Priority Pie, with Bonus Balloons

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.

Why pie chart

 

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?

 

Timepie

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:

Work:

Professional LibrarianI 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.

Moving on.

 Health:

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.

SleepHowever, 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.

Green BalloonInstead, 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 escape leave.

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.

Balloon free

Sanity

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.

Booyah.

Time Flies

So . . . what’s left?

Right.

Writing:

Writing Pie

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 . . .

Toy Balloons

 

__________________________

*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.

 

 

Monday State of (so-called) Mind

Mondays

I’m back!  Sort of!

I’d planned to discuss my week off and my re-prioritization efforts and the cool stuff I was given for my birthday and my dentist appointment, and also the shopping trip I took with both kids yesterday—solo.

But what with the chapter attack and shopping and laundry and three levels of The Beardless Warrior (ironically, a time management game), I only managed to get about half the post done by the time I had to wake up the kids this morning.

I figured I’d finish up the blogcation/prioritization/birthday present/dental/shopping/parental post at work before I clocked in, but I might save the dental/shopping/parental part for Tuesday.

But Jane couldn’t find her day camp field trip shirt and Sunny decided to  take twenty minute to eat a peanut butter tortilla and fell back asleep while putting on her shoes,  and when we finally all made it to the car and hit the road, we was halfway to the kids’ school (twenty miles away) before I suddenly recalled that it was summer and I was supposed to be taking them  to the YMCA Camp (two mileaway).  So I ended up making myself late for work—although I partially blame all the delivery trucks, construction equipment, and cautious drivers that I was forced to follow all the way to work.

I figured I’d finish the  blogcation/prioritization/birthday present/dental/shopping/parental post over lunch, though I thought I’d save the dental/shopping/parental parts for later . . . and also the birthday present part, because I hadn’t downloaded the photos, &#!% it.

And then I realized that while I’d remembered to pack a bag lunch for Jane and give her field trip money, I’d forgotten to pack my own lunch or save enough cash to go out.

I figured I’d grab a bag of chips to eat at my desk and at least take a stab at writing up the decisions I’d made during my blogcation concerning my priorities and the changes I needed to make to stay productive, sane, and healthy. Or best two out of three, ’cause I gotta be me.

And then I thought about those priorities, showing vs. telling, and the definition of insanity.  And about not slapping myself on the hairpinned side of my forehead.

Ow.

So.

So at the time this post goes live, I’ll be sitting in my favorite nearby restaurant and having a nice salad and about a gallon of iced tea, because Rome was not decaffeinated in a day—unless that’s why it fell—and planning out a series of posts featuring a single topic each in the efforts to boost coherency.

Hey, it could happen.

Stay tuned.  Please.

So . . . How’s your Monday treating YOU?

Boxing Glove

Slippery Slopes and Dippity Do

So . . . I got my hair done Saturday.  Not just cut—done. Highlighted, actually, with tin foil and paintbrushes and a disturbing burning sensation on my scalp.

This is a big deal for me. 

I’m what you might call low maintenance when it comes to my hair, if only because “no maintenance” gives the wrong impression.  I do keep it clean,  get it cut every five weeks  to forestall its tendency to mullet, and fire up the curling iron every once in a while to sear the stubborn cowlick on my right temple into laying flat.  But that, to my stylist’s despair, is pretty much it.

This might be my way of rebelling against the ‘eighties, when teenage hair was 65% Aqua Net, 25% volumizer products, and 10% split ends  . . . unless you opted for Jheri curl or, heaven help us, Dippity Do.  It was a time of very strange priorities.

Or maybe I’m just too busy to bother.  Or I think I’m not worth it.

Whichever, it’s a testament to the skills of Jillian, my beauty engineer, that neglect has worked pretty well, in a Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby kind of way.

But Jillian is talented and determined.   It took her the better part of two years, but she finally talked me into trying something different.  She refused to let me dye my hair dark blue and nixed forest green highlights,* but swore up and down that I’d like the color she’d recommended.  She also convinced me to go without a haircut for two extra weeks, risking the dreaded mullet, so she’d have something to work with.

My serviceable brown hair is now streaked with glinting caramel and the style is far less reminiscent of a 1935 football helmet.  I now own a straightening wand.  There’s product on my bathroom counter.**  I even hauled out the blow dryer I haven’t used in three years and used it.

Jillian’s that good.

And she’s right–I do like it.  It takes me about five minutes to fix in the morning, even with the drying and the spritzing and the fixing.  And I’ve received nothing but compliments. 

But therein lies a small problem.

When I look  in the mirror, I can’t help but think that my face looks bare in comparison—probably because it is.  And a hairstyle like this deserves . . . a little makeup.

A very little—good hair only goes so far.  But even the minimal makeup in my kit is at least two years old.***  So sometime this week, I’ll go throw myself on the mercy of the poor makeup clerk at the Clinique counter who will sell me a new collection of tubes, powders, and brushes and fail to convince me to give mascara^ a chance. 

But this is where the slope gets slippery.  Because the next day, after I do my hair and apply a touch of inexpert makeup, the temptation is to take a good look at my outfit, which will suddenly seem . . . frumpy and dull.  As will all my clothes. 

Because hair and makeup like this deserve . . . a new wardrobe.  Something less Mommy, less casual Friday, less flannel-jammie-writing-outfit.  Less .  . . me.

See,  a new hairstyle can be like cleaning the kitchen windowsill.  After the windowsill is clean, the windows look dirtier.  Once you clean the windows, the curtains look dingier.  Once the curtains are washed and rehung, the counters look spotty.  Once the counters have been polished, the walls look saggy and in need of replastering.

But I don’t have time to replaster my metaphorical kitchenOr, in my right mind, the inclination.  

I suppose the key is to focus on my priorities and gain a little perspective.  

And maybe just one tube of tinted lip gloss.  I’m just sayin’.

 ___

*”Blue fades.  You’d have to come in every week or two to maintain it and it’ll still fade.  And you don’t even want to know what green does.”

 **And way high up in the linen closet, as instead of asking me what the straightening spray was for, Janie opted for experimentation.  I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but instead of the Nobel, she received a lecture, an instant bedtime without story, and a bill for nine dollars.

 ***Cosmetics in my possession almost always dry up before they run out, unless I drop the compacts first.

 ^I realize that there’s a whole range of mascara applications  between the Little Sisters of the Unadorned Anunciation and the Kardishan sisters.  But I just don’t like the stuff.