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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

It's Not the End of the World

I woke up this morning late, realizing it's OMG Wednesday already and I'm not even finished with Monday yet. Tuesday got squeezed in almost as if it were forgotten. And there's only three weeks left till I leave for conference-- no, less than three weeks now, since I leave on Tuesday.

What happened to the twenty pounds I was going to lose before conference? No problem there- I know exactly where they are. My teeth look so dingy, I should have started whitening them two months ago. And looking at my schedule, I can't even figure out where I'll cram in a manicure. There's the Royal Ascot, and the Silent Auction I promised to help manage, and...

Hold it. Hold it right there.

Relax! It's not the end of the world! I'm above self-induced panic attacks now. I promised myself that over ten years ago. I do not have to go into a last-minute frenzy over national because I know what to do instead.

Now, all of you, listen to Granny, here. I know what I'm talking about. This is something about which I have tons of experience, and I can save you many wasted years of time:

You know what I mean. It's a common problem for women because we always want to do everything, and have the erroneous idea we can somehow stretch time to do it all. Notice that word 'erroneous'? Time does not stretch. We fool ourselves because we have developed good event- and task-squeezing skills. Events and tasks can be tightened, squeezed, but time cannot.

For thousands of years, women had no choices in their lives. They had one occupation, and for almost all of them, that was it, and they accepted it. They just buckled down and did what they were expected to do.

Enter the modern age. Women looked at their washing machines and piles of laundry and decided they wanted something more. Meaningful careers. But to be truthful, most of them did not want to give up their domestic life. They wanted both. Men reluctantly came along with the idea, having discovered women were of some value to them. And they learned to like it. Extra income. But someone who still swept the floor and cleaned the dirty corners they missed in their quick swipe of the kitchen.

The truth is, the majority of the compromise fell to women, and still does. Even in households where the workload is pretty evenly distributed (and I give my guys lots of credit for that) women learned a new way of rationalizing and working to be able to meet their dreams. They began to think they could squeeze time.

Squeezing time comes about because women have choices they never had before. Now women have jobs that take up around 50 hours of their week, then they have home chores and family. Then they have their other stuff. Exercise, health and body care, favorite hobby, leisure, education-- and did I mention writing? How does a busy woman squeeze in all of this without neglecting something she really needs to do? then something like the national conference comes up and squeezes the whole thing even tighter. So, feeling the rising panic, she tries to squeeze time, speeding from one task to another, promising herself she'll get to all of those things she's setting aside. And then when something never quite manages to make the list, she blames herself for procrastinating on it.

The management tool here is organized guilt. Instead of accepting that some things have to get less attention, she avoids the guilt by postponing it until a time when it's too late to do anything about it. It's easier to handle that way because as long as there's still opportunity to do something, the guilt burden is heavier. If she waits till it's too late, she simply assigns guilt as the price she is willing to pay for her avoidance of choosing one important task over another.

This is guilt's purpose in our lives. I'm not talking about true guilt, the kind you deserve to feel when you deliberately hurt a friend or do something truly cruel or sinful. I mean the kind you use to cover your failure to have 48 ours in a day. Time-squeeze guilt actually accomplishes nothing except to allow us to feel we have done something. It's like worry. 99% of the time, it accomplishes nothing except to relieve an even more unworthy and more crushing guilty feeling.

So in a way, time-squeeze guilt is good because it helps manage other guilt. But it also requires a feeling of panic, that somehow there ought to be a way to squeeze it all in, but you're not doing it and your whole world


No. Don't go there. Especially not now. Don't let your mistaken notion that you have to do all, be all things to all people and still have your own life, take over. You cannot make one day into two days. You cannot go without sleep for three weeks.

You must make choices. You must recognize you are choosing to do one thing and accept that another must temporarily be let go. You probably already know some streamlining and efficiency-building techniques in your life. You probably already use your teeth-whitening strips while you drive to work, and don't put on make-up on Saturdays so you have time to vacuum. And I assume you know how to use your lunch break to do errands or write synopses. But you can't keep on adding on more without taking off somewhere.

So accept the fact that time does not expand or shrink. Time is the great constant of the universe. Decide what must be done. Decide what has to be let go. NEVER promise yourself to do it LATER unless you have a slot marked LATER on your calendar. Find things that can temporarily be let go. Make the choice reasonably and rationally. Tell your family what they can and can't expect of you in the next few weeks.

I believe in list-making and time-planning, two of my favorite ways of managing my life. I do have to be ruthless with myself when it comes to time because I know I will try to crowd in more than can be done. There is always too much to do, though, and something must be left undone. I didn't make that rule. It was made sometime long before civilization raised its ugly head and began to prowl the earth. So my job is to make choices. Not to pretend I can somehow avoid it by playing guilt games with myself. instead of guilt, I substitute the peace of mind that comes from knowing I did not make the day 24 hours long. I have been writing along with all my other responsibilities for fifteen years. I can do this year too.

And partly, I can do it because I'm learning to not waste time and my emotional well-being by spinning my wheels in useless guilt and worry.

I know I said I'd tell you a panic-free way to manage your appointments, but there's not room for that today. So, Friday being an open day for questions and answers, I'm going to post on that then. I have a free spot in my schedule then...


At 12:20 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

This should be put on a banner and handed to every girl at age 14. Then age at 18. At 25, she should be given a gold-embossed, framed version for hanging on her wall.

What a great post and a wake-up for all of us time-squeezing pros. I'm not heading to nationals but I've got other trips planned and the guilt has already begun.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

No joke! Patricia, you're absolutely right. No nationals this year for me either, but a bunch of other family, writing, and day job deadlines that were making me crazy.

And the three days alone with hubby coming up soon, something that hasn't happened in at least two years? Yeah, I was stressing about how I hadn't lost my "winter" weight yet. How stupid. Now I'll just go and enjoy.

Thanks for the wake-up call, Delle! :)

At 12:57 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

This is great, Delle! Worrying does absolutely nobody any good. And trying to squeeze 27 hours of things to do in 24 hours is crazy, but we all try to do it day after day. I agree...say NO to guilt!

At 1:14 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Great subject, Delle! I was wondering where most of yesterday went, and was actually feeling guilty for stopping at a relative's house to borrow something. I ended up staying and having iced tea on their deck. All the way back to my house I felt guilty for taking that time away from writing, finishing the laundry, etc. But now that you have reminded me that I can't do everything I think I should, I am tossing the guilt away! :)

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Right, Mo. Feeling guilty allows you to feel as if you've actually done something about a problem, just as worrying about something you can't control allows you to feel like you're working on it. You're not, in either case, so why not just be honest with yourself and say you're not doing anything? By reminding yourself there are only so many minutes in a day, and recognizing you don't have the power to change that, you're actually empowering yourself to get done what you can get done.


At 10:10 AM, Blogger Linda Banche said...

Hi Delle,

When I sent you several emails about the Royal Ascot, you always answered me promptly. Thank you very much.

So you're doing something right. don't beat yourself up.


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