in. No times jotted down. No deadlines marked. Nothing.
I know that it is only because of Hashem’s goodness that my calendar is dotted with well-visits and dental cleanings and graduations and upsherens and bar mitzvahs and weddings, but sometimes… sometimes I am so glad to keep those empty squares just for myself.
Do you remember me, calendar? Do you remember the me who isn’t linked to all those obligations and appointments and things to do, people to see, places to be?
So I look at those perfectly boring rows of time, and I wonder. Will I really have time to just be? To sit down with that folder of half-finished projects? To do something as prosaic as sorting photos? To think? To wonder? To plan?
On some days those lined-up squares of white blanks look like perfect little pillows, just waiting for my head to fall into them, and I dare to hope. Would I really have the time to take a break? Maybe even… a nap?
Yes, certainly this would all be possible, I decide. Because what else would I be doing with my time with nothing urgent waiting for me? And so I shut the cabinet door, content to wait just a little longer for some extraordinarily ordinary days.
But then, with nary a flourish or a bang, those white squares arrive, and my child comes down with strep and then an ear infection. Back to back.
And then our forced-air heating system breaks down, and the house is cold, so cold, and the first dozen plumbers we reach only fix baseboard heating, and we rely on space heaters and sweaters and steaming mugs of cocoa to stay warm.
And then there’s a catastrophe at work, and my brain and schedule are overtaken with lists and spreadsheets that sprout wildly in every direction, restrained by neither time nor space nor mercy.
And then the complaints and nudging start trickling in. “Mommy, call the dentist already! My tooth hurts,” and “Mommy, my toes are really squished. I need shoes!” And then this one’s hair grows a few inches — overnight! I’m sure of it — and that one suddenly has no pants without any holes in them.
And then a family member falls ill, and suddenly we’re tossed into the world of hospital shifts, medical jargon that becomes all too familiar, and a schedule that has neither a beginning nor end nor middle.
And I’m left to wonder: Where did all that plain old noFthingness go? How did we manage to fill each and every waiting square?
And I know I shouldn’t have.
I shouldn’t have looked. I shouldn’t have waited. I should have just let things roll, welcoming each day as it dawned.
Now, armed with resolve made stronger with regret, I promise myself not to do it again. I won’t peek wonderingly at those days to come; I just won’t.
But then the months turn, and I flip to a new, nearly empty page on the calendar. And before I can catch myself, I sigh happily and think Oh! Blessed routine once again….
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 826)
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