Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thriving and Exhaustion

Okay, dear readers, I need some help.

With some crises firmly behind me, I'm working hard at thriving.  I'm trying to live my best life, fully aware as I am that I only get one life, and that there is only the present.  "Tomorrow" is not time to be happy, or to get things done.  Today is the only day.

So, with that in mind, I'm exercising again, hoping that it will give me an extra boost.  I'm getting up at 4:45am most days in order to exercise from 5am-6am, because there really isn't any other time of the day except bedtime, and by then my motivation is shot AND I really want to wind down, not amp up.  From 6am to 9pm, my minutes are booked with mothering and working and basics like making dinner, so 5am it is.

I feel great.  And I feel awful.  It hurts to laugh, which makes me laugh.  I'm pleased that I've made the commitment, and that I'm following through.  I roped two girlfriends into joining me - which wasn't difficult, because I said "here's what I plan to do" and they asked if they could join me - so in the morning when I'm lying in bed hearing the alarm, there's no chance that I will turn it off and go back to sleep, because they show up at my house 15 minutes after the alarm goes off.  We either work out in my basement or go for walks around the neighborhood; I don't feel comfortable driving to the gym because that would mean leaving Katherine alone in the house.  (For some reason I am okay with the walks around the neighborhood, because I'm closer and on foot...  Katherine knows when I'm doing a walk, and I always have my phone with me, and she's fine with she's sound asleep at the time.  She's nearly 10 and very responsible, but I still only feel kind-of okay with it.  In any case, I've decided that I must make peace with it, or never work out, and since I really want to be my best self, I must move this body of mine.)

But here is the dilemma.

My day is now booked from 4:45am to 9pm when Katherine has lights out and I fall into my own bed and am asleep the second my eyes close.  That would be fine, except that I don't know when I have time to do the deep living that I desire so much.  When can I write?  When can I sit on the sofa holding a hot mug of tea and staring at the trees outside?  When can I go to a play, a movie, or dinner with a friend?  When can I deliver a meal to a sick friend?  When can I put up the Christmas tree, go holiday shopping, or create holiday cards and send them?

I do not want to hear that I just have to let it all go.  It is all well and fine to work out, get homework done, eat decently, and pay the bills with my job, but I want, deserve, and NEED more.

How on earth will I date with a schedule like this?  My divorce is final in mid-January, and by spring I'd like to put myself out there, meet some interesting people, have some adult conversation (ranging from politics and art to the other kind of "adult" conversation, eventually), and take some steps towards meeting someone that I could spend the rest of my life with.  But how can I fit it in?  By 9pm I just want to sleep!

Last night I saw the movie "Lincoln" - a beautiful film that had me on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, hoping and hurting when it looked grim, even though I knew the outcome.  (Slavery is ended in American forever - hurrah!  Lincoln is shot, nooooo!)  It was something I'd been hearing people rave about, and I was excited to go, and to spend time with an old friend.  But the problem is that it's a two and a half hour film, so I didn't get home until close to midnight, and so today I feel like I have the flu and I just ran a marathon and my head doesn't work properly and I feel clumsy and out of sorts....and I'm at work today (and blogging here, but not feeling too guilty because I'm salaried and putting in extra time) because I'm trying to catch up since Katherine is at her dad's and this is our busy season.

It shouldn't make me feel like this to simply push myself to go to a movie and sit in a chair staring at a screen.  It really shouldn't.

So, dear readers, please tell me how you do it.  Encourage me, please.  Is this feeling because I'm just waiting for the exercise high to kick in, and it's still too new and my body hasn't adjusted?  I am not the only single working mom who exercises, and surely the others out there find time for girlfriends and dates and movies.... sometimes?  I have a ton of creative energy right now, ideas flying through my head left and right, but I honestly do not know when to sit down for long enough to sort them out.  Where is the "living" time, where I get to thrive and pursue dreams, and not just make it from day to day with relatively clean laundry?

Suggestions?  Ideas?  Encouragement?  I refuse to merely survive.  I just refuse it.  I intend to thrive, all the way.  I know if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and the world would be a different place.  But I am convinced I can do better, that I can keep tweaking my life to give it the shape I dream of.

Advice?  Ideas?  I can't wait to hear from you!


  1. Should you do some research? (joke: you need to find time to do research) How much exercise do any of us need to stay in shape? I like to jog. But I don't necessarily jog every day (three or four times a week?) but alternate with a power walk. I have a number of things I like to do so I vary them. I also do mini-sessions throughout the day, isometric, stretching, and stuff. (even at work: I shut my door for 5 or 10 minutes) On off days, I climb stairs for a cardio supplement to jogging. Of course, weekends are great when I'm not working as I can take more breaks throughout the day.

    The bottom line is that the occasional missed day makes us feel guilty but doesn't necessarily mean we've fallen behind. Okay, missing a week is another thing but a day here and there no.

  2. I agree with WQB - maybe make a goal to get up early every day and then use that time to exercise twice a week and use the other mornings for some of the other activities you described (writing, drinking tea, staring at trees), or to sleep in if you need it. And then get a walk in on the weekend. Three times a week should be totally fine for a woman who sounds as busy as you are, and those other pleasures you described are IMPORTANT!!!

    -from an almost-separated mom who hangs on your every word :)

  3. Another Anonymous:

    I understand this problem (even though I happen to be married). Approximately 10 years ago, I went from doing freelance, self-employed part-time work to being a paralegal and only other employee in my husband's family law practice-- which is how I got to your blog -- in an effort to give clients some links, which I hope will help them through divorce/custody). It requires a considerable amount of my time (since there is no one else to pick up the work) and it is extremely stressful However my two children have always been my priority. They spent more time (than I preferred) at our office and getting carted around to appointments with us. In addition I have some friends who have always depended on me for support and I had other commitments that were important to me. I remember one day while driving, panicking at the level of craziness and chaos that seemed to be my life. I was desperately scheming to rework things, reorganize, scale back and basically pleading (with God) to "fix" my life and maddening schedule because I could not figure out how to do it. Suddenly a thought entered my mind (although I'd have to label the speaker as God -- because it seemed so outside of me). And the inaudible voice basically said, "Can you be content in this? Can you stop thrashing and just live?" And I did. I stopped thrashing -- the water is still deep -- but instead of thrashing and using all my energy to get to a shore (that at this point is only imaginary), I rest by floating every so often. I've tried to stop compartmentalizing my life into what is surviving and what is living. It is all living. I'm convinced that laundry and work and exercise lend themselves to deep living as much as writing and a movie with a friend. Life is always preparing you for life. Who knows what this chapter in your life has to teach you or build in you -- it just seems from my own experience that if I'm struggling against it I'm missing the peculiar beauty of it. Instead of trying to set a schedule or routine for your creativity, etc. -- feed it moments -- maybe on weekends. Don't put more pressure on yourself for scheduling -- let it find it's place -- if you are creative -- I bet your best ideas come during menial tasks like dishwashing and laundry -- count those times as deep living times. If this comment is annoying -- I totally understand. When I communicate the kind of thing you shared here with my husband, he is always trying to give me advice or solutions -- when all I really want is an ear and to process something out loud. So if my comment is in any way dismissive or comes across as a "solution"-- ignore me.

  4. WQB, I do plan to miss here and there around my schedule; last week I worked out 5.5 times (five "real" times, Saturday off, and a sort of lame workout that was only 15 minutes that I'm counting as a half in a gift of generousity to myself). Half the time I'md doing weights, yoga, crunches, lunges, etc, and the other half I'm doing cardio (mostly walking but I'll be running soon enough again). I walk a bit at lunch doing errands sometimes, and I try to keep moving. :-)

    Anonymous One: Ahhh, your sweet words made my day! Thank you. If I can do it, you can. However, as logical as your solution is (and it is!) I don't want to exercise only 2x/week, even though it's one solution, because I want to feel FABULOUS and not just "okay enough." I have the health concerns that drive that, too, because regular exercise reduces the rate of recurrence substantially. I keep hoping that hte regular exercise will actually GIVE me energy, but it just hasn't kicked in yet....

    And Anonymous Two: I needed your words. They are speaking to me as if from the voice you heard (I have heard my own voices, much as you describe, and it wouldn't have made sense to me unless I had; since I have, I understand how hard it is to describe that experience!) There is a Peter Mayer song (he's a folk singer) called "God is a River" that has the same message you just gave me, and it is so true, so powerful, and so difficult to follow. Thank you for helping me to remember the lesson, so easy to forget. Your message should be shouted from the rooftops, not dismissed, and I am grateful. THANK YOU. I don't want to ignore you, I want you to come back and say more! :-)