I am tired, and when I get tired things start to drop. It starts with one or two small things. But then the momentum hits, and soon I am buried in a list of have-to-dos that have been missed.
This isn’t my norm. The majority of the time I can go to work and successfully manage an overworked marketing staff that supports six sales divisions. Afterwards, I can come home (down a glass of wine) and transform to mom mode and successfully manage two young children (and a husband) to keep our chaotic household and schedules running fairly smooth. In addition to these major commitments, I get my workouts in, and keep up on emails, finances and my favorite shows. Admittedly when things are up and running, I sometimes impress myself with my seemingly superhuman energy and well-performed juggling act.
But right now I am not keeping up. Things are dropping on every side. I am showing up late and missing school events. (Why is my child always the first to perform? Five minutes later and I would have seen it.) My family is now dressing straight out the hamper of clean clothes that I planned to put away but now is almost empty and it is time to wash everything again. I screwed up a date scheduled with my husband and completely forgot my dad’s birthday. There is a major homework assignment due for my son and I somehow missed the month of preparation available to avoid the last minute crisis and cramming session. And, I have no idea what deadlines I have missed on all of the projects piled on my desk. In the midst of this downpour of dropped balls, workouts don’t stand a chance – though it hasn’t seemed to slow down my eating.
I have been here before, so logically I know it will pass. I will pick myself up, regain my stamina and get back into my rhythm to once again skillfully manage my work/life balance (never really balanced nor manageable – “organized chaos” may be a better description).
But currently the logic of waiting it out seems to be overridden with three intense urges:
Stand in the middle of my living room stomp, cry and scream – throw a full-blown tantrum.
Wiggle my nose like Samantha from Bewitched and magically fix everything. (I am not as cute as her wiggling my nose. Yes, I have tried in the mirror!)
Run away (not an option but a blissful fantasy).
So instead, I am trying to take the piece of advice my mom always gives: Just breathe. This may seem easy, but it truly is work for me to try to calm my mind for a minute and take a few deep breathes. But I am willing to try. Breathe and remember that in a few days I will be in my happy place again. Thank goodness for girlfriends, a cabin and a good local dance bar!
And if this breathing thing doesn’t work, I will continue to just keep topping off my wine glass to help sedate me or I will be joining my daughter in throwing a fit in the living room.
Now with my home and work schedule–multiple lists of tasks that need to get done, self-imposed deadlines, staying on top of an insane workload, ensuring the kids’ homework and activities don’t get missed, and continuing to maintain a fairly active social life–it seems evident that I would eventually hit a wall. But this was an actual, not metaphorical, wall, and I hit it with my forehead.
Though klutzy and stupid, you may not see this as a big deal. Who doesn’t trip or stumble here and there? But what started out as a not-bright move, not only created a visual crime scene effect with all the blood, it also left me with a concussion and whole new way of living (for a week).
Before, I delve into my experience with a different brain, I will answer the question I got a lot: How in the world did you run into a wall? It was night, I was checking on my daughter. I even thought to myself, “Perhaps I should turn on the hall light.” I didn’t (the thought of waking up a sleeping child deterred me). And a second later, I was stopped in my tracks by the corner of the wall.
After a few minutes to realize what happened and that my head was a bloody mess, I called for my husband. In return, I recieved an annoyed voice from upstairs complaining that he was in bed and to stop hollering at him. Even in my pain, I took some pleasure knowing he would pay for that when he saw what a mess I was. (Admittedly, I probably would have pretended I couldn’t even hear him if tables were turned.) Well, after I got my heartfelt apology and was cleaned up, I went to bed with one wish on my mind – please no scar!
The next morning, minus the throbbing head, I couldn’t believe my luck. The wound was hidden in my eyebrow. All was fine and off I went to a crazy day ahead, packed with meetings.
After a few dizzy spells running between meetings, a pounding headache, and a complete lack of being able to focus or provide any meaningful input, I realized I was off my game. I functioned better after a night with one, or a few, glasses of wine too many. I mentioned the hit to my boss who pointed out that she wondered what was up when I kept inserting out-of-place words in my sentences and told me to get it checked out. Diagnosis: mild concussion.
The fix was simple. Get some rest and your brain will heal. And, actually it wasn’t even a choice. Like a broken foot where you just can’t walk on it, my brain was calling it quits, which included:
Any conversation that was too long or complicated, I would forget what I was saying or start stumbling for words. It doesn’t take long for people to stop talking to you much or for you to avoid conversations that would get you raised eyebrow stares. It was a very quiet, peaceful week.
Anything that was multiple steps went painfully slow as I had to keep thinking of what I had already done and then what was still left to do. After one time of trying to prove I was capable of making a recipe I gave up in defeat. I didn’t try any projects that my five-year-old couldn’t easily do. And, actually a Dora the Explorer puzzle would have been way above my ability.
There was no chance of doing two things at once. Multitasking skills were completely gone. It was like walking around with my husband’s brain. I couldn’t do wash, talk on the phone and pick up toys at the same time. So I steadily just worked through the task at hand. Boy, it must be nice to live like that always.
I could easily forget what I had just done. I could spend minutes trying to remember if I put creamer in my coffee or why I opened the refrigerator. I was continually retracing my steps to figure out what my goal was. Eventually, you just make sure you aren’t doing much.
I slept. I headed to bed between eight and nine, saying goodnight before the kids were tucked in. I would sleep ten solid hours a night. On the weekend I would get up and enjoy some coffee and a couple hours and then head back for a nap. This is from a girl who is usually thrilled to get five straight hours in a night.
I had no strong emotion. I could get agitated easily but everything was more of an annoyance than an issue. I let things go quickly if they bugged me (not usually a trait of mine). I found myself way too sleepy to overanalyze or worry about anything too intensely. Plus, I didn’t seem to have the brain capacity to come up with all my normal imaginary scenarios to agonize about.
Aside from the constant jokes about wearing my helmet, coworkers took my injury in stride. They expected less. They cancelled my meetings. I was able to get some routine things done that had been piling up. My office wasn’t its normal hub of surprise drop-ins to brainstorm the “next best idea.” Everyone wanted me to take it easy. Well that, but after a few stilted conversations with me, most probably figured what was the point?
At home, I napped and didn’t do much else. My family seemed to enjoy me coming home and not pulling out my list of things to do and interrogating each of them if they completed their own lists. With the family conductor absent, we probably missed some things. And they all watched way too much TV as I slept, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the rest.
I (the me I know) was back today. I knew it during a meeting when I started throwing out ideas – good ones – that would make a project for my already-bogged-down department bigger than originally conceived, while at the same time emailing another idea that came to me to a different department head. My brain’s recovery was confirmed as I walked into my house tonight. As I was poured my glass of wine to help me transition from worker to mother mode, I railed off a list of things we needed to catch up on. I think I heard my husband mumble to the kids, “Mom’s back.” (I am sure he meant it in an adoring way!) But, I was too busy getting things done to have time to question its meaning.
I will say, not expecting a lot of myself (nor fulfilling the expectations of others) was a nice break and the sleeping, a godsend. But, I do prefer my overly active brain and am glad to see it coming quickly back to full speed. Now, if I could only find a healthy way to knock some sense into it, so I could take some needed downtime once in awhile. Another thing for my list!
I was raised by parents who were children during The Great Depression. This has served me well in many ways… My parents instilled in us kids an appreciation for hard work and frugality that has put me into a relatively comfortable financial situation. However, it’s had an interesting side effect on my psyche and that is a knee-jerk aversion toward paying for services that I can do myself for much cheaper. A prime example: House cleaning. As one of nine kids, you can bet I was taught how to clean. However, once my career started to take off, I hated spending my limited free time cleaning—yet hiring someone else to clean seemed so “elite.” It felt like a slap in the face of my mother and mother-in-law, both of whom maintained large family households without any domestic help (well, except for the help provided by the aforementioned large families–did I mention I know how to clean?).
A discussion with a coworker at the time changed my view. She relayed some advice from an executive in the company who had similar concerns over hiring a lawn service. He asked himself whether his limited free time was better spent mowing the lawn or focusing on his career, and he chose the latter, knowing his executive salary would more than offset the cost of the lawn service. This perspective made economic sense, as well as career sense. I had found the perfect rationalization to alleviate any guilt I felt about hiring housecleaners: I wasn’t a lazy slug or spoiled princess–I was a competent working mother making a strategic investment in my career. Bam!
Over the years, I was able to apply a similar rationale to a few other paid services. For example, hiring a plowing service is easy to justify with my husband’s disability and I creatively rationalize my rather expensive hair cuts/color by going to my niece who is a senior stylist at a local salon (because I’m supporting a relative in her career, haha).
The one line that I could not cross—until recently—was paying for a gym. This is most directly related to my upbringing. Thankfully, my Dear Old Dad is still on this planet, but if he weren’t, the thought of me paying a company money for the privilege of sweating would make him roll over in his grave. Actually, exercise for the sake of exercise would confound him when there is a world of productive exercise—in the old days we called them chores—just ripe for the pickin’… (And if the “chore” is weeding the yard, that’s a very literal analogy!)
I figured what my Dad doesn’t know can’t hurt him. And I knew that a lack of exercise could have much more expensive consequences down the line–in the case of my parents, consequences like diabetes, joint problems, high blood pressure–things that can be prevented or lessened through exercise. So guess what I decided to do?
I’ll tell you about my fitness adventures in a future post. Meanwhile, they say everything has its price… So I’m curious: What are the jobs that are most worthwhile for you to outsource?