Life in Cycles

It frustrates me that I can’t be perfect — or even a version of perfect — even for a few days at a time. I’m so good at trying, too:  I make lists, I fill out my calendar just so, I create budgets and goals. I do all of that. And then something happens to loosen up the tight plans, to dull the shiny dreams, that I’ve made.

Two weekends ago it was a snow day, which you might think would make the weekend easier and  more productive. But no — snow days, especially now as a homeowner — mean that you’re out there, spending time and energy moving snow around, off the sidewalks and out of parking spaces. And then sitting by the window dreading another round of white flakes floating down.

Last weekend it was a work trip, where I wrongly assumed that I’d get all kinds of work done after my eight-hour — that’s right! — eight-hour sessions ended. Of course, there was time interspersed for eating and bathroom breaks, but by the time I’m done with eight hours of work talk and work thinking, I’m not exactly in the mood to sit down with a stack of papers and grade them, or to curl up in an armchair to write detailed lesson plans. It was all I could do to get through dinner and watch some Olympics on TV and not act like the tired grouch that I was.


And what does this have to do with anything? Well, when one brick in the wall of perfection is removed or shifted, even a little, everything shifts. And the expectations I have for myself are raised even higher for the next day to “catch up” and to keep pushing to get to the land of perfection, often to the point of being totally unrealistic about the limitations of the space-time continuum. I mean, it’s just not possible to do laundry, clean the house, grocery shop, meal prep for the week, grade a stack of papers, lesson plan for the week and watch an episode of Fixer Upper in four hours. That’s hardly possible in four days!

So I’m trying to lessen the pressure on myself to do all and be all. Because trying so hard is not making me happy and it hasn’t been making me happy for as long as I’ve been trying.

The way that I’ve been programmed — through overt modeling or internal tendencies — is to see life and goal-setting and goal-reaching as a linear feat, something predictable and easily controlled. And that’s just not how life really works. We live on a planet that is organized around cycles:  the seasons, weather patterns, the tides, migration cycles, the cycle of life, for goodness’ sake! So I’m moving towards reframing my approach to “achieving things.” I’m starting to view it as part of a cycle, or as part of many varied and interacting cycles, lots of messy, unpredictable curlicues and loops and not in a straight line at all. And sometimes the “achieving” and the growth spurts will be quick and strong, or sometimes they may level off or stagnate, but I cannot assume that one, small portion of my life — a day, a week, even a month or a year — is the way that things will be forever.

After all, there is no such thing as a straight line on earth, so I am willing to trust in the ebb and flow of cycles.

Can I be a housewife already?

I just finished watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon and I loved it so much — engaging characters, funny dialogue, beautiful sets and costuming.

Anyway, something that I was vibing on while watching the show is the housewife lifestyle. I know it’s not very progressive or feminist or pro-women to say this, but so often I wish I could be a housewife. To be perfectly honest, the things I like to do best are the things that have to do with the home and “homemaking.” I like cooking and baking, I don’t mind running errands or budgeting and bill paying for the household, I love gardening and decorating, I get a good amount of satisfaction from cleaning, and I enjoy the process of planning and hosting people at our home for events and holidays. What can I say? I’m a house nerd.

However, with a full-time job that I often work 10 hours a day — plus a half-day most weekends — I’m not able to take care of the household as I’d like. My wife shares the responsibilities, of course, but it never seems that there’s enough time for us to do our paid jobs well, take care of the house well, and take care of ourselves well, too. During a good week we’re maybe 2 for 3, but hardly ever 3 for 3, you know? And I can see why, in the age of nuclear families, it makes sense to have one adult work outside the home earning the money and the other adult staying home to work that front. Because doing both can be a lot, especially if you want them done well. (And by “well” I mean not eating a grilled cheese or a can of soup every night for dinner or leaving laundry to build up to an avalanche-inducing height before I get to it…)

And this is not to disparage anyone who is trying their best to bring home the bacon and fry it up, too. I’m currently a member of that group and if anything I’m acknowledging that it’s damn hard to do both — it’s exhausting, actually. But, if I’m wishing to take a timeout from the breakneck speed of trying to do both work and home life, I can’t be the only one.