Yesterday, I completed half the items on my various checklists.
Sunday, I read half the newspaper. (If I don’t keep myself half informed at least, I will surely go half mad.) Since we’re talking about the New York Times, I felt pretty good about making it through three sections – Opinion, International News, and the Arts.
As for the other half, it is neatly stacked in the corner of my bedroom, and coyly awaiting my attention. The thought of sneaking a peek is tempting, but then I might not make it through half of the items on today’s lists.
Might I add that my work day yesterday began around eight in the morning and finished after midnight? That isn’t unusual. And I’m guessing – for some of you – the same holds true.
Once upon a time, before I understood that life is more complex than we envision it at 20 (or even 30) – before children, children and jobs, or an assortment of other Real World Responsibilities – I was convinced that I could accomplish almost anything. It’s just a matter of organization, efficiency, and will power – right?
What’s the Half Life of a Full Life?
Ah, the slow process of Reality Sinking In, as a few years pass, along with kids, employers, non-employers, moves, and other significant familial disruptions.
Sure. Occasionally I tell myself that I’m over-complicating my life – and there’s an element of truth to that. Then, something entirely beyond my control will hit, I have to react, the solution (if one exists) trails on, and on, and all bets are off.
While it may still be true for some to accomplish what they consider routine tasks including parenting and working, I would venture to say it isn’t the case for a great many of us.
On a good day, we accomplish half. On a bad day, we don’t even manage that, and we blame ourselves for whatever choices (and non-choices) lead us to this sense of futility, fatigue, and yes, failure.
Well, let’s make that half-failure, shall we? Just as we’re grappling with feeling like half the person we once were, or hoped to be.
Two Halves Make a Whole?
One might think that a partner of some sort could facilitate, expedite, crystallize, energize though, at times, the Significant Other adds responsibilities and constraints – even if you love the person. So you’re back to half – half of what you need to get done (depending on your definition of “need”), or half the sleep (food, exercise, and calm) your body needs so you don’t wake each day feeling like you only have half a brain in your head.
Perhaps it’s a matter of politely explaining to your boss (or publisher, or business partner, or client – or yourself) that expectations as currently configured are unreasonable and you need additional resources or time, and of course you’ve always got your eye out for the next half-job at half-pay when you’re replaced by someone half your age.
But you recognize it’s very possible the boss (or publisher or partner or client) is also barely accomplishing half their tasks – equally overloaded, and equally stressed.
As for our “other halves” if we happen to have any such thing?
If we’re lucky, we can put our heads together and make the juggle a dual affair, and that’s not half bad.
Too Much to Do, Too Little Time
Here’s the gist when it comes to my list, and maybe yours.
I might want to lose the laptop and silence the cell – at least, on the weekends – but it isn’t an option. Not if I’m to pay my bills. And I’m certainly not alone.
For most of the women I know (far more than half), this is the way of contemporary life. It isn’t that we can’t set goals, prioritize, organize, and execute. It isn’t that we’re over-reaching in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. But millions of us are stretched too thin in working roles in which our employers (or colleagues or clients) are also stretched too thin, while the expectations on the work front and the home front continue to increase.
You know what I mean.
Houses need maintenance and repair, as do cars. As do our bodies. Gas prices and property taxes rise, medical and dental costs rise (with or without insurance), but our salaries (if we have them) do not. Our children grow, their needs evolve; we may find that more of our time and attention is required rather than less – driving, mediating, dealing with the onslaught of worries when kids slam into adolescence.
And yes, it all comes down to money.
Cultural Catastrophe or Conundrum
I’m only half serious when I say that I feel like a failure, or half-failure.
I recognize my competence, my drive, my persistence toward goals – and the necessity of all of these if I am to survive. I recognize that I am not alone, which does not preclude feeling isolated in the quicksand of carrying too much, with too few resources and virtually no backup – the case for most of the women I know, especially mothers.
Moreover, I recognize that we, as a culture, are caught in a contemporary conundrum – or catastrophe – depending on your perspective. We alternately hustle and muddle through our days and nights with eyes half-open, ears half-listening, and too many non-negotiable responsibilities vying for our attention.
We find ourselves with half the time for what gives us mental (and physical) R & R – an hour to read, a walk, a night’s sleep, coffee with a friend, making love. And there’s no end in sight.
Communication, Connection – Help or Hindrance?
Nor will I opine (again) the absence of infrastructure that could help, so vital for women and families.
And I’m too tired today to shout.
After this decidedly halfhearted (and half-edited) effort at expressing my morning misgivings over yesterday’s unchecked items, after rising extra early in an attempt to catch up and reshuffle the day’s doings ahead, I will mention that I currently spend less than half the time on my own writing than I once did.
Why is that important?
It offers (me) clarity, conversation, consolation, and pleasure – yet for now, it sits low on the list.
Would anyone care to confess they’re going through something similar? And if you have suggestions, I’m headed for another half cup of coffee, and I welcome your comments – or commiseration – with my whole heart.