True confession time:
The past few months, I’ve become nearly immobilized by my own expectations.
It’s as if I’ve been standing in the center of a room that’s slowly filling up with small balloons: blue wishes, pink desires, purple promises, yellow fears, orange assumptions, red determination, green guilt.
The pressure isn’t heavy, but it’s there and I’m surrounded, and I can’t move.
Not forward, not back.
But when I realized that I was the one blowing up all these balloons, I also realized that I was the one holding the hatpin.
So, I took last week off to figure things out.
And make pie charts. Just because.
First, I wrote down a list of things I want to do and have to do and don’t want to do and can’t do and have to do before I can do and do be do be do be do.
And then I wadded it up and threw it away, because I already know that even if I can, somehow, have it all, I’ll never be able to have it all at the same time.
So what are the daily essentials that I need to function?
There’s some necessary overlap, because my family and friends and writing* can keep me sane, if they so choose, and I can’t spend time with them or write or work if I’m not healthy, and I don’t have health insurance without work . . . so it’s more of a Venn Pie.**
All I have to do is figure out how to balance the slices on a daily basis.
Here’s the plan, so far:
I don’t have much leeway here, except for what I do on breaks, which usually involves a combination of the other parts of the Timepie.
But at least work is on a fixed, steady schedule: I put in a solid eight hours a day, five days a week, work one night a month and every other Saturday.
So it’s easy to plan around—and three cheers for the aforementioned health insurance and timely mortgage payments.
I like the idea of being healthy, I’m just not very good at following through.
I don’t sleep enough, I overwear my disposable contacts until my eyes hurt, all of my favorite activities are sit-ivities, I’m a wee bit caffeine-addicted and consider the Comfort Food Diet a valid lifestyle choice. . . And while I’m not afraid of doctors, I don’t bother making appointments for myself unless I’m coughing up something disturbing or that nagging pain isn’t going away—or the stick tells me I’m up the duff without a GYN-OB.***
But it’s past time I make the time to make some changes, which includes consulting medical professionals who will help me figure out what changes to make.
Therefore, I’m declaring this the Year of Health, because the Year of Sarah Finally Accumulating Medical Charts in One Place After a Decade of ERs and Drop-In Clinics takes too long to say.
I’ve already started: last week, I went to the dentist, who inspired me to hurry up and find a regular doctor by showing me a chart of my enamel-less teeth^ and asking me questions about acid reflux, sleep apnea, and tooth-grinding stress.
But scheduled doctor appointments, while occasionally problematic, aren’t as tough to fit in as the daily stuff.
The dietary improvements I’m trying out—I won’t bore us all explaining them—take no more time than my old habits, and neither does exercise, or what passes for it around here, which I’ve already been doing. Mostly.
However, there’s no question that I need more sleep. And to get more sleep . . . I have to sleep more.^^
And that takes time. Which means I need to finish up the stuff I need/want/have to do in a timelier manner so I can go to bed earlier or get up later.
I mean, I could warp the space time continuum in order to add a few hours between 02:00 and 02:01. But since I’m trying to reduce the amount of caffeine in my system, I’m not going to challenge the Laws of Physics anytime soon.
At least, not without the okay from my doctor. When I get one.
So . . .where can I make room?
Family and Friends:
Nope. Not budging. Or if I am, it’ll be towards more, not less.
That I need family and friends time is a given.
But though I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with e-mails and texts and lunches (with friends) and driving and feeding and hugging (the kids), I’ve been shirking a lot of invitations to girls’ nights out (R movies and art shows and nice dinners) and girls’ nights in (G movies and fingerpainting and pizza) lately because there’s so many other things I think I should be doing, so even when I’m out (or in) with them, I’m not really present.
Instead, I’m off somewhere thinking about all the other stuff I should/would/could have been doing, batting those balloons back and forth—supposing there’s room in my subconscious—and occasionally holding the rough twine tethering a floating ball of maroon resentment, which will turn the color of guilt about five minutes after I
My family is the biggest source of those green balloons.^^^
Because as much as I complain, as much as I occasionally threaten to mail them all to my parents in a cardboard box (“Breathing holes are a privilege, kids, not a right.”), or secretly plan to run away from the circus, I kind of love these guys. A lot.
I may kvetch (and blog) about interruptions and distractions, bad timing and my apparent ability to render all other adults in the house invisible, but at the end of the day—the end of all my days—I’ve do understand that I’ll never regret a single moment I’ve spent with them.°
And that pretty soon, the kids will stop asking for stories or attention or braids or even a Mom-shaped beanbag to lean against while they watch TV.°° Better get in that quality time where and when I can.
I’ve already started working on this, too—and I found out that I’m not as resentful now that I’ve learned to ask for time back—three hours a week to run away from home.
Look! That Sanity slice just got bigger!
As for my friends . . . when I’m with them, I think I’ll let go of all the balloons and just be.
This is gonna fluctuate with the ebb and flow and jostling of the other parts of the ‘pie.
But there’s a couple of solid changes I can make that may help—a few adjustments in, shall we say, medication.
We all have things we do, little rituals, little habits, that help us center ourselves.
One of mine is reading. Always has been, always will be, not giving it up—though “existentially incapable of giving it up” is probably the correct way to put it.
Computer games are another habit of mine. Specifically, Time Management games—probably because I can have as many do-overs as I want and there are cheats and walkthroughs, interesting storylines set to a snazzy soundtrack, and plentiful rewards and applause for a job well done.
Makes a fine change from reality.
But there’s centering, and there’s avoidance—and there’s ignoring all the other things I would/should/could be doing instead, in favor of yelling, “Five more minutes! One more level!” ay myself, until my eyes burn, my mouse hand hurts, and I’m restocking grocery shelves or harvesting pumpkins or doling out playdough in my sleep, which began a lot later (or earlier, depending on your POV) than I’d intended.
It’s past time to put some parental controls on my inner child and try a little Real Life® Time Management.
I haven’t decided whether to limit myself to playing on the weekends, or try to earn screen time with wordcount/chapters/pages.
Or use the time to reacquaint myself with one of the hobbies I seem to have traded in for pixels and points.
But I set my alarm for an hour last night, tore myself away from The Beardless Wizard, and had an early bedtime.
So . . . what’s left?
I like writing fiction and I like blogging my version of reality.
Both of them are worthwhile, both are beneficial, both can be a blast.
But one of my goals is to be a published author. More to the point, I want to be a paid published author.
Which means I have to scale down the time I spend writing posts and boost the time I use on fiction, both the writing of and the querying of.
To this end, I’m going to be dropping one post a week, to start, and I won’t be working on posts until I produce pages.
That also means the timing of publication—which has been holding steady at Noon CST for a while—is going to be more random.
Like today, for example.
And none of them are going to be as crazy long as this one, believe me—you’re getting all of last week’s at once.
Talk about your time savers . . .
*To be honest, I write interesting stuff when my sanity slips. But I wouldn’t want to live in that headspace full-time, and my family also prefers that I’m here more than there. Maybe; I’m told I can be amusing while on bookbrain.
**Off-topic Inquiry: Can a Venn Pie be a Real Thing? Strawberry, Blueberry, and Cherry, for example? Would I need to invent a new pan or just make and freeze seven kinds of pie (yes, I drew a Three-Pie Venn and counted) and carefully reassemble? Or have I just proven (proved? indy?) that the Sanity Slice is just wishful thinking?
***No, I’m not trying to tell you something. The equipment still works, but the factory is closed.
^No cavities, though. Weird.
^^This would’ve probably dawned earlier on someone who isn’t as sleep deprived as I am.
^^^Any guilt my friends give me is the motivational kind and much appreciated. Thank you.
°Even the two-kid-solo-parent clothes shopping trips. Stay tuned for that post; it’s a lulu.
°°But not money; we’ll always have my overdraft.
21 thoughts on “Priority Pie, with Bonus Balloons”
Excellent blog, Sarah. It is a tough one: posting versus writing fiction. I don’t post as much, practically nil these days, and am able to think more about my fiction. Because even if you’re not writing the posts, you’re either thinking about writing them (that patter in your head) or wondering what the response is. Takes up too much headspace. Would hate to lose your lovely posts but it would help timewise and concentratewise with your fiction. Good luck! xx
I’m not cutting back all that much, but even allowing myself to drop one is a relief. Which should have been a clue, really. 🙂
There is no reason on god’s green earth that you have to write a post by noon CST.
Proved/proven? Turns out both are legal, although proven snuck in from the Middle English, according to Merriam Webster, and was used extensively by Tennyson because of meter. Dastardly poets!
I know, but my self-imposed deadline had an affair with my mild OCD and had a Mustbaby in an ironclad diaper. Or something.
Well, you know how much I love Middle English and Tennyson (and dastardly poets), so I’m keeping the proven.
I definitely repeated the Tennyson bit for your benefit. Never let it be said I don’t know (certain of) my audiences.
That syntax was straight out of Tennyson. Sorry.
Hmmm. That reads more e.e. cummings to me, but I always associate his stuff with (weirdoffbeatmindspeak) parantheticals
If you can do it, my dear, I’m in. There just isn’t enough time for the crap I agree to that isn’t part of the pie. As for blogging, for the longest time it was to warm up, as it were, but now that time takes up all the writing time. Yes, here’s to giving ourselves permission to pop every damn guilt balloon, be present, and enjoy the moments we have instead of wishing it away. Thank you for writing this. Love.
When the warm up becomes the Main Event, it’s time to rethink. If I could make money blogging (without killing everyone with ads) or get a gig at an online magazine or something, I might have chosen differently.
Popping the guilt balloons sounds like a great idea. And a good title for a self-help book—which I won’t be writing for reasons I can’t express through my hysterical laughter.
Oh lordy…you and I co-authors of that one!
Yes, to all of it. Most especially to pie. Mmm, pie.
I’m for sanity, and family, and doing exactly what fulfills you and makes you pleased with your writing life. Blogging is wonderful but if it’s eating up your pie, you’re right to scale it back. You’re only ONE WOMAN, Sarah! And you only have one pie.
I want pie so badly, and I’m totally blaming indy and her breakfast pie post. Except I want peanut butter pie, which can’t be part of my life until I figure out what’s causing the reflux I didn’t know I had. Damn health initiative.
If blogging was all I needed, I’d just blog, but part of last week was actually figuring out which of my goals were what I wanted versus what I thought I should want.
Can my one pie be peanut butter? I’d guard it better if it was. 🙂
It can totally be peanut butter. With chocolate drizzles on top.
Love you, chickadee. XO
And right back at you. ❤
I have always believed that we were kindred spirits, but this post is great evidence to support that. It’s hard to sit down and look at how you spend your time; it’s hard to admit to how much time is spent not doing this we would like to do. Over the years I have noticed that you are queen of balance, even if you don’t feel it, or see it…it’s like the earth rotating on its axis. It’s happening anyway, even if you can’t tell. But I’ll still wish you good luck. xox (You don’t need it.)
I’m not really the queen of balance, I’ve just been lucky enough to realize I’m slipping before I hit the ground. That motion sickness is finally good for something, I guess. 🙂
I’ll take the luck and your faith in me any day. ❤
I may have to try to invent Venn pie. If I do, I will certainly give you all due credit for the idea. Write here when you can/are so inspired. I’ll read when I can. Also, I’m glad we scheduled our get-together time way early. Still looking forward to it.
Keep the credit, Dee, and just send me a slice or three! 😀
I’m SO looking forward to meeting you face to face! And the concert, too, of course—which reminds me, I need to make reservations at a hotel, because I’m not driving back that night. I’d better add that to my do-to list . . .
This sound very sane to me. Except, I want to know where the pie comes in because now that you’ve said it, I’m craving it.
Thanks, Lisa! And I know, right?
You’d think ice cream would be the big draw, now that the temps are rising, but piiiiiiiie.
I’m glad to hear that you are embarking on your Year of Health. (And I say this for purely selfish reasons: I like your blog and your have too many awesome-yet-unfinished manuscripts. You can NOT die young.)
But you better give up on that “more sleep” option. Writers never get enough sleep. You’re just gonna have to live with that one.
You . . . you called me “young.”
Thank you, Mike. 🙂
Yeah, motherhood puts the kibosh on sleep, too. Just when you think you’re safe, the midnight tummy bugs attack . . .