Even though my verb for this year was push, I’ve realized that I have a little bit of a problem with that when it comes to weekends.
I have so many goals for this year — writing more, writing better, making lots of new friends, doing lots of yoga — which seemed fine until I realized that I was beating myself up in a major way for not using my free time “better.” I’d go into each weekend feeling super ambitious, but before I knew it, it was Sunday night and I hadn’t written anything, cleaned anything, exercised anything, or cooked anything…and so, in my mind, I hadn’t achieved anything.
It’s taken me some time to get over this. I grew up believing that weekends were for being productive and I felt guilty for not doing more. I’ve always been a “wash and chop your veggies on Sundays so you can make salads all week!” type of person. But when I came to the realization that there is nothing that will get me to even look at a veggie on a Sunday (or a Saturday), I started to question my own motivation and then I started to tell myself, well, if I’m not willing to chop my veggies on the weekend, then I don’t deserve to eat delicious salads all week, right? JUST WORK AT IT MORE AND YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE THINGS.
Living with Eric has really helped me let go of this mentality; seeing how he was totally comfortable spending his whole weekend watching TV and maybe getting around to grocery shopping at 10 PM on Sunday night helped me start to see that maybe I was being too hard on myself. I hate to admit it, but I think this is something that is really pervasive in female culture. When I ask my best female friends how their weekends were, it is always measured in terms of productivity: “Well, I accomplished a ton on Saturday..I worked out, made cookies, went on a date, volunteered, worked on my grad school applications…” A weekend is often seen as just “eh” if nothing deemed worthwhile was achieved: “My weekend was dece…I was a lazy bum, I just watched reality TV all weekend and barely left the house.” When I ask my male friends how their weekends were, there is never any mention of productivity. A weekend is considered good if the majority of its hours were used for doing nothing. None of the men I know go into weekends with a plan or a to do list, a fact that left me scratching my head for a very long time. (“So wait…you like just…did nothing all day? But…when do you…do things? But…then…how can you still achieve All The Things? But…what? I don’t follow. IS THIS MALE PRIVILEGE AT WORK?”)
It wasn’t until I saw strong women with awesome careers and families openly admit to doing nothing on weekends that it really clicked for me. First Tiffany Shlain talked at SXSW about how her family unplugs on the weekends and then Sheryl Sandberg said she leaves work every day at 5:30 — but confessed she was afraid to admit this publicly for a long time for fear of judgment — and I was finally able to own that this was something that I needed to do to be a healthy and happy human being.
So that’s all well and good, right? Yes, it is. I feel awesome. I still feel really happy with the amount of time I’m committing to my personal and career goals, but instead of spreading that work over the course of seven days, I’m packing it in to five days. I spend my weekday mornings and evenings pushing myself to accomplish everything on my to do list; each weekend, I unplug a little bit more, and each Sunday night, I feel a little more relaxed and recharged. Oh, and my work hasn’t suffered; it’s improved.
It’s all so exciting and wonderful…except I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with the fact that THERE ARE STILL THINGS THAT I NEED TO DO.
Like, yes I’m much happier now that I just laze around on the weekends but…this laundry ain’t gonna wash itself. And my tub? And my lunch situation? Ugh ugh ugh. It’s not like I’m living in squalor or something, but I’m living in a way that makes it very hard for me to organize myself mentally enough to actually do my work. For me, cleanliness isn’t next to godliness, but it is next to success and productivity.
So this past weekend I had another fabulously unproductive couple of days, and, come Monday morning, I realized I had no clean underwear to wear to work. I mean, technically I had clean underwear, but it wasn’t really fit for my daily routine; the $30 bits of lace and string that live in my bottom drawer are underwear like the shadows in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave are real people. It’s “underwear.” Not only did I not have underwear, I just didn’t have clothes. What I had was tons of dirty laundry, laundry that would have been clean by now if I had just been willing to turn of “Sins & Secrets” on Investigation Discovery long enough to put it in the washing machine. (Side note: WHY IS ID SO AMAZING?? It’s so awesomely cheesy and I can’t get enough.) On top of the fact that I had no clean clothes, I also had nothing prepared to pack for lunch. I was so proud of myself for actually dragging my ass to the grocery store (correction: Eric dragged me, I deserve no credit) that I didn’t feel the need to actually, you know, turn the ingredients into something edible.
I got through Monday with the help of “underwear” from my bottom drawer, a total joke of an outfit that I actually had to change midday (my only clean tops were sleeveless…I knew I needed a new strapless bra but I didn’t know mine was actually nonfunctional), and lunch from Subway. I went to yoga after work and as I was on my way home, I thought, I’m not going to change once I get home. I’m going to stay in my dirty clothes and get really dirty doing some chores.
Normally I’d never plan to do chores on a Monday night. Because work nights are for like…well, I don’t know what, but not chores, right? I’m not sure how I got that idea though — when I was in school, school nights were for work and weekends were for play. But now that I’m an adult, I feel that I deserve happy hour, entertainment, and snuggling on weeknights and then I force myself to do penance on Saturdays and Sundays.
But hitting rock bottom (and, yes, wearing an uncomfortable faux-jewel-encrusted piece of lingerie as underwear to work due to my own lack of motivation is kind of my rock bottom) turned out to be a really good thing for me because it helped me realize that weeknights are actually great for doing chores. When I do chores on a Saturday, I feel bummed because it’s like, Ugh, I spent my whole day doing chores and I feel so dirty and I was supposed to be relaxing and having fun because IT’S MOTHERFUCKING SATURDAY, Y’ALL! But on a Monday night? Well, let’s see. I don’t have to make dinner…I’m not in the right mindset to write anything, but I’m not that tired and it’s too early for bed anyway…oh, and I’m already dirty from yoga! Oh! Oh! I know! MAYBE I SHOULD CLEAN SOMETHING.
And oh, how I cleaned on Monday night. When I got home, Eric was actually already on it; he had cleaned the kitchen and was in the middle of making dinner and assessing what needed to be done for the dogs, who were just…filthy (as was everything they touched or even looked at this past weekend). While he finished dinner, I scrubbed down my yoga mat and then immediately started separating my laundry. And from there, I was just unstoppable.
Four loads of laundry. Lunches for the week. Coffee. Chai banana bread. Oh, and while I’m at it, let me exfoliate, do my nails, and floss my teeth. AND TOMORROW I WILL EAT HEALTHY FOODS, WEAR CLEAN CLOTHES, AND WRITE LOTS OF WORDS.
The lesson? Doing nothing on weekends actually means doing nothing and…doing chores is doing something. This was a total “getting it” moment that I really can’t believe I didn’t have sooner. I can totally achieve All The Things this year…I’m just not going to do it on Sundays.
So. With that in mind, I feel pretty optimistic about my verb for the year and my plans for the month of May.
- Mondays: I clean.
- All other weeknights: I read and write like a motherfucker. When I’m not doing that, I’m going to yoga classes (preferably two per week).
- Weekends: I do the things that make me feel human (because, sorry, even though I feel extremely happy when I’m writing like a motherfucker, I don’t feel quite like a human being…I feel like a motherfucker).
What are yours?