I am at war with my body. That was the thought that came to me toward the end of the massage I had on Friday. Sometimes the oddest things come to me when I’m not focusing on a dozen things at once.
Oddest, and usually the most apt. When my defenses are down, the truth sneaks up.
I’d been talking with the massage therapist about the events of the past few months. Chief among them was my sense of shame over being so damned tired. I felt that I should be completely over the gall-bladder surgery by now.
Sure, I pushed it too hard the first week or so. Yes, I was already carrying a cumulative load of fatigue and trying to meet too many deadlines. Somehow it came across as some private perversity that made me refuse to heal. Or maybe I was just a big whiner.
The massage therapist said pretty much what the Group Health doctor and nurse had said: You had surgery. Your body underwent the loss of an organ and has been busy ever since healing the incisions and the internal trauma, and adjusting to life without a gall bladder. For extra credit, she explained the immune system and the stresses that healing creates.
“You’re not a wimp,” she concluded.
Then why did I feel like one? Because I’m at war with my body.
I ask more of it each year although it has less and less to give. I refuse to slow down. I hesitate to say “no” to any opportunity to write, to be interviewed, to contribute to a project. In short, I don’t believe in health if it interrupts my plans.
A too-crowded life
It may sound like I’m quarreling with blessings: Pity me, for way too many good things are happening in my life. I understand that many people would love to have this so-called problem.
But I’ve been on a dead run for years. I started out tired and the more things I take on, the more tired I become. Too often I meet deadlines at the expense of a personal life. Too often, writing is my life.
The punch line? All those opportunities are sending lots more readers to this site – right when I’m too drained to produce stuff worth reading. Consistently, anyway. Of my last 14 posts, three were roundups of work I’d done elsewhere and seven were weekly giveaway announcements. Not good.
Surviving and Thriving has always been a hybrid, but I like keeping personal finance in the forefront. Trouble is, I now have to come up with five ideas per week for my new main job — the Frugal Cool blog at MSN Money — and one mega-topic every other week for Get Rich Slowly.
What’s left, idea-wise, for my own site? And if I do come up with a fresh(ish) topic, will I be too fried to write it?
Painted into a corner
I don’t want Surviving and Thriving to become too introspective. My navel isn’t that interesting. No one’s is. And I definitely don’t want it to be only about the Zany Things that happen to me. Yes, I’ve had some peculiar experiences at the Talkeetna Bachelors Auction and Wilderness Woman Competition or during a frugal trip to the U.K. These make for fun reads. (I hope.)
But it’s pretty tough to sustain a day-in-the-life blog because some days will likely be Not Particularly Zany. Besides, I like sharing money tips.
I’ve got to dance with them what brung me, so I can’t let my work for MSN Money and Get Rich Slowly slip even a little bit. Yet I don’t want to let days and days go by without putting up something new and useful here.
When other authors go a couple of weeks between posts, I stop reading them. Thus I’m acutely aware of what prolonged radio silence can do to one’s readership.
Decisions must be made, though, because I’m past the point where sleep rests me.
Stoics R us?
Logic would dictate that I give up at least one major commitment. Logic would further dictate that Surviving and Thriving be the commitment that goes bye-bye, since it’s bringing in only a small fraction of my total income.
But I don’t want to stop writing my site. Here I can do whatever I want. Show me another employer who would let me put up posts like “Who would Jesus strafe?” or “Walking around in your underpants: Sometimes it’s good to be single.”
Another coping mechanism would be to stop traveling so much. Yet it’s hard to decline the opportunities that come my way, especially when they are business expenses (three conferences in one year!) or house-sitting jobs.
For example, I’ll be spending almost two weeks in New York City this summer thanks to an apartment-sitting gig. Since New Jersey is right next door, I’ll tack on a visit to my dad, my brother and my Aunt Dot.
If I turn down an opportunity like that, will the chance come again? Maybe, maybe not.
A couple of situations in my personal life are also muddying the waters. I’m not quite ready to write about those, however.
When choices lead to collapse
After telling me that I wasn’t a wimp the massage therapist added, “You may be a stoic. But you don’t have to be.”
She’s right. I can choose to change. I’ve touched on this subject before, and created a plan to improve my life. It worked for a little while. But then my job at MSN Money morphed into a daily deadline and I had to have surgery. Now I’m at least as weary as I was before.
Back when I was a newspaper journalist I freelanced a lot on the side and was also responsible for all the housework, child care, cooking, shopping, home repair and snow-shoveling. Once or twice a year I would get really sick and have to spend a few days in bed. My physician noted this was a common dynamic among working mothers: Overdo and overdo until they could no longer go on; collapse; sort-of heal; start all over again. She urged me to find a saner way of living.
I didn’t. I still haven’t. The only difference, besides being divorced and no longer responsible for a child, is that I am now a contractor vs. an employee. Contractors don’t get sick days.
My exhaustion is due to choices that I’ve made, not to circumstances that fell on me like an anvil on a cartoon character. Unfortunately, those choices have left me feeling just about as flattened as Wile E. Coyote.
It’s hard for me to admit that I can no longer handle all this. My life has mostly been about fitting 28 hours’ worth of work into a 24-hour day. In midlife, I have to acknowledge that this is no longer the way I want to operate.
I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve received. I just wish that blessings didn’t so often come in bundles. More to the point, I wish that life weren’t so often about choosing what to keep and what to set aside.