Bigger Bandwidth

I wonder about the ways in which we break; the ways in which we put ourselves back together.

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When I broke, I didn’t do it beautifully. Neatly or cleanly. I didn’t break into pieces that could be glued back together, fixed right up. Not to worry, no big deal.

I shattered into shards of glass, and came up stabbing.

I didn’t shock anyone as much as I shocked myself. You’d think I would have noticed something — a hairline crack or some other telltale sign — but that really wasn’t the way. If I had, I’d done a stand-up job of sweeping it under the rug. Check: order restored.

Except it wasn’t, and it wouldn’t ever be again. Not after that day, when I felt the proverbial rug being ripped right out from underneath my feet.

It’s been almost six months since that toppling shock, that startling rage. So much can happen in half a year. More than I can wrap my head around, really. But I can say this, very happily: my life finally no longer feels like an ongoing ugly cry.

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I still cry, of course. With and without reason, but primarily when I feel anxious and afraid, and realize (yet again) that I can’t cope the way I used to.

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I cried hard enough to give myself a headache yesterday, not even ten minutes after having wrapped up a poised/professional phone call. The one I had a hard time believing would EVER come.

I got a full-time job! With benefits! Starting Monday!

Don’t worry — I kept the exclamation points in my voice to a minimum, on the phone. But there is a lot to be excited about, even if the work itself doesn’t turn out to be so scintillating. The bottom line is, it’s a start. The woman I’ll be working for seems great, the commute is all of sixty seconds, I’ll get to go home for lunch, the work I’ll be doing can’t very well follow me home, I’ll have real weekends, and I’ll get to move into more of a managerial position slowwwly. Versus, you know, launching my own department two months into my unpaid internship, the way I did in NYC.

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There are other plus sides, too. I’ll have the flexibility I need to continue getting myself to my maze of medical appointments, and once I learn the ropes, I’m pretty certain I won’t be draining all of my mental energy at work.

The compromise, of course, is time. I will have less time to write. Less time to exercise. Less time to cook. Less time to relax. I know — like everybody else!! In a way, I can’t wait. 

But I’ve been realizing something important. The fact that I’m a high-achiever does not mean that I have good time management skills.

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I have terrible time management skills, actually. In college I always worked two or three weeks out on the syllabus. I liked to be ahead; I did this for every class. The professors who didn’t have every assignment plotted out already drove me CRAZY. (As did the ones who fiddled with future projects, already set in stone in my mind.)

I had no balance. None. I worked and ran and cooked and cleaned and slept. Woke up, did it all over again. I saw my boyfriend maybe once or twice a week, outside of class. I wasn’t a very good friend, and as a result, I didn’t have very many. I can count on one hand the number of times I got dressed up, went out. Had fun.

New York was a slight variation on the same theme. (Subtract the boyfriend, quadruple the hours.) I’d graduated with a 4.0, but with absolutely no idea how to do anything besides burn out. Spectacularly.

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As it turns out, I’m really only learning about time management now. At 24. How am I learning? By noticing when I’m not managing. Which, so far, seems to be every single time I try to do everything perfectly. Every single time! Without exception.

I’m a failed perfectionist now. An aspiring good enough-ist. Thank you, Portland.

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It’s going to be rocky — starting this new job. I’m going to need to do some things differently, so I don’t fall into the same old trap.

That means I’m going to push the blog off my plate, for now. Until I get into more of a rhythm. It means I’m going to try not to freak out when I can’t get my exercise in before work all week long. Or when I can’t return my library books the day they’re done. Or when I can’t make a meal from scratch every night. Or when I can’t email my friends back as quickly as I’d like to. Or when I can’t restore the kitchen to immaculate order, before going to bed. Or: take out the trash, check the mail, pull down the shades, water the plants, clean my ears, tweeze my eyebrows, file my nails, shave my legs, blow-dry my hair, do a load of laundry, iron my outfit for tomorrow…et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I have to get used to it: the constant shifting. Knowing that I can’t give 110% in all areas of my life, all at the same time. Trusting that no one can.

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I have to remember that everyone with a to-do list also has an equally long list of things they don’t do. In order to have the time/space/energy to do the things on their first list.

I’ve already been doing some of that. A month and a half ago I swapped out the hour I used to spend scrolling through Facebook so I could have more time to focus on the friendships that feel more genuine to me.

Breaking routine doesn’t have to feel horrible. It can feel positive and intentional, and enormously freeing.

I guess I used to be petrified of what would happen, if I did something differently — if I didn’t stay so on top of things. I don’t feel that way anymore. If I miss a day of yoga or a day at the gym, I’m fairly sure I won’t just stop exercising altogether, forever. And if I don’t end up getting to the grocery store or giving any real thought to what I’m having for dinner, I’m fairly sure it won’t kill me to pick up something, on my way home. It doesn’t mean I won’t ever cook again. It doesn’t mean I’ll start subsisting on takeout alone.

So many of the little controls I had set up were safeguards. If I do/don’t do this, I won’t get fat. If I do/don’t this, no one can call me lazy. If I do/don’t do this, I will be okay.

It was such a small way to live. I had no bandwidth to experience — enjoy — anything outside the realm of what I knew. What I’d planned. What I’d expected.

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It’s a little scary to be peeking into this other way of living. But so exciting, too. So, so exciting.

{Well-loved barn via @littlecoal on Instagram. Where you can find me for the next little bit!}

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