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?
High-maintenance minds want to know.