This morning I woke up to discover that my cable and internet were down; the icing on the cake for what I like to call the 2011 Summer Of Doom. After verifying that, yes, everything was plugged in properly, and, no, the dog didn’t unplug one of the multitude of cords and splitters that ensure delivery of TV and internet happens throughout the apartment on a daily basis, I was told they’d send someone out. After explaining that I worked from home and internet connectivity was essential to my job, they said they’d upgrade my case to “urgent” status. This means, at the very latest, someone will be by between 11-2 PM tomorrow, which in cable guy time, probably means 5 PM.

Annoying as this is, I kind of have the same feeling you’d get when you were a kid and there was an unexpected snow day. It’s that “YAY, I totally don’t have to do anything at all today!” feeling, which everyone appreciates. There’s a difference between choosing to do nothing…which everyone does from time to time, but it’s easy to feel guilty about being lazy….and actually having a valid impediment that makes it impossible for you to be productive.

For some reason, it gave me flashbacks to the summers I spent at CTY (also known as Center For Talented Youth; also self-mockingly called “genius camp”. ) For those who have never heard of it, it’s a 3-week program for kids 11-16 that score exceptionally well on the SAT’s at a very early age. The program is sort of a mini-introduction to college life, and allows kids to stay on a college campus while taking a freshman or sophomore-level college course. It was actually an incredibly structured program, but for thousands of overachieving youngsters, often with extremely pushy and demanding home lives, it allowed for a specific type of freedom. It allowed for “finding yourself” long before the age when most people actively started looking for themselves.

In any case, I adored my summers at “genius camp”, where I took all manner of writing classes…not because I had any specific desire to be a writer, but because my math scores weren’t in any way, shape, or form “genius”, and I was restricted to humanities-based classes. One of the built-in facets of ‘genius camp’ was that from 7-9 PM each night, you were required to stay in your dorm room, preferably to study, read, or work on homework. As one of the more extraverted spirits on a campus full of introverts, I always thought the two hours of “lockdown” would be tough for me…no TV, no radio, no distractions, just you, your thoughts, some books, and some paper. As it turned out, this “lockdown” time is what put me in touch with my introspective side, something that was previously neglected, with a highly busy schedule, demanding family life, and need to be popular and well-liked and all of that.

Years later, after learning about the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, I read that my personality type (ENFP) is the only extraverted type that needs regular opportunity for introspection. Apparently, it is my nature to learn, observe, experience, and take things in from being around other people…and later process them internally. In some ways, that’s the very essence of what blogging is, and perhaps why it’s a creative outlet that suits me much better than, say, trying to write a book or getting sucked into the world of academic research.
The result of those years at “genius camp” is that I learned just how distracted I truly am by any possible distraction in my vicinity. Even when I think I’m concentrating on one thing, there’s another part of my mind that’s thinking of three other things I might be doing. I learned to appreciate those few hours of forced, distraction-free “alone” time, because it helped me feel a little more centred and fond of my own life, even on those days when I wasn’t the most productive. Of course, I was also the first person to be excited about the two hours of social time that followed those study hours, because the chance to have fun and meet other people typically trumps introspection any day…at least it did until I hit about 27.

Days where everything decides to slow down and shut off, days like today, remind me of those locked-down study hours at “genius camp”, and although my first response to the inconvenience is general annoyance, I then feel a little happy about having the time to myself. I can write in my blog, I can read, I can work on some of the crafty projects I’ve been doing for Swap-Bot, I can write long e-mails to friends I won’t have opportunity to send until later…and I don’t have to feel guilty because I could be using that time more productively, making money, or doing things that other people would rather have me do. It’s anxiety-free, distraction-free time, and I wonder if maybe having a bit more of that in my life would help me cope with the anxiety-related aspects of my recent illness a little better. Perhaps I should start taking more regular retreats at Starbucks (if I still lived in a city, or a walkable area, I definitely would.), and stop feeling that even when I’m at home, suffering through the equivalent of “bed rest”, I need to be constantly entertained by outside forces, or working, or stressing over my situation.

As an adult, two hours of uninterrupted quiet doesn’t sound so much like a punishment anymore. And, I was reminded of another entertaining “genius camp” story to relate in the future…but that will have to wait for a future day of blogging.

Happy Tuesday, everyone! (and if you’re wondering, this post made it up courtesy of someone’s very slow unsecured wireless network.)