This Sacred Vessel Has a Long To-Do List

When I first started telling people about my pregnancy, a lot of people told me to take it easy.

Now, I may be on the record as unenthused about advice generally, but this was advice that I was willing to take. I love napping, for example, but I never have time for it. Ditto taking a walk every day, eating warm meals, meditating, yoga, and all the stuff we’re supposed to do but never find time for.

Pregnant, I found it much easier to fit these things in. Whenever I’d be tempted to power through lunch or work late, I’d remember that Beano needed a rested mom, and take myself off for a light snooze.

This worked for a while. Then, for various reasons (OK, panic about saving money for maternity leave) I started working too much and resting too little, and now I’m right back where I was before I got pregnant, albeit with slightly better nutrition.

It’s not a permanent state of affairs. I took on a bunch of extra work, and now I’m crunched for time — a familiar situation for any freelancer, and as they say, a nice problem to have. But it’s still disconcerting whenever I realize that I’ve put in a 10-hour day.

My current situation reminds me of something my friend Ilisa said to me early on in my pregnancy. At the time, my big problem was that I couldn’t stop reading the news — or worrying about how my constant news-reading was flooding my body with cortisol and adrenaline and screwing up my baby for life.

“You’re not an incubator,” she said. “And also if fetuses were so fragile the human race would never have survived this long.”

Of course, just hearing that made me feel calmer. Eventually, I started breathing again. I even backed off the news. (A little.)

Now, my problem is that I have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, which if you think about it, is just good practice for being a working mom.

I still sort of wish that we lived in Sweden, and that I could take a year-long leave starting five weeks ago, but I also love what I do and feel grateful to be able to do it from home, where my bed is, if I ever have time for a nap again.

And, full disclosure, I did take a break and go for a walk today, because it was a balmy 34 degrees here, and that’s swimsuit weather compared to the highs of 5 degrees we’ve had for the past week-plus.

For the past few days, Con Ed has been tearing up our street to fix something, or else just to see if they can finally break our spirit, and on my walk, I saw that my neighbor had put out coffee for the workers, complete with a little pitcher of cream and a tiny bowl full of sugar cubes. And for some reason, this made me think that things would be all right, deadlines or no.

The past year has been stressful, even for folks who aren’t contemplating a big life change like a new baby, but we still live in a world where nice people put out coffee for Con Ed workers. Probably things will be OK.

Image: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash




Vacation and the Freelancer

I’ve spent the past two weeks at my folks’ house, and it’s been super relaxing, despite the fact that I worked most of the time. I get more done at my parents’ place, in part because of all the appliances: at home, I have to wash dishes by hand, take clothes to the laundromat*, order food from our local delivery service or haul bags up the four flights of stairs myself. In the suburbs, all you have to do is get into your car, throw the laundry in your washing machine, put the dishes in the dishwasher.

Even so, the big thing that my semi-vacation made me realize is how much I need a real vacation. I’ve been pretty bad about that since I went freelance. Last year, I took two weeks off, but I still worked two days during the break. I have freelancer friends who haven’t taken more than a few days off in years. One of my friends hasn’t had more than a long weekend since she started freelancing eight years ago.

This makes perfect sense, because trying to take real time off when you’re a freelancer is a pain in the ass. It literally costs you money, and many clients don’t expect you to take vacation, so they get irritated if you’re not available. The emotional stress of managing expectations and finances can make it seem like taking time off isn’t worth it.

That’s not true, of course. We all need time off. This time of year, every other article in your news feed is probably about how taking vacation improves your health, attitude, and productivity. We need vacations.

I’m starting by trying to really take my weekends off, and I’m going to try to take at least a week later in the summer. Maybe it’ll help with my ongoing quest to have a lower stress life.

* Note: I never do this. If Adam didn’t do the laundry, I would regularly be arrested for nudity.


Image: ReneS/Flickr

It’s Amazing How Much Better I Feel When I Have a Real Weekend

I’m way more relaxed this morning than I usually am on a Monday morning. This is probably because I took most of the weekend off. (OK, my weekend was Friday and Saturday, but it still counts.)

I don’t always do that. Prior to my back giving out, I tended to work most of the weekend because I took on too many clients. Then my body sent up a distress signal, and I had to behave myself better, but unfortunately, I also had to go to physical therapy twice a week, which knocked six hours out of my regular work time. (Counting the commute.) This basically meant that two of my week days were only partial days, and I’d have to do extra at night and on the weekend to make up for it.

Working constantly does weird things to your brain. At first, you feel terribly put-upon, but then, you grow to depend on it. I’m so used to working whenever I’m sitting still that I have no idea how very odd it looks. I spent the past week or so at my parents’ house, and after a few days of me tap-tap-tapping away 12 and 13 hours a day, my mom finally asked if I ever took a break.

Now, granted, part of the reason I was working like crazy was so that I could take a weekend later on, but the observation still stands: I work way too much, and not always just because I have to or like to. I work too much because I’m more comfortable being busy. It’s such an anti-Zen mindset that I’m pretty sure Buddhist monks would disintegrate spontaneously if I walked by them.

Like most people in the modern world, I’m very fond of telling people how stressed out I am. My real weekend makes me realize that some of it is a put-on. I’m fooling myself into thinking I need to be busy, because being busy means that all of my work is essential, and so am I. It’s kind of sad, when you think about, especially since so much of my day is waiting for stories to come in, so that I can edit them. I’m literally waiting for someone to validate my existence.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I’ve been casting about for a new daily writing project now that the diet is over, and I think stress management — or at least, stress examination — will be it. I don’t have a clever name for it yet, or anything, but lord knows I have plenty of material.


Image: sun dazed/Flickr