So I had a nervous breakdown or three this past week. Actually, I probably had even more than that. I have been stressed out for a while now, trying to get **WORK** done because I am a **PROFESSIONAL WRITER/ARTIST/STAY-AT-HOME-MOM** who has responsibilities and drop-dead-lines and a career to forge, blah, blah, blah, blah…
The last several months have just hit me like a steam roller, smashing me flat over and over again. It’s partly due to the amount of work that suddenly fell into my lap (four art commissions at once!), plus the extra work that I created for myself (New podcast! Write and record a new story every week! Promote EPIC VA and market your writing career! Make personal appearances at conventions!). And it’s partly the fault of my own anal retentiveness over the state of cleaning in the house (Must do laundry every day! Must mop and dust once a week! Scrub those toilets! Clean that shower! Scour that sink!). Oh, and don’t forget exercise (Swim 20+ laps three times a week! Karate class twice a week! Practice 2-3 times a week! Walk! Stretch! It’s good for you, dammit!).
Jesus Christ Almighty. Who the fuck was I kidding? Not even Wonder Woman could do all that every day. But I sure as hell tried. Have been trying for the last several months. I think it started back in August, when the art commissions came in. About that time I started up the EPIC VA group. And then I started working on the podcast in September. And the housecleaning thing? That particular losing battle got started the month before Sam was born. I can recall being eight months pregnant and having so much energy that I could get up at 4:30 AM **before my alarm went off** and being all excited about doing a couple of hours of housecleaning. Only it didn’t seem like a couple of hours, because I was doing the Fly Lady thing, and which turns housecleaning into 15 minute blocks scattered throughout the day, mixed in with 15 minute blocks of other stuff in between, like work, playtime with the kids, exercise, etc.
Not to knock Fly Lady, because she’s got some really good ideas there, but parceling my life out in 15 minute segments to do all the shit I thought I needed to do was really killing me.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to juggle too many chainsaws at once, and failing at it. On the days that I managed to do all the stuff I told myself I had to do, I felt like I was running one massive long marathon, with no end in sight. I was getting up almost two hours before Michael was (and resenting him for sleeping in) and going to bed an hour before he was. This made it seem like we lived in two separate time zones, even though we were in the same house. I only saw Michael when he was asleep, and many mornings this frequently led to me not getting out of bed at the ungodly hour of **5AM** because if I did, I was giving up quality time with my husband. Yeah, sleeping with my husband was considered quality time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the fun kind of sleeping with my husband.
What was really bad was what all this **WORK I HAD TO DO** was doing to my temper. I was so frantic and so harried and so overscheduled that I had no patience left, especially with the kids. I resented every minute I had to take to herd them along through the day. Five-year-olds and toddlers do not move fast, nor do they live their days parceled out in blocks of 15 minutes. I was yelling at both kids way too often, and then on top of it I was yelling at Michael because his attitude was a bit more slack than mine and he wasn’t doing things **EXACTLY THE WAY I WANTED THEM DONE, ESPECIALLY THE HOUSE CLEANING WHICH WAS DRIVING ME NUTS AND DIDN’T HE UNDERSTAND HOW HARD I WORKED TO TAKE CARE OF THE HOUSE AND THE KIDS AND HOW WOULD HE LIKE TO DO HIS OWN DAMN LAUNDRY BECAUSE I’M TIRED OF PICKING UP AFTER HIM**.
So yeah, this sort of shit has been going on for months now and last week it sort of all came to a head and I have three or four meltdowns in a row and then something miraculous happened.
The car went into the shop.
Huh? Say what? What does your car being in the shop have to do with melt-downs and sanity-salvation, Helen?
See, it was like this. The steering column in the SUV was making this horrendous squeaking noise every time I turned the wheel. I ignored it for a while, because I really, really didn’t want to spend several hours chasing Sam through the Saturn dealership while someone fixed my car. I had too much shit to do, see? And besides, I’ve been in that dealership often enough in the past few months that I’m sick of it. The people who work there are really nice and they’re very patient with Sam, but they make crap coffee. Anyway, the squeaking noise in the steering column got so bad that last week I finally couldn’t ignore it anymore so I finally broke down and made an appointment to have the car repaired on Friday. Only when I made it, I decided to drop the car off **the night before**. That meant I would be stuck at home all day Friday, unable to go to the gym or anyplace else, but hey, it beat being stuck at the dealership with the crap coffee with nothing to do but chase a screaming toddler.
So Thursday evening came. Everybody in the family had a raging cold that day. I had spent the previous several days killing myself to finish up a commission, which still needed a lot of work, and I was dead on my feet. When I picked Cassie up from preschool, I decided I was simply too fried to make dinner, so I called in an order for Chinese. Michael picked it up, brought it home, and we ate a really delicious but very-bad-for-us meal. Then we all piled into the cars and took the SUV to the Saturn place and left it there. When we got home, I sat down at my computer and went back to work on the bloody art commission that had become the bane of my existence. And I worked on it until 2AM.
Crazy, neh? Typical overworked stay-at-home mom shit. But then Friday came and this is where the miracle really started. Because I had been up until 2AM, **I decided to sleep late**. That’s right. I shut off all three of my alarms (because I’ve been so damned tired I actually needed **three alarms** to get my ass out of bed) and I slept in. I let Michael get Cassie up and ready for school. Somehow, they got themselves breakfast and made it out the door. I don’t know how. I slept through it all. And then around 9AM (oh my gawd, did I really sleep until 9AM?!), I woke up feeling pretty decent and got out of bed. And I made breakfast – Captain Crunch for me and yogurt for Sam – and I brought it upstairs to the master bathroom, and then I got Sam up and we both got undressed and we took a bath while we ate breakfast. And that worked out pretty well. And since I was feeling lazy and I’d been up so late and I didn’t have a car anyway so I couldn’t go to the Y, I decided to say, “Fuck it!” and didn’t bother to do any exercise. I did fold some laundry, but that was really more an excuse to listen to some podcasts. And I let Sam watch two hours of TV, which I watched with her while I worked on the bloody art commission. And while I did this, all I could think of was, Jeeze! When was the last time I watched TV? When was the last time I just goofed off?
The rest of the day went pretty much like that. We had a simple lunch with Michael (holy cow, we were both awake and talking!) and afterwards I took Sam out for a walk. While she ran around in the field behind our house, I followed along taking pictures of whatever caught my interest, and it was nice. The weather was warm, flowers were blooming, Sam played in the dirt and I had absolutely nowhere I had to be because hey, my car was in the shop.
Sam went down for a nap after that, and I kept working on the bloody art commission, which was now actually turning out to be kind of fun because by this point I had decided it was the only thing I was going to work on that day so now I could actually take some time to play around with it. And it came out sooooooooo nice. Mary’s seen it and she likes it so I know it’s good. And when it was done, I sent it off to the client and he likes it too, which means he’ll pay for it now and that makes **me** happy. Then around 5PM, Michael came home to get me and Sam and we all went to get Cassie at preschool and then we picked up the car and I took the girls home and make leftovers for dinner – Chinese with mashed potatoes and green beans. Yum!
And then we all watched some TV and I tinkered around with the art commission a bit more and bedtime came and the girls went down fairly easy and no one was shouting, especially me, and I stayed up too late after that but I didn’t care and I still got a good night of sleep because I slept through the alarm the next morning but I was only a little cranky about that because we still got to Cassie’s karate class on time and I was able to do the writing work I had meant to do at **bloody 5AM** while sitting in the dojo watching my girl do her Okinawa thing and then the rest of the day I just sort of relaxed and went along with the flow because I was wearing my favorite Hawaiian shirt with my favorite pirate socks and the weather was sooooooo nice again so I took the girls out for a photo safari and we took pictures of tree bark and tiny flowers and a little bumble bee and all the spring-is-in-the air stuff inspired me to write the coolest story for my podcast and then Mary and Shawn came over for dinner and karate and we all had a good time even though the pork chops I cooked turned out kind of lame.
And all this happened because the car was in the shop all day Friday.
I took a break. I had no choice – the damn car was in the shop. And afterwards I felt better than I had in months. So good that it makes me cry thinking about how damn hard I’ve been flogging myself to make things happen. So I’m rethinking some things this week. I’m going to keep wearing my Hawaiian shirts and just work on one thing at a time and I’m going to slooooooooooow down because honest to god, nothing I do has to happen except for taking care of the kids, my husband, and myself. I have been so stressed out over all this other shit that I told myself I had to do to succeed as a writer-artist-mom, that I felt like I was working back at Langley AFB again. And everyone who knows me knows how bad that job was. When I quit that place I swore I would never work under those conditions again. And yet somehow I recreated all that right in my own home. Well not anymore.
I’m goofing off today. I’m gonna listen to some podcasts while I fold a little laundry. I’ve got an article to start for ERWA. Maybe I’ll write a little flash fiction I’ve had in my head and send that in to the writer’s group. But I’m only doing those things because I want to, not because I have to. And none of it has to get done today. As for the other stuff that’s on my list? Well, all that shit can wait its turn, can’t it? I mean, it’ll still be there when I’m ready for it. I’m pretty certain of that.
So that’s all for now. Chill, dudes.