Yesterday, I completed half the items on my various checklists.

Over the weekend, I managed half the targeted errands, half the stack of bills, not even half of the piles on the kitchen table, which I intended to clear in entirety.

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?

I won’t even go into the gadgets and communication devices we are “required” to master if we’re to be employable, productive, relevant, connected, etc., not to mention the time and cost involved.

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.


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  1. says

    It’s not what you see but what you focus on that counts, right? I say, bravo to you and any of us, who DO get through half. Just the focus on the undone, unread, unfinished half would give me half the energy I need. Half the walk I intend to take is better than sitting inside. Half the dessert is actually better for me. Half way through a project feels good. Half way through my degree I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Half way through your post I knew I was enjoying where you were going and could relate.

    Half empty or half full?

  2. says

    In my experience, relying on the “other half” to finish the list was even less successful. Even in a marriage, often people have different ideas of what needs to be done. Oh, sure, I could go to bed every night with the thoughts of what I didn’t accomplish, but then I remember I’m human and only capable of so much. I also have to allow myself some down time in order to get up and do it all again the next day. Maybe your list should be organized a little differently: Top 3 items that must get done, next 3 items of would be nice to get done today, and then 3 items in the “if the day miraculously gets an hour or two longer” category.

  3. Jesinalbuquerque says

    “Half-done” is a red-letter day. And I don’t even have children. Sometimes life gets to be a little too much.


  4. says

    Good Lord, woman. You wrote my head.

    I feel like a dull failure for doing half. And half is, as you say, a good day.

    While I focus on the kids my career is a temporary failure, so my personhood is a failure. If I focus on my work I feel like my parenting is a failure, so my existence is a failure.

    Let’s not even talk about my relationship, body, or sanity.

    I cannot express my gratitude that you wrote this. Because today already feels like a win if we are all failing together.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      OHMYGOD, Naptime. And you just nailed it. And made me feel better. It does feel like a win if we’re together, and maybe, rather than viewing it as failing, we should see it as all of us, still standing – and supporting one another. (But naptime for the adults sounds good to me about now!)

  5. says

    I used to live by my “to do lists”. I used to wear a watch. Now I do neither.

    Most of the time, I only got half the list accomplished, and I watched the clock like I was running out of time. Stressful days! Sleepless nights!

    Now, I do what must get done, and the rest is just a bonus. I know giving up the lists and the watch isn’t a practical solution for everyone, especially when you are working, working, working, to make ends meet.

  6. says

    What didn’t get done today, used to be written at the top of tomorrows list!

    No more…I don’t answer my phone after 7pm, try really hard, not to open email or I pad till after 9am and tell myself, “if it was that important, I would have done it first”.

  7. says

    Man plans, God laughs. So I tell myself to stop with the lists. I don’t listen. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll have a whole day with no lists, then another. I take comfort in Rumi:

    Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.

  8. says

    All so true, so true. The half-hearted is the worst of it. I used to live my life in full attention. Overloaded and overstimulated, yes, but also overjoyed at the very ALL of it. Now I catch myself counting off days to be “gotten through” (right now I have the next 10 days on that list), so that I can arrive at a day that will just be merely challenging instead of filled with unbalanced choices (bad food, no exercise, not enough sleep, not enough attention toward my son, no time for a frivolous, fulfilling thought) that are a must simply to punch the time card.

    It’s a terrible time, a truly terrible time. I never was one who believed in the ladder to climb to nowhere, but too much of our world bought in and now we are all stuck. Turns out it’s not a ladder, it’s a hamster wheel. When the economy was good, the scenery kept changing so we could be fooled. Now that the economy has gone to shit (except for the wealthiest, though I’m sure they complain) the view is the same every day: more to do just to exist, no time for reflection, no time for community, no time for spirit. No time for the building blocks that actually make society function. Instead, we feed the machine and hope that better days are around the corner, while the hamster wheel runs its circles.

    UGH! That was all depressing, but it’s what I feel dammit. Thank you for sharing yours so I could share mine. I’ll chalk one up for community and communication today, thanks to you, Wolfie. xx

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thank you for that, Stacy. Solidarity helps – even when it comes to the squeeze we’re in, feeding the machine. If enough of us realize it and talk about it, maybe – just maybe – we’ll be able to do something about it.

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