I have not had more than a few weeks at a time where nothing is happening.
A day where nothing happens except morning coffee, quiet work hours, interruptions by eight-year-old Nick who is telling me his latest idea, breaking for lunch, and snuggles at the end of the day.
It has been eighteen months of chaos, ramping up slowly but surely, until we’ve gotten to a place where every night we go to sleep knowing that the next day could be filled with phone calls or home visits by the police department, long waits in the hospital ER waiting rooms, or long drives to pick up or drop off my sixteen-year-old at yet another acute care facility.
Today, it has been four days since we drove home in the early morning hours after a two and a half hour intake at an adolescent acute care facility that we’ve been to three times before now. That was early Thursday morning.
This threw off my circadian rhythm so badly that I could not catch up enough on sleep before my menstrual cycle started up on Saturday, so from Friday onward I was migraining, cramping, and fatigued to a degree that I don’t usually experience.
Yesterday was the first day I checked my email. Today is the first day that I knew I could sit down and do my work.
My usual reason for having to move work around – to accommodate my exhaustion and sleep needs – gets old quickly.
I hate moving work around. I want to do the work when I said I was going to do the work. Even when the reasons are valid and to push through would mean illness, I hate moving work.
To counter this, I have gotten dispassionately good at padding the amount of time it’s going to take me to DO the fucking work.
Before now, I would have padded for eventualities such as a few hours where one of the kids might need me for something, or a sudden doctor’s appointment, or an errand that was necessary but hadn’t been scheduled.
Now, I pad days at a time for an expectation that I’ll be driving four or five hours and then trading off playing warden in my own house: to keep my BPD kid from running away, hurting herself, or at least to call the police when she does and then spend the following hours talking with the officer who comes out for my statement. And, possibly, working from the hospital ER waiting room if it’s my turn on shift.
I pad for the time it’s going to take for me to process my emotions after a ‘family session’ conference call wherein I have to remain vigilant and point out every truth-twist, every outright lie, and each unfounded accusation because if I don’t, her version of truth prevails and I (and my family) will endure the ramifications of those dangerous lies.
I pad for the time I need to care for my spouse, who pulls just as much weight and needs just as much rest and recovery time after each shift.
I pad for the time I need to comfort and spend time with my other kids, to take them to their own therapy appointments, to watch movies with them snuggled on the couch together.
I pad for the time I need to take showers and cry and sit in the backyard while the trees whisper to me.
What this has done is remove – however temporarily – all possibility of regularly scheduled anything from my calendar.
I can gauge from week to week how much capacity I have, and how much work I can accomplish — and I’ve gotten really good at that forecasting. I am not just pulling from a pessimistic view of my life, but from a framework of behavior patterns and likely outcomes that I am building up each time something else happens.
Sadly, there are things I want to do regularly and can’t commit to, such as writing a newsletter each week or starting up a short-form podcast or even a weekly lunch date with Alexa.
I worry that I am accustomed to this mess.
I worry that the cost of having my scheduled upended and emptied on a irregularly regular basis is going to cause me more physical and emotional harm than I can predict.
I worry that there will come a time when my clients all need something at the same time and I will be asleep, trying to catch up enough to have some of my normal brain function back.
I worry that this is going to break me.
But I don’t break easily and I will not accommodate the idea that my life can fall apart because of someone else’s choices.
So I get up, and I keep going.
I put things in my Google calendar and in my written lists and digital project management systems.
When I discover that something — or someone — got forgotten somehow, I apologize and I make it right and I put the things in the damn calendar.
I ask for help.
When I fall down, I sit for a moment and ask for a glass of water and I contemplate how I can take care of myself here, now, in this moment.
And sometimes, I have a chance to rest.