Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Metaphor Salad: What is this "satisfaction" thing I hear so much about? I can't get none.

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com

In college, my friends and I developed a theory about the three main aspects of university life:
  • partying
  • sports
  • classes
Our theory held that every student must choose two of these aspects. Attempting to balance all three led to certain failure. You'd no doubt eventually wake up on a Sunday with a hangover, a morning game, and a test the next day. You'd theoretically go crazy, drop out, and--I don't know--die on Skid Row, or something.

It occurs to me as I try to squeeze in home-cleanliness, responsible pet ownership, career, writing, family (both extended and immediate), socialization, recycling, reading, bill-paying, car upkeep, health, pop-culture junkiness, and a host of other responsibilities--that I can't have it all. I didn’t even mention sleep. Starting Monday, I cut into sleep a little bit further each night, so that by Friday, sleep has grown into a giant beast that hates accomplishment. Sleep pushes away my laptop and doesn't care about my dirty dishes, my unfinished chapter, Project Runway.

I don't even remember sleep from college, but it must have been there. The sleep urge seems to get stronger with age, but even it is not invincible. Certain books challenge sleep, and occasionally I get so into writing that everything else cowers: the gym is a den for the self-obsessed, my house is an important observation site for dust growth, and I don't know what happens to the rest of that stuff. I guess it evaporates.

Anyway, I am noticing a pattern:
  1. I come down with an inspiration-virus, which hits me with the mistaken notion that I can do everything. It's all a matter of following lists and not reading Perez Hilton.
  2. I create a color-coded schedule of tasks: solve world hunger, dust curtain rods, write a poem.
  3. The next few days I try valiantly to do it all, then settle for most. A battle ensues between the inspiration-virus and the growing strength of sleep beast. They fight. Sleep wins.
  4. By Thursday, I am a petri dish of self-hatred. I've completed 50% of my plans; yet I feel like 100% failure. To coddle myself, I read all the Perez I've missed and grow angry as I count typos and realize that most of his posts are a whole lot of nothing described in sensationalistic language intended to make me think it’s important… AND I AM FALLING FOR IT!
  5. I flog myself metaphorically, continue to tread the quickly rising water of my life, cultivate the inspiration-virus, and repeat.
How annoying! College offered less choices--sports, partying, classes--but I learned the mechanics of finite time. Still, I attempt to force 300 pounds of stuffing into a 10-pound bird.

I am Atlas, only I carry the world in a lumbar-supportive backpack. It doesn’t fit, but I squeeze the planets and shove them in, latch the bulging flaps, and reattempt my climb.

Oh wise blog-readers, this is a call to your collective knowledge. The sleep beast is a kitten compared to the unhappiness monster that will overtake me if I continue this pattern. But what stays, what goes? And how to battle the feeling of not doing enough despite doing all I can? Explain, please, how you achieve balance.


  1. Oh, what a great post! Wish I had answers, but i have never been a good juggler. For me home-cleaning is always the first to go :)

  2. I'm with Corey. And I still manage to keep it from disgusting...it's just a little cluttered and sure you have to dig out your clothes from a basket or the dryer-but I get it done. I also have roped in the children to do their fair share. You'd be amazed at how much they are really capable of doing. (bribery and threats work really well too)

    I've also cut out a lot of things that I really miss and enjoy. I don't do scrapbooks anymore and I write during my shows (commercials and the first couple of minutes after those commercials)

    I also take small breaks-I tell myself after 500 words I'll do some dishes. Then I'll write again. Or, after 1000 words I will vacuum, start some laundry and find a treat in the kitchen :)

    At any rate, it is a neverending juggle and you are not alone!

  3. I don't believe there is a balance that lasts 100% of the time. What happens is we have to re-prioritize every day, sometimes every few hours. But always at the top should be the things that will last the longest: religion, family, friends.

    I've gone dark on my blog because it was just too much. I've got to step away. I'm not commenting on as many blogs. I'm not writing as much even thought I have an agent's interest. It's just...we really are only capable of so much, but for me, if I'm selfish enough to hoard all my time to myself, that's when things get too unbalanced.

    It's difficult. I sacrifice sleep a lot, but lately I'm sacrificing words. I just need a break. Good luck!

  4. You already know how I recently freed up a lot of time for writing. I don't suggest it to anyone else, but it is working for me. ;) Don't worry though, even with all this free time I have I'm not satisfied either.

  5. Oh Marie, I think I follow your schedule--try to do EVERYTHING for a couple days, give up, feel like a failure. Don't sacrifice Sunny! We need her/him. The first things to slide at my house are cleanliness, exercise, and socialization. Reading or writing (depending on my mood) probably come next. I try not to let family slide.