A Real Laundry Apocalypse of a Week
I lived most of my life in this state, and several years ago, something in me kind of broke -- not in the bad way, in a very good way. I just hit a point where I was like, man, I'm going to die someday, and the clouds will never look like this again. The song these birds are singing will never again have quite this rhythm. My kids will never be this age again. My spouse might die before me. My pets will die before me. These things are real and they are not forever. I am not forever.
And while I get that the above might sound sad or something to someone else, for me it was unlocking the floodgates to unalloyed joy. No guilt. I take time for myself. I let shit fail. I let other people take up the slack. Not maliciously or on purpose, but because my life has to come first. The amount of me available for work is what's left over, each day, after I've watched the sun rise and cuddled my dog and truly enjoyed the scent and savor of my food, whether food for the body or for the soul.
I was listening to a podcast this week that reviewed Rick Rubin’s new book on creativity, where he says that discipline is not a lack of freedom, but a harmonious relationship with time, and I can’t stop thinking about that. As I get older, my happiness comes from letting go, from doing fewer things well, from admitting that there is no way I’m going to do it all, so be honest with myself about what my priorities are (see also: Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, a book I have recommended so often his name is in my autocorrect). This doesn’t mean I don’t do things I don’t want to; I am more active in my union than I would like, to the tune of 10-20 hours a week on top of my job, but putting that down would decrease my quality of work life substantially and I would lose a tremendous community and learning experience. So I cook and knit and read less, in order to have a harmonious relationship with time.
Thank you so much for signing the letter to the Times calling out their anti-trans bias. As the parent of a 7 year old gender nonconforming kid, I’ve been frustrated and downright pissed off by their coverage of this issue (when I saw Pamela Paul’s latest hot take on Friday, defending JK Rowling, my heart sunk into my toes). I don’t see why the basic human rights of trans people is continuously up for debate, or why this prurient obsession with the downsides of gender affirming care. It’s clear that so many of the people who write about these issues for the paper not only are not trans, but don’t have any meaningful relationship with trans people and are only writing about them as objects of curiosity. I do love so much of the writing and reporting in The NY Times but on this issue their coverage is harmful and just so hurtful.
As I was walking this morning before reading this, I was thinking about how to infuse joy into my life more ubiquitously. A little Mary Poppins like - I have to do the basic cleaning, but I can infuse joy in it by turning on some music and dancing around and worrying a little less if it's perfectly clean or takes the minimum time. I tend to get so damn serious about everything - including wanting to improve my health and sleep. It turns out that getting serious about those things IS NOT WORKING. I mean, I'm doing ALL THE THINGS. The missing component is joy. We push joy to the side in the name of "get er done" and we end up miserable.
I definitely WANT to do the things that bring me joy. AND. I want to find ways to infuse joy in whatever I am doing. This is not to bypass feelings and emotions - being with those also has a place in my days. It's more to just - lighten up about life. Idk. It's definitely on my mind. I can't live with my heart open if I'm so serious that I just make myself miserable.
“Achieving control is not the same as achieving happiness” absolutely hit me in the gut
Oh man. I have an 8-month-old, and haven’t managed to actually read the Culture Study pieces that arrive in my inbox that much since he was born, but the subject line on this one pulled me in and I found myself zooming through while drinking my coffee (and not doing the things to get ready for the day while the baby naps, not putting laundry on, etc, etc!). Needless to say, I relate so hard. I’m glad, AHP, that you gave yourself the grace to write this piece this week - it’s funny how sometimes what “gets in the way” is actually the whole thing. Ok now to actually get dressed before this baby wakes up. ❤️
This newsletter really hit me on the perfect week. I could feel (or perhaps it’s me projecting) the underbubbling frustration and sense of shame that a better version of you/us would not have their week derailed by a matter as trifling as a laundry build-up, mere physical illness, or being busy with tasks. Time should not apply to us, therefore the to-do list should be completed. Every night at the moment I go to sleep saying to myself “I’m sure I’ll be 100% tomorrow” and every morning my stupid meat envelope laughs at me, which is how I find myself typing this from a cafe eating overpriced avocado on toast because I got a mile into my exercise and simply could not go on. We can’t stop being this way because if we stop how will we ever start again. And you can only say in hindsight when the busy and stressful period ended and you got “back on track”. Best wishes to both of us for next week eh.
Those f'ing lightbulbs!
Yes, all of this. I've also come to understand how that living - doing the things you want to do, investing in yourself - actually makes the work easier. This week, I prioritized myself for a few days and while doing so wrestled with feelings of guilt. I was not doing other things so that I could do the thing I wanted to do. How selfish could I get? And yet, by doing that, I felt good about myself and more confident. When a difficult situation arose late in the week with a nonprofit I volunteer for, I was able to handle it effectively and take on the emotional labor the situation required. I could take on things that other board members couldn't because I was rested and not burned out by doing all the things for everyone else. I was able to show up fully for my community in a way that I haven't always been able to in the past. It's a lesson I need to remember the next time I take the time to invest in myself, whatever that investment looks like - a nap, a vanilla latte, writing, going for a walk, spending time with a friend. All of it matters.
Being retired, I totally understood and related to what used to be my life in the beginning of the newsletter. so much truth. Then I got to the NYT part and I literally had just unsubscribed to the partial subscription I had with them. Done. The JK Rowling thing- I just cant with this.
Thank you so much for this metaphor & reflections, including the link to Jo’s thoughtful blog/announcement. (Her mention of the Grand Canyon technique & the idea that “two things can be true at the same time” are so insightful.) As for the laundry apocalypse, this week I’ve been revisiting “How to Keep House While Drowning” by KC Davis, which has been a complete game changer for me in rethinking “care tasks”. (Many thanks if you are the original person who first introduced me to this gem of a resource!)
As others have said, it is so deeply relatable. Thank you for writing and thanks to other folks for sharing.
I put so much pressure on my weekends and after work hours but by the time they arrive I usually have more work to do or am just too exhausted to actually follow through. And then I beat myself up for not doing more/enough of the activities that bring me joy. Many people my age are having children now, I’m not, and so I feel added anxiety as a result of knowing that I have more free time than others might. Sigh. The constant cycle of feeling behind is not sustainable and I’m committed to finding small ways to give myself a break in my own mind.
I relate to this so hard. Constantly sacrificing things because I have an impossible work to do list is just not a realistic way to live. I wish there was an off switch in my brain...
This hit home so much for me. The “what you are doing in your head is what you are doing” quote is WOW!!! Ding ding ding. I’m freaking out 90% of the time because I’ve been behind on everything for years! But, it’s me, by myself, taking care of 4 kids and working part time from home. I can’t manage one thing without taking from another. It used to be that I could get the kids to bed on time or meet my work deadline. All four of them have some kind of diagnoses. Two are now finally low maintenance and can do a lot for themselves (as of just the past year or two) and two are still very high maintenance.
4 hours at the clinic/ER is not bad and pretty much what it’s like across the US now. I spent 13 hours in an ER, between Christmas and New Years with one of my sons before he was admitted for pneumonia.
Freak out and overwhelm mode is the worst because everything seems like too much and you don’t know which part of the mountain to climb first. My household/housekeeping is the first thing to fall because kids and work are priorities... then when the housekeeping becomes a priority, I have to let work deadlines slide...
But, I have made it a priority to meet with a friend group on Sundays. This is the only thing I do for myself that I don’t let myself blow off or miss. Even though I have a work deadline on Sundays, and even though I need to do stuff to get kids ready for the school week. These are the only friends I have because it’s a scheduled thing and otherwise I would never make plans. We do other things here and there, but it’s a standing Sunday Bloody Mary Sunday meet up at a local brewery. Having friends is a time investment and commitment. I haven’t been in a place to have this since having kids. I still don’t have the time really, but I make that time regardless! Because having friends - having a village and a community is too important. The difference this has made in my life is so valuable.
Yes, I’m glad you wrote this. I had to collapse most of yesterday’s non urgent plans to rest, my body didn’t give a shit.about my schedule and goals I had scheduled in some do nothing time for this afternoon because I was scrambling this week- getting up earlier and going to bed at midnight, but it wasn’t soon enough.
I came home from a work trip on Friday with plans to go to the gym for a strength workout, but I was so exhausted (from not sleeping well on the road) that I needed to have a nap. That nap stretched into two hours and was the best hard sleep I've had in ages, but it derailed my workout, pushing it into Saturday. Initially, I was mad at myself for the nap, because I knew it would push all the other things I wanted to get done around - but very quickly I realized that the nap was as essential as the workout (perhaps more, I was feeling very ragged).
I just turned fifty and in the last year or so, my body has just not been up to the grind of work, being president of my union local, hardcore powerlifting workouts, intermittent sleep interruptions, and being a community hub for arts and social productions on our small island. I've quit some things as a result (the worst of the grinding things) and instead of scheduling my weeks, I set broader goals for what I'd like to get done outside of my paid worklife. Four workouts of any kind, one hour of work on the house concert series, a start on my taxes, learn a new fiddle tune - whatever. And then I try to view that as aspirational rather than a to-do list.
What if I miss a workout, or the laundry doesn't get put away? At least I got some time playing my fiddle. The reality is, even if I wanted to keep grinding, I can't do it anymore. My body/mental health has started to put hard stops in place, and if I wreck myself in the grind, I am wrecked for doing the things I love as well. It's not worth it.