Give It Up For Sanity

The school year has been blazing to an end in a last glorious succession of ceremonies and recitals and plays and class dinners. Folks, we haven’t seen white space on the calendar in three weeks. Ordinarily, we could focus our energy outward on all these events and just half-ass our way through home life, but rental agencies have been showing our house, and if you’ve ever had to get a building inhabited by two miniature artists and their work-from-home parents ready for viewing on a daily basis, then you know how absolutely minuscule I feel by day’s end.

Granted, I tend to lose perspective within two minutes of our schedule filling up, but it makes sense that I would feel like only a quarter of a person if only a quarter of my soul-waves are getting any airtime. When you’re moving and freelancing and juggling the unique physical-emotional-socioeconomic needs of your children and trying to keep your small family world spinning on its axis, there isn’t a whole lot of room left over for navel-gazing, not to mention frivolities like reading poetry in the bathtub or, say, communicating clearly with your spouse.

I know some people who seem to thrive on busyness, but I am not one of them. Sleep deprival and deadlines turn me into a manic-depressive robot (emphasis on the depressive). I have one of those high-maintenance souls that need long stretches of quiet—endless stretches, really, because if I can see the end, my mind will paint it as a deadline, and then the gentle work of steeping myself in reflection will take on all the pressures of a high-stakes job—and breathing room cluttered by nothing except for fresh flowers and the steam swirling off a cappuccino. I also need ungodly quantities of sleep. Think toddler on Benadryl.

The problem is in trying to arrange these amenities for myself while ever conscious of 1) how much I’m needed in the domestic and social and occupational circles beyond my own head, and 2) how little right I have to ask for luxuries like space and time when I’m already so very privileged. When I try to look at my life through a global perspective, I’m paralyzed by the disparities in women’s rights and opportunities, and if I am lucky enough to have fresh flowers and hot coffee on my desk, how could I possibly ask for a side of endless quiet?

I know this isn’t how compassion is meant to work; my freezing up with assumed guilt isn’t going to make the world a better place any more than it’s going to force my body-soul-mind mechanism to operate efficiently. Also, I’m cringingly aware of just how often I end up writing variations on the theme of Self Care Matters Even When Life Gets Busy. (I don’t dare scroll through my archives right now.) However, I have to admit that I still have zero idea HOW to maintain my own inner balance when life fills up. Everything that I do on a day-to-day basis feels important—indispensable even—so what do I give up in order to meet my ridiculous but necessary soul-needs?

This isn’t a hypothetical question. I really would like to hear from you, find out what you sacrifice in order to keep yourself whole and healthy, hear how you prioritize sanity in the thick of your own busy lives. Do you let the health food aspirations go and hire Papa John as your weeknight chef? Do you sweep your kids’ Legos under the bed when no one’s looking? Do you stock up on dry shampoo and pharmacy-grade deodorant and downgrade personal hygiene to “a nice idea?” What is it that you give up in order not to give up on yourself?

Help wanted

High-maintenance minds want to know.

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  1. This is such a good question. I don’t think I’m high maintenance, but if it means needing quite a bit of time alone with quiet then I guess I am. Ha!

    My best tip is getting up early, which hasn’t happened much lately. Also, I take frequent little breaks through the day…10 minutes in the back of the house while the kids play or watch a movie, maybe 3 times a day. I read and eat something sweet BY MYSELF for a few minutes. Sanity breaks.

    Having very few possessions has made housekeeping easier and less time consuming, and I have determined that we just do what we can do when it comes to healthy eating. I’m a big fan of eating correctly, but I can only do what I can do and won’t add extra stress by worrying about it. We do sometimes grill a huge batch of chicken or pork chops and freeze some of them so we have meat for the week…then add lots of salads and veggie sides or put it into stir fry. Simple. I have no time for elaborate meals.

    For the last couple weeks I just took a radical break from people, no facebook, no playdates, hardly any phone calls or texting, no blogging, and basically just hid from the world. The kids watched a lot of TV. It was rejuvenating and now I am energized to start scheduling people time again.

    It’s still not really quite enough but part of it is just the season of life. My baby is 2 and already I am able to sneak a bit more time. I know as the littles become more independent it will get better and better.

    All this to say…I get it! 🙂

  2. I get snappy, for one thing. 🙂 But mostly…I put away time for myself, for reading, or for walking or whatever. I prioritize it, because if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

    Health food schmealth food. I gave up soda at the beginning of the week though. We’ll see how far that goes for keeping me sane.

  3. I try for peaceful moments instead of peaceful everything. Somehow I can manage that, and the peaceful moments string together like pearls and make the wonky bits so much more manageable. 🙂 I’m doing better lately – mostly because of limiting my time online, getting outside more, starting my days with reading books instead of launching into my to-do list. I try to do the things that I KNOW my heart needs most: reading, writing, fresh air, cuppas, hugs from my Bear, and taking pics. If I can do those things, all the other stuff piling up around my ears doesn’t seem to matter so much.

  4. This is an enduring question in our lives right now, isn’t it? I was more challenged than ever this spring, working so hard to finish my degree. I gave up a lot, and what I found was that having a defined thing I was working towards let me do it like nothing ever had. I had much less extended family time, much less time with friends, and we ate easy, quick meals more often. It was ok because it was the spring, and then it was done. But it taught me that when my priorities are very clear, it’s easier to know what to give up to take care of myself. Now my challenge is having such clear priorities in the more open-ended rhythm of daily life, now that the degree is done…

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