Flooding The Market

30Jan07

I’ve got to admit, I’m growing tired of the same old magazine article on destressing and decluttering your life. Articles with life coaches who help women find balance in their lives by removing commitments, activities, and even people from their clients’ lives. Why don’t we ever see the opposite? I know I can’t possibly be the only person out there who needs to find balance by putting more activities, commitments, and yes, even people in my life. Can I?

It’s weird, you know, because I haven’t always been this way. In high school and college, I was super busy, involved, social. I had practice six afternoons a week plus two nights most of the year. I was in god-only-knows how many clubs and organizations. Student council rep, editor of the school newspaper, student representative to the Board of Education, athlete, honors student, sorority member, concert organizer, resident advisor. I worked three jobs each summer in high school — all at pools and never amounting even a full 40 hours a week, usually — and had projects and internships during college. I was always going.

What on earth happened to me?

Here’s my day now:

I wake up sometime in the seven o’clock hour (although since being pregnant I wake up earlier and can’t fall asleep so I stay in bed awhile and try to pretend I’m still sleeping). Instead of having breakfast right away, I try to postpone it a bit by checking my email, my bank balance, and the weather. Then breakfast. Then, I have 10 more hours until Brian gets home and we have dinner and chat and play a game or go for a walk or watch a movie or whatever.

Most days, I spend those ten hours at home. Two days a week I have plans: yoga for an hour and a half on Tuesday mornings and office hours for two hours on Wednesdays. Otherwise, I spend my days mostly here, grocery trips and other errands aside. We live far away from school and I hate all the desks and chairs there anyway, so I study better here.

Of course, even on a good day I can’t read more than four hours. It’s exhausting reading theory. On days I write, which tend to come in two-week bursts every two months or so, I can go for as long as eight hours before I collapse in a mess on the floor. But usually four is my daily dissertation work max and three my more comfortable range. This doesn’t sound like much, I know. But it’s all I can physically handle. And I suspect, based on the fact that I am making progress and some others are not so much, it’s probably pretty typical.

Those of you good at math have already figured this out: that leaves me six to seven hours pretty much every single day to fill. Alone. My friends live in the city, and some of them are still taking classes. The others are working on their own dissertations.

Some of you busy types who need the magazine articles I was lamenting above might think, Ahh. That would be awesome. I would kill to have six to seven hours to myself with nothing to do every day.

To you I say this: try it. See how many days you can go before you want to stick an icepick in your eye. Because yeah, it’s pretty great for awhile. You feel so relaxed and in control. Nothing piles up, unless you specifically want it to or just don’t care about piles. You have time to each all your meals and snacks. If you want to repeat after you lather and rinse your shampoo, you can. Nothing holding you back.

But after awhile, you start to invent ways to fill the time. You play mindless games on the computer because they suck up one of your seven free hours. You have a snack because it takes up another fifteen minutes. You start playing the hardest SuDoKu puzzles you can find because they keep you occupied for another hour or so. Maybe you bake some muffins, repair something, paint something. You might create some kind of art. But eventually, all the things you can think of? You did them already. Yesterday. It’s not time to bake new bread, kneading it by hand so it takes all afternoon, because you still have a loaf left from when you did it two days ago. So you eat some bread instead and go back to the computer games. You start running errands just because you need to get out of the house. Target becomes your playground.

Please note: if you’ve also got my fear of spending money, this gives you little satisfaction. If you buy something, you feel guilty. If you don’t, you know your trip was pointless and feel worse about it.

You wonder what other people are doing. You know they must all be super busy. Maybe you should become that life coach that tells them all to pare down: there are so many of them it would keep you busy, and you’d be giving them that gift they so badly seem to want. No. Maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe I should. We wouldn’t want to flood the market. : )

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