How do you do it?

People often say things to me like, “I don’t know how you do it all!”

Typically I rejoin along the lines of, “By doing it all half-assed! And drinking a lot!”

But in all seriousness, I have no idea. Is this a lot? I see other people doing 10 times what I do – and doing it better. And doing actual good in the world.

I do know, if I don’t get some breathing room soon – to catch up, really, not even to relax – I am going to snap.

(Now you’ll have something to point to: “She mentioned on her blog… I never expected her to go mad… She seemed like such a nice person – but I guess she saw it coming.”)

I was listening to Wendy Butler’s Artwaves program on KHSU, during which she played an old interview she did with Kinetic Founder Hobart Brown who recently passed away. He talked about work as an alternative to boredom and boredom as a precursor to suicide. (She writes about it in her column, too: “Hobart Brown said it was his opinion that ‘the worse thing is to be bored.’ Not only that, he went so far as to say creativity and its momentum can prevent suicide.”)

As someone who feels that pull toward darkness on a regular basis, I completely concur with the idea that keeping yourself busy can be a lifesaver. On the other hand, some kinds of busy can do you in. I feel like I’m at a critical juncture.

It’s silly isn’t it? I remember a friend watching Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers and Tides and commenting, “His whole day consists of moving rocks and sticks around – and still he gets pissy when things go wrong. I guess that’s just human nature.” My whole day is filled with work most people would love to have, yet I continue to bemoan how hard survival can be. All the writing I want to do – the thoughts evaporate without a solid place to land.

I cannot even right now, as the children are awake and readying for school. Too much movement behind me, too much talk and noise and need. There are thoughts here that need sorting. They will have to wait.

I want to be A Famous Writer Before I’m Dead.


P.S. Not having yet formed my own Complaint Choir, I am uncomfortable not clarifying the thoughts behind this post. Therefore, let me add to it:

Typically, I strive to appreciate what I have and cultivate a correspondingly positive attitude. Not only am I aware of how much worse things could be, but I know how much worse they have been; between hard work and luck, life has steadily improved over the years, so I have much to be grateful for. But keeping all the disparate elements of my life afloat demands a lot of energy, so much so that often what should be fun feels like one more chore: radio, laundry, dishes, newspaper, dinner, insulin calculations, family time, get eggs for the morning. The days are simply to survive, rather than to enjoy. That attitude contradicts my most fundamental beliefs and I begin to despair. But surfing, writing, really having fun with the kids — those are the things that renew me, that sustain me, that provide energy and peace, love and joy. Without them, my tenuous hold on optimism begins to slip.

This kind of depression is a luxury, though. The fact that I have time to feel sorry for myself is itself an indicator that most everything else must be going OK.

Walked the marsh for the first time in months this morning, at the prompting of an old friend, whom I also hadn’t seen in months. The bay stretched out and disappeared in the fog. Ducks paddled across glassy lakes. Late season wildflowers remained tucked among the cattails and red-leaved blackberry vines. As we strode down the gravel paths, catching up about kids, partners, friends, life, I felt myself unclench a bit.

Not giving up on the Complaint Choir idea though:


5 thoughts on “How do you do it?”

  1. Jen, don’t mistake depression for exhaustion. The people you see doing ten-times more have nannies and maids (or dirty kids and houses) and eat fast not healthy. Sometimes mommies forget to recharge (how nice you got that spa treatment for your birthday). Time to ourselves is a luxury we pray for then have NO idea what to do first when we have that time. Thank goodness we have the ocean (for me to walk next to and you to surf in) and families that can be both the cause for stress and the cure for it. We moms really ARE the lucky ones; we just forget sometimes becaues kids don’t smell as good when they grow up as they did when they were babies.

  2. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always thought about 1800’s coal miners. Kentucky, Virgina, Georgia. For some reason it’s the worst work that I can relate to.

    So I thinkg of six-day weeks, mega-danger, working in a hole all day, black-lung, crappy pay, worse weather.

    And then you hear the music that came from that region and that era. Shape-note singing, banjo/fiddle dance jams.

    And it’s like, they had to have something to live for and they simply had to find something to be happy about. And their lives were truly difficult. So there’s pain in the music, too, but find some Shape-note singing; it’s like ecstatic yelling. They found some joy somehow.

    That’s what I think about.

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