Early this afternoon, hours before the 4:30 deadline, I submitted my KSC fall term grades: finished. Of course, I still have two online classes to teach through midnight on Christmas Eve, which means Santa will be bringing me final exams to grade over Christmas. But for the time being, from now until then, my life is almost completely devoid of appointments, social engagements, or due-dates. Last week’s planner page was inked over with exams, office hours, and holiday open houses. This week, my planner page is almost blank. Now that the biggest batch of fall semester grades is done, I have time to rest, re-group, and de-brief.

And as is always the case in the immediate aftermath of semester’s end, I find the prospect of blank time to be a bit depressing, the transition from super-busy to leisurely shocking me with its suddenness. Do you know anyone–are you someone–who has struggled with the “What do I do now?” conundrum that comes with retirement, an empty nest, or other monumental life transitions? This sudden let-down from the adrenaline-rush of busy-ness is something I experience twice a year, every year: once in December when I submit fall semester grades, and once in May when I submit grades for spring.

You’d think I’d know how to navigate the transition from “on” to “off”: you’d think the process of easing off adrenaline would be something I’d know how to navigate by now. But every December and every May, the depressive shock of “Now what?” hits with surprising novelty, as if you can’t fully brace yourself for even an expected jolt. Part of the problem, I’m coming to realize, is the way the end-term crunch always seems to starve my practice: for the past several weeks, I’ve been so busy with the details of teaching classes, conferencing with students, and reading rough drafts of the final papers I finally graded this weekend, my own writing and meditation practice have been pushed to the sidelines, forgotten. Now that I have time to write and to meditate, I look at both the blank page and my neglected cushion with a mute stupor: “What do I do with you?” Coming to after coming down from end-term adrenaline, I feel like I have to get re-acquainted with the most precious friend I’ve sorely neglected: myself.

And so tonight, I have two batches of online term papers to grade…but they’ll wait until tomorrow. Tonight, I’m making a conscious effort–and right now, it feels like a conscious effort–to do nothing. With nothing but my own company, a book, and a sleeping dog to entertain me, I’m spending the evening de-toxing, weaning myself from the adrenaline I so self-destructively crave.