Hoping for wisdom courtesy of a blast from the past, I spent a few morning minutes revisiting my archives. I was seeking perspective, motivation, answers.
I found myself remembering the stresses of my son’s college application process, my sense of helplessness in alleviating his concerns, and trying to mitigate as well as navigate the continuing saga of post-divorce financial strain.
Ah, if only we could put on a happy face and that would be enough.
But recalling the last year of high school for my younger child, what I see is a recurring story plus a lovely bonus: the usual worries on steroids, along with the pleasure of a new relationship – and its added demands on my time.
I also see my tendency to assume superwoman status (despite my lack of flowing cape), and do so on very little sleep.
Speaking of sleep, my early hours of dozing were graced by dreams that made for a scandalicious mid-century mix: Olivia Pope and Papa Eli were wandering in and out of a garment factory on a houseboat, transformed into ad agency by none other than Don Draper. All were in the process of reinventing – a light bulb moment? – and words were pouring out of me as I was pulling myself to consciousness.
I grabbed the nearest piece of paper, scribbled down a concept and copy for a client, then began to list the most pressing items to be addressed this week… most having to do with my college student son.
I flipped open the laptop where it sat (in my bed, as I had fallen asleep with it open), and that was when I began to take a look back – hoping for lessons.
The bottom line?
Free Time After Empty Nest
Once upon a time, I thought Empty Nest would yield a small measure of free time. Time to pay more attention to my own needs, to dreams I never gave up on, to getting my house “in order” at last. Literally and figuratively.
The “free time” theory hasn’t panned out.
I shed some daily responsibilities (also known as parenting), but have taken on others in their place. I remain as bound to a challenging schedule as ever, despite a continual process of trying to peel away lower priorities and simplify, simplify, simplify. But life happens, doesn’t it? Our best laid plans can’t cover every contingency, and so we deal, we shuffle, we reset expectations.
And at the moment, in a convergence of deadlines, I find myself feeling as squeezed as ever. If I don’t do something, I’ll be toast.
Thus I spent a few minutes revisiting some of my own words written three years ago, four years ago, and even a bit longer. I browsed topics touching on time management (and the stresses we all live with), periods of transition (with their challenges and opportunities), and ways to get my spirits up… and my head down… with nose to a different grindstone.
Reinventing Yourself After Life Events
Been there, done that. And more than once. In fact, I consider this to be the normal evolution of a life, as life events require it – or we take the reins and choose it. What I didn’t anticipate is the extent to which we could be derailed; events don’t necessarily affect us in a serial fashion.
We may also be dealing with positives as well as negatives. For me, it’s the amount of “life stuff” that becomes overwhelming.
Oh sure, I have my methods of getting by – and I do. I don’t typically freak out and I’m fortunate to have a considerable amount of stamina. But I weary of that mode of managing, when what I want is to feel in control.
I’m wondering if you’re living anything similar, if you once thought you’d have free time and find that to be a pipe dream, if you feel as though the hours and days and weeks are slipping through your fingers altogether.
You’re treading water, rather than advancing, though you convinced yourself this would no longer be the case.
Squeezed by Work-Family Stress, Still
I find I’m miffed by what I view as lack of progress, yet I’m determined to seek solutions to these persistent time constraints. I note what has changed and what hasn’t, as the ingredients in my work-family mix may have shifted, but the dilemma of insufficient hours shows no signs of letting up:
While I might like to run away (Paris is lovely in the Spring…), while I might like to turn over the tablet or silence the cell phone (Responsible Adulthood says nyet to that), while I might wish to pull the covers over my head and catch some zzzz’s (they do seem to encourage creative ad copy)… none of these options are in the cards.
If I’m Not Careful, I’m Toast!
However hectic our schedules, may we all make the time for a little human contact, for good thoughts and kind words, and focusing where deadlines are weighing heavily.
And speaking of deadlines, I have a few that can’t wait. My calculator is calling, but all suggestions welcome.
How have you managed your extended periods of crunch time? Are you still performing “parenting duty” for college kids and young adults?
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