Sunday, June 3, 2012

With rest, hope returns

Last week was, I believe, the hardest I've had since deciding to divorce.

An armed gunman within blocks of my daughter.  I don't have answers for that one, and I'm not sure I can even bear to ask the questions.  There could have been an alternate ending there, too.

No, I won't go there.

But last week was hard because I was tired.  Not "oh I had a restless night" tired, but "it hurts to open my eyes and my thinking is muddled and if I drop something then the effort of having to bend over to pick it up makes me want to cry" tired.

I have followed through on my promise to myself, and I've done precious little this weekend but care for myself.  On Friday I had that dinner with friends, and though I didn't cry (I worried I would), I did crawl onto their sofa and pull a blanket up around myself, and they let me.  They cared for me in a way I needed, more than I can say.

And yesterday I slept in.  I puttered around the house, tidying the things that had been bothering me all week but that I'd been too tired to manage.  I went for a walk with a friend, my dog joyful to put miles under his feet.  This friend's words and wit always act as a balm for me, and being with her was restful, even as we exercised together.  We were in nature, and that helped, too, and I got to see where the great heron feeds.  I turned down invitations to go out with friends, and I curled up alone, first in a hot bath, and then with my laptop and blog, before going to bed at a decent hour.  It's nearly ten in the morning, and though I'm on my third cup of coffee, I'm still in my bathrobe.

Ahhh.  Rest.

With rest, I feel the return of my sanity.  I was losing it last week, and it didn't feel good.  Some of it couldn't be helped (an armed gunman?  really???!), but some of it could have been.

This is where the realist part of me helps the optimist in me.

I let myself believe last week that my life was on a long track to feeling that bad all the time, that being separated/divorced meant that I'd never catch up, that I was going to be wiped out forever.

Ridiculous.  I'm peeved at myself for allowing myself to wallow like that.

The reason that last week was so hard is because I made it harder than it needed to be.  Yes, being a single mom is hard, and yes, events in my community were horrible, but still, I made some mistakes last week, and I'm going to try to learn from them.  It didn't need to be that hard.

I wasn't overwhelmed last week because I was separated, or a single mom, or a working mom.  I was overwhelmed because I didn't manage myself well.  Readers, please, don't think that I'm beating myself up and wearing a hair shirt over this, because I'm not: it is surprisingly liberating to make this realization.  It's not that everything is spiraling out of control, it's that I just need to take control back.  PHEW!  There is hope in that, a great deal of hope.  Identifying the problem allows me to tackle the problem.  What a relief!

Yes, there are still big problems out there that don't have resolution.  Money.  Time.  The car.  (The car deserves its own post.  I'm not ready to go there.)  Loneliness.  Sex.  But I'll get to those, one by one, and keep on going.  Right now, I'm just so unbelievably happy that I don't have to repeat last week's fatigue every week for the rest of my life that I could do a little happy dance, and I'll tackle those other problems later.

So, here it is.  My mistakes, and what I can do to make them better in the future.  Oh, yes, I'll screw up again, but at least if I know what to do, I won't screw up as often.


1.  I came home too late from my little vacation.  We weren't in bed until after 11, on a night before school and work, and that meant that we had to start the week from behind.  Lesson: ALWAYS home by 8 on a school night.  It makes the next day so much better, and if it's the beginning of the work week, it makes the whole week so much better.  Starting from behind is not a good idea - too much catch up.

2.  One night I couldn't sleep, so I let myself stay up until 1am watching shows on Hulu.  I knew better.  I really need sleep to function (and I have a self imposed bedtime of 10pm), and shortchanging myself this way wasn't good for me.  The short term benefit of veging out and getting some time by myself was in no way compensated for by the way it made me drag for days afterwards.  (Want to read more about happiness and sleep?  Gretchen Rubin's Happiness Project has a great article here.)  Lesson:  In bed by 10pm.

3.  Because I was tired, I didn't get up early to exercise.  Not only did this make the dog sad (I don't belong to a gym, it's usually the dog and I walking/jogging/running/hiking), and make me feel a tad guilty, it actually made me feel worse.  Being out under the sky, moving my body, and getting that early morning alone time to start my day makes me feel alive and good.  Crawling out of bed late, unexercised and rushed, just makes me feel bad.  Also, when I exercise, I sleep better.  Maybe if I'd exercised, item 2 wouldn't have been an issue.  Lesson:  Get up, put on running shoes, grab dog, and go.

4.  I was tired, so I ate like crap.  No home made salads with spinach and avocado for lunch.  Dinners that I barely remember.  Too much cheese.  This made me feel....worse.  Lesson:  Fruits and vegetables.  Lots of them.

5.  I let the house fall apart last week; I was pulling my undies from a laundry basket, not a drawer, and I really, really hate living like that.  I feel peaceful when my home is orderly, and last week, I let it fall apart: the pile of unopened mail, the unvacuumed carpet, the smear of toothpaste in the sink, the tornado that is Katherine's room, and those big baskets of laundry all made me feel "off."  If I'd spent two miserable hours at the beginning of the week dealing with them, I would have felt better for the entire rest of the week.  Lesson: When my house is tidy, my brain feels tidy.  It doesn't have to make sense, it just is, and working with it makes everything better.

6.  I had some big deadlines for work, but I was mentally tackling some of the move-out logistics for Bryan.  I got nothing accomplished by worrying by thinking of the move-out issues, but it weighed on me and made me slower at work, which made me feel worse.  It would have been wiser to set aside time to actually DO something (my new plan: pack a box a day for the rest of the month) than to think about it obsessively while doing nothing, freeing up my head for full focus on work.  Lesson: Obsessing hurts.  Taking action helps.

Live and learn, and here I am.  I am determined to take action to make this week better.  I tried the lazy way - moaning "but I'm just so tired!" - last week, and it ended up being a relatively horrible week, where I felt at the bottom of my own ability to cope. 

This week is a new start.  This is not the most exciting weekend in the world, but it was the one I needed.  I'm not leaping into lakes, or attending gallery openings, or hosting marvelous parties, or taking a class, or changing the world, but I am restoring my soul, and if that allows me to have a better week next week, with its long to-do lists, then so be it.  I'll do those life-affirming things later, too...just not this weekend.

Readers, what do you do that makes your life harder?  I know I'm not the only one who knows better but makes mistakes anyway.  What are your default mistakes when you're feeling worn down?

What do you need to do to make your life run more smoothly?  What do you recommend that I do to make my life run more smoothly?

Do you, like me, find that everything just feels pessimistic and frightening when you're tired?  What do you do when that happens?  How do you manage?


  1. Great life lessons learned and takeaways. We all have hard weeks. Mine never seem to end, but we just push through and breath, because what else can we do? Glad you had a weekend to take care of you!

  2. I think I'm closer to learning the lesson, but I do remember (groaning) that I'll likely have to live it over and over before I get it right! Some bad weeks don't seem to end; some bad years don't seem to end. But they do, right? I thnk of the Great Depression, and how it ended; I think of WWII, and how it ended. If we live to tell the tale, we get through to the other side. One foot in front of the other! I hope you're getting some time to take care of yourself, too. It helped immensely for me.

  3. Really glad you're feeling better. It's so easy to push ourselves as a habit, and forget that we are physical creatures. We need proper food, sleep, exercise - or the machinery doesn't run properly.

    I have to remind myself of this periodically. The "self care" lecture I give myself (and it also leads to a "phew" when I realize that I can make things better by remembering to eat on time and adequately or, by a 20-minute walk even every other day.

    Thanks for reminding me of this. Maybe we should all be taking turns reminding each other. No - not a single mom thing, not necessarily a mom thing (though there's some of that). But I do believe that women tend to forget to take care of their basic needs more easily than men. We don't do ourselves any favors when we do that.

    Wishing you a great week! (Sleep, eat, exercise!) :-)