Late last year, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This book gave me a nervous breakdown, but it was worth it. Part of Brown’s guide is encouraging us to tell our stories. This is one of mine.
I work full-time and have several part-time gigs, mostly teaching webinars and facilitating online classes. I’m on the board of Sisters in Crime. I play the bassoon and write short stories. That might be it. It’s easy to sum up, but not so easy to talk about. People often ask me, “How do you do it?” I believe there is a hidden question: “Why do you do it?” Because I have a little boy, who clearly should be taking up most of my time. How could you give up all that time with your child? is the big judgment lingering in the air. The answer is, simply, that I don’t. I have plenty of time with my child. I’ll get to that.
Why I do it: I love everything I do, and I need the money to build my child a better life. Those are the simple answers. There are definitely times when I feel so frantic, so overburdened by responsibility, that my head swims and my mouth speaks (it has a habit of doing that, beyond my control). But usually, that’s because my brain is on Fast Mode. We are all so tethered to our e-mail and our task lists. Sometimes I maintain the illusion that I can control my inbox (or the actions of other people) and that’s when things go off the rails. When I surrender to Slow Mode and the immediacy of The Moment, I feel free and grateful for all that I have.
The reality of How I Do It has so much to do with mental energy and skill, using the right brain and the left when appropriate. I manage my calendar and task lists with precision, while also blocking out chunks of time to be spontaneous. It doesn’t always happen the way I plan (especially when one works with the public) but giving myself the extra time allows me to breathe. I do this with both my personal life and work life. At work, I can “manage by walking around” and see problems I might not have seen if I were holed up in my office all day. While on the floor, I am more attuned to patron needs and possible behavior issues. At home, I have time with my son. I don’t answer the phone or read email. We play, snuggle, read books. I commit him to memory, one hug at a time, because he won’t always be like this. In a year, he’ll be some new wonder.
It’s not perfect. Of course, there need to be more hours. My husband and I could use more time together. I could use more time with friends. I miss reading as much as I used to. But mostly, what I’ve given up is feeling guilty, and that’s the key. Sometimes my house is not perfect (most of the time) or all the laundry isn’t done. Some nights we don’t cook at home. Sometimes things wait till tomorrow. There’s no point in working yourself into a grave. You take every moment as it comes, feel the feeling, take ownership, and move on. That’s an ideal, and it doesn’t always work, but I am happier than I ever have been.
I used to spend all my time worrying and manufacturing drama I didn’t need. I acted like a victim. When I realized I had the power to change my own life, the world opened up. I know the dark depths of chemical and hormonal depression, and I know that there is no magic bullet. I have been struggling with this again in recent weeks, and I have had clawed my way out of many holes. But I have more tools in my toolbox now. I can lean on myself rather than expect others to bring me happiness like a present from Santa. And when I started doing that, magically, I had more time and was able to accomplish more.
Now excuse me while I go read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and have another nervous breakdown. It’s coming. I can feel it.