I make a plan where I write enough on Sunday so I don’t lose my mind trying to write posts all week in between dealing with two kids.
And then I decide writing seems too hard. And I decide I should take a bath.
You might think this is my way of relaxing, but it’s not. We don’t have a shower. We are in the hygiene part of the slow food movement. Maybe. And anyway, at some insane point in the day when I thought I might be able to write, I told the kids to try to train the dog to fetch. I am not sure what they ended up training him to do.
But I have to clean the bath before I can take a bath.
Then I am in the bath, and the September Vogue is calling to me, but it’s too heavy for the bath. So I grab a magazine that looks like it’s been wet before. Newsweek. I stole if from the doctor’s office because the cover article is The Mormon Moment and it looked too interesting to read between kids getting shots.
I open to page 45, and I see at the top there are bunch of Mormons in business. They are saying how their religion affects their work. I look for women. I always look for women. I am looking for the magic they use in order to have a big career and kids as well and not lose their mind. I land on Whitney Johnson. I look a little lower on the page to see what she has to say.
She quotes me. I have to read it twice because I can't believe it.
She says, “In Penelope Trunk’s words, ‘Religion is the best preparation for a career.’” I did say that. In this post. And it’s a good post. My next thought is: Maybe I can pass that off as a new post and then I’ll have a post for tomorrow.
But then I remember writing the post. It took me about ten months. Because I thought I was right about that – that all career decisions are religious decisions. But I was so scared to write it because everyone thinks I just write to be intentionally controversial. But I really write to be smart; if I don’t say something that makes you think in a new way, you won’t keep reading.
So I remember putting that post off for months. And I am thinking, lately, that I need to write faster. I need to trust myself more and not think and think and think.
As I’m worried that I can’t think straight anyway. I read an article in the New York Times about how people can’t keep making decisions well all day: Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Judges give pardons at the beginning of the day, but by the end of the day they are so tired of hearing cases that they can’t sort facts well enough to trust themselves to give pardons.
Another example: Poor people make so many money decisions that the non-poor never think of (like, there’s only enough money for either toilet paper or detergent,) that poor people get emotionally and intellectually exhausted and go on a binge. It’s not because they are irresponsible. It’s because no one has unlimited daily capacity to make decisions.
So I’m exhausted from decision-making. It’s the end of the summer. I just spent three months deciding every day what my kids should do. Don’t tell me I should have decided at the beginning of the summer. I’m in a new town, a new culture, and far away from everything. I didn’t know what would be right for us.
But that’s my problem, I think. That I tell you not to tell me it could be better. Because someone mired in having to make tons of decisions probably needs help. I think this is a lot of moms who work and have kids. I think it’s also people in their early 20s who are freaking out that their life is not coming together and they don’t know what to fix first.
It’s lots of people. And I’m not sure what everyone needs.
But seeing that Whitney Johnson quoted me made me see myself differently. Just for that minute. Instead of seeing myself as an exhausted person who can’t get anything done tonight, I saw myself as someone who has an unexpectedly wide impact.
One of the only books about happiness that didn’t make me want to slit my wrists was by Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness. It’s a rulebook for happiness. Like, do these things and you’ll be happier. It’s not stuff like go to the gym. Because everyone knows they should do that and everyone knows it’s nearly impossible except for the people who don’t even need to go to the gym because they’d exercise anywhere.
Lyubomirsky says, among other things, that you should give three, unexpected compliments in one day. Once a week. You get happier just from doing it.
But I think, now that I’ve gotten out of the bath and written a post, that those three compliments are going to be easier for me to do. Because a random person noticing you, changes you, just a little bit. And I'd like to do that for someone.
And also, sometimes you have to look in far reaches and odd corners to get back to feeling okay. It doesn't have to be anything huge. I think hot water or a good book or even just cleaning the bathroom floor, helps you get to whatever is next for you. You just have to do something.
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