Wellness Wins

The past two-three years were really tough for us. My youngest suddenly developed epilepsy and ended up in the hospital. We were terrorized by a pandemic, like everyone, but my crew were hit especially hard by the shutdowns. They are still rebuilding their lives. My workload at home tripled with massive dinners for a home of boys and with unexpected home repairs. The boys needed emotional, academic, and social support. Then we spent an entire year helping our son with autism find a quality transition program. I woke up at 2am with panic attacks about the money given to an attorney. Through all that, I maintained writing and my other side hustles.

Things are MUCH better. Yet, things are still a bit crazy. I’m still watching two webinars per week to get help for Ian. I’m still filling out government paperwork. We still spend one day every weekend taking him to a museum or a concert, and we still still drive him to therapists and tutors two evenings per week. I’m still going to school board meetings. I’m still writing two newsletters. I’m still writing articles. I’m still shipping out books for my books shop. I’m still hosting massive extended families dinners. I’m still jogging. I added new things, like substitute teaching and running for local office.

I am realizing that I’m super exhausted. I have to slow down. I really have no choice. I have three or four article pitches that are written in my head and need to be typed up. I can’t do it. I can’t make myself open up a google.com and put words on the screen. My body is telling me to slow down.

I’m going to continue doing everything, just at half capacity for the rest of the year. I need to make a list of everything that I’m doing and make some tough choices. The problem is that I LIKE everything that I’m currently doing. I like cooking for my family, taking Ian to museums, creating content, making money, getting involved in local life. I’m not a workaholic, because lots of those activities are not officially “work.” I”m more a do-aholic. I do a lot, but at this moment, I have to do a lot less.

December is usually my craziest month with writing deadlines and holiday preparations, but this year, I’m going to try to only do things that I really love, to reduce obligations, and to spend lots of time on the sofa reading books.

PICTURE: We took Ian to see The Titanic exhibit this weekend. I need to slow down, because I would rather not sink.

23 thoughts on “Wellness Wins

  1. “I’m going to continue doing everything, just at half capacity for the rest of the year.”

    Can you give yourself the month of January, too?

    I am the opposite of a “dooaholic” but I know a lot of them. I’m learning this isn’t accidental. Without them, the world would slow down.

    A classic doaholic friend ended up in the hospital last year while recovering from surgery because everyone depends on her to do everything. I couldn’t take over the most demanding task (a memorial service, very sad, no one else to do it), but I did tell her to tell her college son to prep the house for cleaners, which she was planning on getting out of bed to do.

    Hugs to you to figuring this out, but, I hope you can find other people to do the stuff that needs to be done so that you can give yourself space to be well

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    1. Ha! Do-aholics are incorrigible. I have a friend who had knee surgery – and was strictly to have no weight-bearing for 6 weeks (I think). She’s one of the never-stops-for-anything people – so it was going to be a real challenge.
      Her family did an intervention – and got someone in to clean, weekly (among other things). I found her cleaning up before the cleaner arrived – because she couldn’t bear someone else to see the house in ‘that state’.
      Her doctor gave her a terrific lecture – and told her that if she wanted to be lame for life, she was going exactly the right way about it.
      She did take it on board. And, I’m sure the enforced rest did her good in a whole lot of ways (not just the knee repair)

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    2. bj said, “I am the opposite of a “dooaholic” but I know a lot of them.”

      *waves*

      I’m a fairly low energy person, but I get a fair amount of mileage out of myself by just being selective about what I choose to do.

      I try to think, if I were to do just one thing more, what would be the most important thing?

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  2. I think one of the differences between a “workaholic” and “doaholic” is whether someone else is demanding the work. Mind you a lot of workaholics are just doaholics who get paid, but some of them couldn’t keep their jobs without the work (like, when, Musk officially demanded it).

    I think sometimes doing is just as demanding as work — when something just does have to be done (taking care of our kids, for example) and there really can’t be anyone else to do it.

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  3. Take out! Simmer sauces! Instant Pot! Eighty-seven per cent of the results for fifteen per cent of the effort…

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    1. Yeah, I’ve already put a time limit on weekday dinner preps. Everything — including training Jonah and Ian to learn how to cook — has to happen in 60 minutes.

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  4. I am always completely astounded out how much you do. And do so well. I feel that your family is very lucky to have you around. Not just for what you do, of course. (although I would really like you to do some free-lance parenting with my kids!) but because you seem like such a great human being.
    Have to agree with the slowing down though. Good luck with not doing anything, I believe I could teach you a lot in that area. But maybe it’s just my gift (silly face here)

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    1. Ha. Thank you. You’re very kind. But yes, I do need to slow down. I don’t really have a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever hit a mental brick wall like this before. And I’m super lucky that I’ve got Steve with me, not just because his job is largely responsible for paying the mortgage and the VISA bills; he does a lot around here.

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      1. A supportive partner is worth their weight in gold. I’m not always good at letting go of tasks to others (control issues) but I’m working on it.

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      2. If a partner weights 180 pounds or so, that’s over $5 million of gold. I’ve probably been worth $5 million over the whole run of things, but lots of that is now water under the bridge.

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      3. Hey I reject my worth being measured in my weight in gold if you’re going to nitpick the actual weight. I am worth no less than a partner who weighs 180 pounds!

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  5. So glad that you’re taking the ‘hitting the wall’ feeling as a serious message to take stock, and cut down on your commitments.
    Women (in particular) are so prone to the super-woman syndrome – taking on more and more until they burn out.

    If it doesn’t affect your immediate family – then, actually, you can let yourself take a break. If it does – then, maybe the rest of the family can step up (boys cook on their own a couple of nights AND clean up the kitchen. They can practice the dinner options you’ve already taught them).

    Sorry if this sounds lecture-y – it isn’t meant to – just supporting your wise choices.

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  6. I am also the opposite of a do-a-holic but am very good at giving lectures to my do-a-holic friends and colleagues. Funny story: I once got into an argument with a minister friend of mine who was at a huge church, where she insisted that it was part of her job responsibilities to to attend a certain prayer service every single day even though no other minister did. I said that was great if she *wanted* to or had decided herself it was important, but that clearly it was not her *job* to do so. That’s how non-do-a-holic I am, trying to talk a minister out of praying.

    So, absolutely, sit on the couch and read books as much as possible. I am really enjoying The Thursday Murder Club (two so far in the series, one coming soon). Or watch Megan and Harry if that makes you happy!

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  7. I’m still recommending the Windsor Knot.

    Also, Anne Helen Petersen’s most recent millennial work podcast: “Work Appropriate with Jane Coaston: Is This Relationship Over?” Not my attitude towards working when I was working for pay. But, probably advice that workers need to hear. They were answering “should I quit” for people who could quit. The answer was often yes, if you care about your own well being.

    (Anne is an PhD in film, pop culture writer, worked at Buzzfeed, quit, and now does substack; Joan wrote/podcasted for NY Times and was a history major, according to the podcast, though I can find no evidence of that on the internet)

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  8. “I’m going to try to only do things that I really love, to reduce obligations, and to spend lots of time on the sofa reading books. ”

    And, today from Emily Oster’s newsletter (parenting, young children, seems like I hear the same things we were talking about 20 years ago). She interviewed

    She interviewed Jessica Grosse (NY Times, new book) & Yael Schonbrun (psych professor, also new book). The Grosse book is on the lack of structural supports for mothers in the US, Schonbrun’s on the “2nd arrow”, which is apparently a Buddhist metaphor for the harm we do to ourselves on top of the damage caused by the structure (i.e. mom guilt).

    Schonbrun says that “subtracting” (taking things off your list when there’s too much) is new need, because, in our evolutionary world, stress was usually caused by lack, lack of food, for example. So, we’re not good at it, according to her. She thinks reminding us of this is useful in trying to avoid the 2nd arrow.

    “I think the realization that we don’t naturally default to making things simpler helps us to be more deliberate about that and to build that practice into our daily lives. So you could add a stop-doing list next to your to-do list or just make it a practice before you add a new thing to your itinerary or your schedule, think about maybe subtracting something.”

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  9. Re scaling back on “to do’s”, I think there’s a lot of gendered expectations floating around in the ether as well. We take on responsibilities and ignore responsibilities for reasons that we’re unaware of until we make them explicit. It’s related to the emotional labour of women – being the point person for all things home no matter our paid work or other demands. Not being able to give up chore X unless it’s done exactly as we would do it. Home cooked meals vs. takeout/meal delivery service

    For paid work I do couples counselling and for the most part, same sex couples don’t have this issue. There’s no cultural “hangover” of gendered expectations of who does what – it’s just “here’s a bunch of stuff that has to get done so let’s divvy it up in a way that makes sense to us”. Another way to look at it is if you were living with three roommates, how would you divide up what needs to be done to keep a joint home going? If it’s different than your situation now, why?

    We live in a culture with many expectations about what family and home should look like – how holidays should be celebrated. And it leaves us in debt and exhausted rather than fulfilled and happy from spending time with our loved ones.

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  10. My to-do list is extensive, because I’m a perfectionist. I find it really hard to just open a jar of marinara sauce, because I know how to make a really good sauce from scratch. And, also, I have lots of guilt. Not just mom guilt. But guilt-guilt. I opened up my first xmas card last week and felt bad that I hadn’t done one in three years, so I made everyone get dressed up and stage a photograph and ordered cards. Three hours. I feel guilty about not substitute teaching again, because the kids bonded with me last time. I feel guilty that I haven’t spent enough time with my mom, so I’m taking her to the mall right now. Now, guilt is important. My mom does need attention. But sometimes I need guilt-free days. Steve and I need to carve out some time to plan a weekend away together in a really boring place where the only thing to do is drink and sleep and other stuff.

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    1. What this means is that if your husband has your real interests at heart, he will bring home some jars of marinara sauce and open one of them, which means it will develop little patches of mold in a few days so you have to use it. Simmer sauces too, Trader Joes are very nice. 93% as good as scratch, a tenth of the time. And did I mention frozen peas?

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  11. What I extract from your paragraph is that your life is set up so that you really need to get away in order to have the wellness filling experience that responsibility free time with your guy provides. Hope you are able to find it, and on a regular basis. I think that’s part of the fantasy of a 2nd place, though hearing about other people’s experiences, I’m not sure the fantasy works the way we’d hope.

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    1. bj said, “What I extract from your paragraph is that your life is set up so that you really need to get away in order to have the wellness filling experience that responsibility free time with your guy provides. Hope you are able to find it, and on a regular basis. I think that’s part of the fantasy of a 2nd place, though hearing about other people’s experiences, I’m not sure the fantasy works the way we’d hope.”

      That’s exactly what my in-laws did for a long time.

      Work-from-home means that you’re always at work!

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  12. I’m really glad you are taking care of yourself! I experience a lot of the same pressures, especially around home made meals from scratch (and the endless produce that arrives from the farm share/food share) and trying to get my kids out to experience things when my body says only lie on the couch.

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