Sometimes I get tired of being so goddamned strategic.
I spend my days writing content strategies for clients. As a parent, I feel like I need to be strategic about every second of every day — Okay, we have an hour before she’ll probably want to nap. Should we go to the park, or is it too hot for that?
I just want permission to turn off my brain. To be a lump for a while, not performing at the top of my mental and physical abilities, just a slug on the couch with nothing on the agenda but whatever the hell I feel like doing.
I remember in my early 20s, as I was adjusting to Life as a Working Person instead of Life as a Student, I really balked at all the restrictions I felt on so many aspects of my life. My time was not my own from 9-5, or 8-6 if you counted my commute, or longer than that if you counted the longer hours I often worked. That compressed the time I had for anything else I wanted to do, like exercise or socialize or be a slug on the couch. I resented this, deeply. (I’m not saying it was a mature response – just being honest.)
I ended up choosing “slug on the couch” more than “exercise” (I was tired at the end of the day) and between that and celebrating my newlywed life with copious amounts of Ben and Jerry’s, I gained about 20 pounds. Then I resented Weight Watchers for making me count my food. But the pounds came off.
When I wasn’t counting food or measuring my life in hours, I was budgeting. How could I make my dollars stretch?
So many boxes, rules, and regulations. Nowhere in my life to just…. flit.
I need unstructured time like oxygen. Not just unstructured time but space for unstructured thoughts. Space where I can just be a mess that I don’t need to be able to explain in 140 characters or less.
By my late 20s, and into my early 30s, I finally cracked the code. I found a balance in my life between structure and lack-of-structure, especially once I left office life behind and started my own company. Now my time was my paint, and each day was my canvas. Didn’t feel like starting work until 11am one day? No problem. Felt like working on the couch? Do it. How ’bout an afternoon at a cafe? Done. And I was writing more, and performing improv, and I felt like I could really breathe.
As a parent, I look back at my weekends at that time of my life with such intense envy. I mean, I could do ANYTHING. Now, from 7:30am until 7:30pm every Saturday and Sunday (with about an hour break at nap time — for both of us), I am taking care of another human being. Sometimes, when I’m feeling rested and my energy is up, it is joyous. I revel in being this precious little girl’s mama. I have no objections to just completely losing myself in her presence. But some mornings, my old friend resentment shows up. I think, “Just let me be a mess for a little while longer. Let me putter and putz and not have to pay attention to whether you’re about to do something that might hurt you. LET ME TURN OFF MY BRAIN.”
Attention. That’s what it really comes down to these days — not time. I still work for myself and Monday-Friday, my daughter is in daycare, and I can structure my time pretty much as I please…. as long as I’m using it to do work. But I need to pay attention all day long, as all of us do. And come evening time, once I give her dinner and put her to bed, I’m too pooped for anything creative. I flop on the couch. And then morning comes and it’s time to feed her and get her off to daycare and do it all again.
I never get to let my attention idle, except at a time of day when I’m too tired to savor the idleness.
And I’m writing, but performing — which was so crucial to that feeling of freedom I once had — well, I miss it. I miss it like an old best friend from whom you’ve drifted out of touch.
“Parenthood is like a marathon, not a sprint,” they say — oh, you know, THEY — and I get it. I do. But the problem is, I’m a sprinter by nature. I sprint, I give something my all, and then I flop down on the ground and chill the fuck out. And then a little while later, I sprint again. This has always been my rhythm.
And now it’s been 15 months of running a marathon and I’m just tired, man.
I’m just really, really tired.