I think I’ve been in a hurry for almost seven years. In January of 2006, I found out I was pregnant with Henry. Later that week, I was offered a contract to write Cold Tangerines. And since then, it seems, I’ve been in a hurry, running against the clock. They say that being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. I get that feeling.
I’ve been stacking things up, plan upon plan upon plan. I’ve been cramming things in—pushing, hustling, scurrying. I’ve been strategizing, multi-tasking, layering commitments one upon another like bricks.
It worked for a while. I like to be busy.
I’ll always be kind of “more is more” person when it comes to my schedule. With one child, the pace didn’t bother me much. So maybe it’s a second kid thing. Maybe it’s a second-kid-who-is-a-terrible-sleeper thing. Maybe it’s the accumulated exhaustion of two kids, two miscarriages, three books, countless trips and events, one marathon, one move. Maybe some weird timer goes off inside you when you turn thirty-six. I don’t know.
All I know is along the way, I signed up for a schedule that seemed so fun, not taking into account the pace that super-fun schedule would force me to keep.
I had a lot of fun, but not a lot of margin.
I gathered up some amazing experiences, but I didn’t rest well or often. I gulped down so much life, but at a certain point I was too tired and ground away to taste it anymore. Last year, it stopped working for me.
The changes I’m making this year are not, at the core, about more traveling or less traveling, more flights or fewer flights. The travel schedule is part of it, but really it’s about the hustle. It’s about frantic.
That’s what I’m done with, that’s what I want to leave behind.
You know what I’m talking about: when your mind has to work seven steps ahead instead of just being where you are, because this deadline’s coming, and the laundry has to get done before that trip, because you can’t forget to pack snowpants for school, and you need to beg for more time on this project. Again.
Kindergarten drop-off is at noon, and that gives me just enough time to squeeze in this meeting and pick up the dry-cleaning and talk through those five pressing things with my editor. While I’m on the phone I prep vegetables for dinner, and if Mac takes a good nap, I can get packed for the next trip, as long as the laundry is dry.
And on and on and on, times seven years.
Good things like efficiency and multi-tasking go of the rails so far that sometimes I find myself running in my own house, shuttling things from room to room like my life is a timed obstacle course. This is insane.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I think I’m not alone. It doesn’t matter if you work or don’t, or have little kids or don’t, or travel or don’t. So many of us, it seems, are really, really tired of the hustle, and the next right thing is to slow down, to go back to the beginning, to stop.
I’m done with frantic. The new baseline for me: will saying yes to this require me to live in a frantic way?
I’m saying no more often than I’m saying yes. I’m asking hard questions about why I’ve kept myself so busy all these years. The space and silence I’m creating is sometimes beautiful and sometimes terrifying.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a cartoon airplane when the engine gets cut and the plane hovers for a few long seconds before starting to fall. But then sometimes I feel so strongly like for the first time in a long time, I’m listening to the right voices. I’m remaking my way of living from the inside out.
Publishing is all about striking while the iron’s hot.
But sometimes you have to trust that the iron will still be hot later, and that there’s more to life than that iron. Sometimes you have to trust that life is long for most of us, and that there will be other irons.
My inbox is a disaster. The house is messier these days. That’s how it’s going to be for a while. I’m not powering my life with the white-knuckled, keyed-up buzz of efficiency and multi-tasking anymore. The word that rings in my mind is anti-frantic.
Present with my kids.
Present to my own life.
This is a re-post from the archives.