What I’ve been reading: Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

Overwhelmed_BookCoverI finally finished Overwhelmed: Work, Love, And Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte earlier this week. It had been on my to-read list for over a year, which feels about right given the subject matter.

I continued to align with the subject matter as I read the book. As I was going to bed, I checked my email one last time to discover that the ebook was finally available from the library. I set a reminder on my phone to remember to load the book onto my ereader at 6:15am the next morning so I could have it for my commute. When the library’s website wouldn’t work after multiple attempts, I went to make Flora’s lunch and came back to try to download it one more time. That’s when I missed my train and was late for work.

I spent several train trips home reading this book. I was visibly emotional more than once during the early parts of the book. I related to so much of what Ms Schulte was talking about: the fragmented bits of time (called Time Confetti), the feeling that nothing was truly getting done. The Overwhelm. My sadness turned to anger as I read – and related to – the data, stories and anecdotes spelling out what I’ve believed for a long time: the way we work – and by extension, live and play –  is wrong, and we can do better.

I was relieved when the end of the book didn’t end with big promises of a new life, if only you did the following three things. It didn’t read like a self-help book and it didn’t feel overly academic or dry. It was readable and relatable, which explains my occasional crying jag while reading it.

I am so grateful to Ms Schulte to writing such a thoughtful, readable book on something that is so close to my heart at this stage in my life. I am a serious fangirl of her work that I’ve seen and read online. I’m still working on how to apply what I’ve learned but isn’t that always a work in progress for all of us.

Here’s some further reading:

 

Weird things that make me happy

I recently read the blog post “Embrace Whatever Makes You Happy (Even If It’s Totally Weird)” on Cordelia Calls it Quits. I love this site and how Cordelia/Kelly thinks. This post talks about reveling in the random, weird things you like and owning those likes. More importantly, it reminds the reader that we all have random weird things that give us joy. You aren’t the only one that likes random, weird things and neither am I.

Here are some weird things that make me happy:

Doing errands

This sounds strange, but I really like doing errands. I like making lists of what I need to get done, then figuring out the most efficient plan of attack to get as much done in as little time as possible. Ticking off all the items and seeing a visual representation of what I’ve accomplished feels good. I like doing errands with Flora or Sean (or both, which is rare), but I like it even better when I get to go on my own. I have very few things that I have complete control over so I think this is my way of taking charge of things going on in my life.

Driving with loud rock music playing

When I’m driving alone, I’m a rockstar in my car. I crank up the radio (this my favourite radio station). I sing along. I laugh at the jokes. I tap on the steering wheel. I am that cliché you see out on the road and I’m okay with that. I love pulling into parking lots playing music that doesn’t scream “suburban mom”. I realize that there is no genre of music called “mom” (suburban or otherwise) but there is some sort of irony of Rage Against the Machine blasting on my radio as I pull into Walmart. This happened to me last weekend while I was doing errands. By myself.

Staring at the lake

I’ve lived either on or near lakes all my life. Gazing out into the water makes me feel alive and centered with the universe. Despite living close by, I don’t get down to the lake much these days. It’s good meditation so I think I need to start.

Tell me about the weird things that make you happy.

Priorities

On Monday, I did yoga for the first time in… a really long time.

I used the Yoga Studio app on my phone and chose a ‘Beginner Balance’ class. I felt angry and ashamed when I couldn’t do every move. I know logically that I was being too hard on myself, but that’s who I am. My inner voice is really mean sometimes.

Any tips on how to calm a cruel inner voice would be greatly appreciated.

As I wrote this, I thought back to this post from 2013. The whole post still resonates, but this part sticks out:

I know I need to move more. I’ve spent the last few weeks (months? years?) figuring out what I’d like to do to be able to introduce more activity into my life. Everything I want to do seems to have barriers: too expensive, not enough time, worry that I will look stupid in front of people who I wouldn’t give a shit about if I wasn’t feeling so vulnerable in front of them.

Monday’s yoga session, while frustrating at times, felt good and I’m glad I did it. Small steps to making my health and myself a priority in my life.

Dimes

When we were packing to move into our new house back in 2012, I kept finding dimes. They were everywhere: in boxes, on the floor, in the couch cushions. I assumed that Sean wasn’t keeping track of his loose change but my mum had a different theory. She told me about the superstition of finding dimes in random places. According to the superstition, these dimes were signs from someone who had passed on. A little glimmer to catch your eye and remind you that they were there.

Sean and I both lost our fathers as teenagers. I lost my grandmother soon after that. If the superstition was ever been based in truth, we had people in the Great Unknown that could plausibly be thinking about us as we embarked on a new phase of our lives.

I didn’t give it much thought until we started to unpack at the new house and dimes started showing up again. Logically, it was because they had been packed with all the other things that make up our home, but they kept showing up in weird places. If the superstition was true, someone wanted our attention.

We settled into our home and the flurry of dimes also settled. I find the odd dime next to a pair of discarded pants or at the bottom of my purse. Sensible places that can be explained away. Sometimes I wonder, but mostly I don’t. Those dimes make sense.

I’ve recently started seeing dimes in odd places again. I see them most often on my walks from my car to the GO train platform and back again. I cross the street from one parking lot to another to get to the platform. I don’t see them in the same place every time. I’m usually deep in thought, but I catch the silver glimmer in the corner of my eye and I pause to see of it’s a dime or just a random shiny thing. I confirm what it is and continue on my way.

I’ve always followed the “find a penny, pick it up and all the day, you’ll have good luck” rule. I know it’s another superstition but I’ve always figured it can’t hurt to try to get some luck. Especially when the next line is “find a penny, leave it lay and bad luck you will have all day”.

I never pick up the dimes.

Maybe more dimes are showing up now that Canada has retired pennies and everyone hates nickels*. Maybe another harried commuter has holes in his pants pockets from all the loose change he’s carrying around. Maybe someone I care about is trying to make their presence known from the Great Unknown.

If that’s the case, what do they want?

* Does everyone hate nickels, or is just me? Ever since I was a kid, I’ll see a nickel overlapping a dime and think it’s a quarter. Then I look closer and see the smooth outline and I realize I don’t have enough change for the desired trinket of the moment. Quarters go in gumball machines and grocery carts. Nickels add to your worth in tiny increments. Nickels are obviously not useless but that beaver mocks me when I’m looking for a caribou.

What’s making me happy right now

Did you know that yesterday was The United Nations International Day of Happiness? I didn’t either until I got to work yesterday. My office building was celebrating with smiley face balloons and cupcakes in the lobby.

I really love smiley faces. I was the girl who dotted the Is in her name with smiley faces from ages 10 to 12-ish. I still sign cards with my name and a little smiley underneath. When I add Flora’s name, I do a little flower for her. (I still haven’t figured out a symbol for Sean, which feels like unintentional exclusion.)

In honour of yesterday’s International Day of Happiness, here is a list of things that make me happy right now.

  1. Picking up Flora from school.
    When I get to Flora’s school, I can look in a large window and see the kids in the after school supervision room. I love finding Flora in the window and watching her go about her business. It’s gratifying to see who she is when I am not hovering over her. I also love the huge tackle-hugs I usually get when I get to the classroom door. They make me feel loved. (I’ve written about this before. The card I mentioned in that post? Still on my cubicle wall.)
  2. The snow is melting.
    I just wish it would stop snowing so that there was no more snow that needed to melt. This winter has been hard and like most of my North American pals, I’m more than ready for it to be over.
  3. The jeans I’m wearing right now.
    Sounds ridiculous but it’s true. I like the colour, the fit, and the feel of them.
  4. Seeing older couples being affectionate together.
    When I see older couples holding hands, or one half holding the other’s arm for balance, or generally being affectionate, I think “I want that”. I want to part of that couple who sits in their matching rocking chairs cracking jokes with each other. I want to have my hand held when I’m 90. I’ve let Sean know this, and I hope we pull it off.
  5. Seeing the lake on my way home from work.
    My GO train station is near the lake and we pass through parkland and nature right before we stop. When I sit on the south side of the train, I can look out the window and gaze into Lake Ontario. It makes me feel centered and calm. Now that the days are getting longer, I get a better view of the water. It’s a nice way to end off my train ride and move into my evening.

I am grateful for these and so many other little – and big! – things that make me happy. What making you happy these days?

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.