There is maybe nothing quite like feeling like the best almost-school-counselor ever one day and then having your 4th grade boys ADHD/anger management small group break out into a full-out brawl. You’ve probably seen a couple of good stories about this bunch, including the time they all proposed to me one week and called me a Barbie doll the next. I stopped wearing blush after that.
But the fight. It was only 4 kids, but it felt like 40. Chaos. It was like that scene in Mean Girls when that massive people-acting-like-animals fight breaks out in the mall. Except it wasn’t at the mall. But I WISH it had been at the mall, because then there would have been ACTUAL POLICE OFFICERS there instead of sparkly necklace deer-in-the-headlights WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS me.
The one boy who was not involved in the altercation, the one who actually followed my instructions to please walk beside me on the way to the cafeteria in “ninja mode” (this is the only way they are quiet), looked up at me and said, “I think I have a few less reasons to be in this group, Miss Amanda.”
Yes. I do believe he is correct on that one.
Turns out that I really don’t know how to react when elementary school boys take things to physical confrontation.
That wasn’t the only thing that went wrong last week. Sort of everything went wrong. I was flying solo for the first time and I’m sure that nothing went as badly as I thought it did, but nonetheless. It was my first day without my supervisor right by my side, and I severely underestimated how much I needed to be ready to not have someone to bail me out if things went awry. Which happened. Not the best day. And so I spent the rest of the day in this weird sort of low-grade anxiety, trying to explain peer pressure to middle schoolers who kept asking me things like “Is getting peer pressured to dip okay as long as I wanted to do it in the first place?” but may as well have been “Is mayonnaise an instrument?” because I would have reacted to that statement in the same way, which was just to inadvertently pass up the teachable moment and laugh nervously and check the clock to see IF IT WAS 2:30 YET HOLY CRAP PLEASE OH PLEASE.
I am exhausted. This was a pretty needed wake-up call to that effect. I’ve been so busy with my life that I’m sort of operating in this “just do the bare minimum and keep going” mode and it’s not a good thing.
The past couple of weeks have been PACKED and FAST with lots of WONDERFUL things. You all know this by now. Speaking and going to weddings and taking trips to Baltimore and Atlanta, and this past weekend was be my third weekend in a row in Greenville, not to mention my eighth in a row out of town period.
I’ve been going, going, going. For good reasons. September has traditionally been the worst month of the year for the last 5 or so years. It’s always been this sick joke. Like one year I set “Wake Me Up When September Ends” as my ringtone because it seemed like that was the month when life knocked me down and then kept kicking me while I was there. But this year, SEPTEMBER WAS THE BEST! And October has been phenomenal too, and nothing traumatic happened in August, either. It’s been a good stretch. Which is a pretty big deal, if you’ve ever lived with me during the month of September. But I think I have been so distracted by my progress with mental health stuff and medication stuff and blog stuff that I’ve forgotten that I need to rest. I need to take care of myself. I need to chill and not be out of town three days a week. And all the not resting has been to visit people and talk with people and listen to peoples’ stories, mostly in response to them reading the mental illness blog, and I am always quick to respond with a “YES, LET’S!” when someone asks me to have coffee and talk about life. That’s where I get my energy – from giving my time to people. BUT. It’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m not giving giving giving out of a place that’s depleted. I have got to remember that. I have got to slow down and remember that.
Some more of the go-go-go is related to some automobile-related drama, and long story short, I’m driving a new Jeep now. I’m sure most of you saw my post on FB about the other Jeep catching on fire story. In person, the story goes like this:
“Did you get a new car? What happened to the old one?”
“Oh, it caught on fire.”
Very nonchalantly. The last time was in the midst of a dozen or so people after a Homecoming brunch last weekend. And then I had to go back and explain that it was a very small, contained, under-the-hood, whole-reason-for-the-recall-in-the-first-place fire.
I should have prefaced that better.
This would have been severely out of the ordinary for anyone else, but since it’s me, and since weird things like this happen to me all the time, it was just sort of like, “Yeah, this makes sense.” But I miss the big, old, Grand Cherokee. The reasons are mostly sentimental. We had lots of good times in Natalie Portman, which is what we named it because I got it the day I saw Black Swan in theaters, and refused to name it that. But now I’m seeing that I also miss that it made me feel important and like a BA soccer mom with my automatic windshield wipers and backup assistant and automatic headlights. I was actually whining about that for a little while before I realized how incredibly pretentious it is to go around saying, “My brand new car doesn’t have automatic headlights, you guys.”
One of my smaller, sub-missions right now is to “de-pretentious-ify” myself on things like this because it makes people feel like crap and I try to not be about that life, although I’m pretty sure that admitting that I was complaining about having to get a new car falls under the same category as the Rich Kids of Instagram whining that they got lost on their own yachts. Or whatever. And my professor had us sort ourselves into groups according to socioeconomic status the other day, that day being the same day I came to class with my Michael Kors watch and fur vest and Tory Burch everything else.
I love stuff and that’s a problem and used to be addicted to being pretentious and am finding that there’s a pretty huge correlation to me loving money more than I love Jesus sometimes and yiiiiiikes, that’s real. And is another story for another day.)
Anyway. Back to being exhausted. When somebody tells you that it’s maybe not the best idea to sign up for three 3-hour-long grad school classes in the same day – especially when that day is Monday – you should listen to them. I was in my 5:30 class the other day and it was pretty evident that we’re all hitting the midterm slump. Sinus infections and allergies and wedding season and traveling – things are starting to pile up and get a little suffocating. (Literally, for the sinus infection/allergy people. Sorry, friends.) I thought it was just me, but it’s not, and I’m sort of thankful for the equanimity and that I’m not the only one on the struggle bus lately.
Even the professor was on board:
“We’re done early today. You guys, go home and get some sleep.”
On the drive home, I made myself listen to some worship music instead of LL Cool J or whatever I’m normally bumpin’ to. And it was slow. It was a slow song, and I found that I was able to drive slower and think slower and breathe slower than I have been the past couple of weeks.
And I looked up, and noticed that the leaves have started to change here and that the sky was 18 different colors. Pink and orange and grey and blue and purple and it was just sunsetty and breathtaking. A car passed me coming the other direction, and the driver flashed their headlights at me. Ah, a reminder.
Mostly because the one I’m driving right now doesn’t have automatic headlights and so I have to turn them on myself.
(#firstworldproblems, am I right?)
I didn’t have to think about it before. They just came on by themselves. And now I have to do it myself and I forget and people have to flash their lights at me so I’ll remember. I’m about to make a post-it note.
But then I’d need to make a lot of other post-it notes and stick them around my apartment, except I’m never there, but they’d say things like,
“6 Reese’s Cups is not the same thing as eating breakfast.”
“I know you’d rather stay up and hang out, but you HAVE to take your medication at the SAME TIME every day AND get 8 hours of sleep or things are gonna get a little cray.”
“Why haven’t you sat down to write in almost a month?”
“Seriously, don’t buy anything else from Pottery Barn. YOU DON’T NEED ANY MORE STUFF.”
“You can do anything…but not everything.”
We do this.
We get busy and we forget to do things that are normally automatic.
We forget to turn on our headlights.
We forget to take care of ourselves.
That’s usually the first thing to go out the window when we get busy, isn’t it?
In a “normal” season, I eat well and drink a lot of water and get 8 hours of sleep every night and go to spin class 2-3 times a week and plan out my outfits and get my work done ahead of time and am nice to strangers and sit out on my porch eating yogurt like I’m in a Yoplait commercial.
Lately, there has been a lot of fast food and diet soda and it’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve had my butt on a spin bike. And I never miss spin. I have been known to throw the most extravagant excuses at people to get out of social engagements in order go to spin class. Whether that makes me dedicated or delusional, I do not know. But nothing worthy of a Yoplait commercial.
The point here being is that I am EXHAUSTED and I’m NOT taking care of myself like I know I need to. I’ve been stuck in a rut. I’ve been serving and giving and that feels really good except I am running on empty and can only do so much more before I start snapping at people. I’ve caught myself doing that. And that’s my #1 red flag.
And so, here’s what I’m thankful for:
I can hit refresh.
Tomorrow is a brand new day.
If I’m all about this grace thing (and I really, really am) I need to start extending it to myself. And I need to call a time out. And take care of myself so that I can continue taking care of other people, and keep cooking them food and keep throwing dinner parties.
Step one of Operation: Take Care of Yourself was signing up for an Oprah e-LifeCourse on “The Gifts of Imperfection.” I don’t even know what it’s about yet, but one of my very favorite people, Brene Brown, is leading it. And I was watching one of the videos for class the other day, and it was all about making permission slips for yourself. And the ones in the video were about the class, but I want to do some for life right now. And so:
I give myself permission to slow down.
I give myself permission to take a nap or a bubble bath if I need to. I give myself permission to reschedule a coffee date if I’m feeling overwhelmed that day. I give myself permission to play the “I need some ME time” card when I need to play it. I give myself permission go home this weekend and spend time with my family (for once!) and lay on the floor with my dogs and not do a whole lot else.
I give myself permission to feel overwhelmed and to stop looking at my to-do list when it’s freaking me out too much.
I do not give myself permission to put the emotional shakedown on myself when I need to do any of the above things. And I also do not give myself permission to go buy stuff I don't need and call that taking care of myself.
But I do give myself permission to forgive myself and keep going when those happen, which they probably will.
Some of you know about my rules. My favorite are the first two:
Rule: #1: We’re all doing the best we can.
Rule #2: We all have blind spots.
You know the best part of those? They apply to other people, sure, but also to yourself. I love that. I need that. And I give myself permission to believe them and slow down and breathe a little easier.