Woods Pond in the rain

Woods Pond in the rain

I recently read this post over at the wise and funny Notes to Self.  I love Kyran‘s writing – its not unusual for me to leave that site teary eyed.  This time however, it wasn’t just the deep honesty and beautiful pose that moved me but a deep sense of empathy about living without margins.  I read the post with tears dripping off my chin, falling shamelessly into my lap.

Kyran was writing about living on the financial edge.   This is something I can relate to all too well.  When Juan left me with a child and one income it didn’t take long for my social justice salary to leave us struggling.  I remember nights staying up sorting through Max’s beautiful grandma-purchased clothes trying to figure out what we could consign to help pay the babysitter or emptying out the spare change jar that Juan and I had started when we started dating and cashing it all in to pay for food and gas for the week.  The rollercoaster of panic (will we make it this week?) and relief–all the effort that went into figuring out how to keep it together left me depleted and a shadow of my best self.    I was so scared to ask for help from anyone afraid of what it would say about me (Would it mean I had failed?!?) but bit by bit the universe worked its little chisel on my pride and finally one night I was on the phone with my dad, choking back tears and asking humbly for a little help to get over the hump.  Not too much longer, I was on my knees sobbing praying for a little help from anywhere.

I am glad to say that I am writing this from a better place on the financial front.  Ask and you shall receive is a truth I can attest to.   We are still living paycheck to paycheck over here and savings are a luxury I can barely afford.  We don’t splurge much on movies or pretty things and when we do I often reeling from it for weeks.  My budget has very little margins for excess or comforts.  But we are making it and I am no longer sick to my stomach each time I need to visit the cash machine.  I am comfortable that as long as I stick to the basics the money is there.

But I wish I could say that about 2 other critical resources:  time and energy.  I am now in a similar desperate place that feels eerily similar to how I felt about my finances not that long ago. 

I feel I don’t have enough time for even the basics–like the laundry and cooking dinner or picking up the mess that has become our house.  I feel I have cut out all the fat I can (no mindless TV, no relaxing baths)  but it is still not enough.  My schedule operates with no margin of error.  I drop Max at childcare at the earliest possible moment and rush in to the office and maybe make it to work on time but often am late to a meeting.  I rush through my work day and need to leave at 5 on the dot.  God forbid there is traffic because I need to be home at 5:30, not a minute later.  We barely unpack our days before it is far too late for dinner.  On too many occassions, I am dragging him out to run errands at the time most children his age are in pjs in bed.  The mad dash and the fact that I go to sleep each night with so many loose ends dangling leaves me feeling edgey and like a top spinning out of control.

My energy too is at an all time low and this is making this time crunch thing all the more troubling.  I move so much slower these days.  I fall into bed too early and wake too late.  Precious hours are lost while I hit the snooze button or sleep through my alarm.  I cannot multi-task anymore.  I need to focus every bit of energy I do have on simply accomplishing one thing at a time.  When I do pretend that I can move faster, things start to fall apart at the seams.  This past week I had no childcare for Max so I thought I could bring him with me into work.  In the effort to get him packed up to spend the day with me I forgot to pack my own purse and ended up with no wallet to pay for our lunch and parking.  On good days I laugh light heartedly about the aburdity of this–my turtle pace, the chaos exploding around me, my inability to keep it all together.  But at night when all is quiet I shiver a bit thinking about it all and pray that tomorrow it may feel a little bit better and I pray–please don’t let it get worse.

Every day is an exercise in pushing the limits of my comfort zone.  How much stress and time pressure and “rock and a hard place” choices can I live with today?  I laugh thinking about how I was three or four years ago–how little I could take.  I simultaneously feel like a champion (what a victory to keep surviving in this climate!) and a loser (why can’t I just keep the kitchen clean or feed my son a real dinner?)

The time/energy crunch-its become a noose that I feel tightening around my throat–sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe.  There are moments when I feel I am drowning from the stress of it all and I realize–I am holding my breath.  Just the other day I thought if my life was a story written on a page I am spilling off the page.  There are no margins on my paper.  There is no room for errors, no room for scribbled comments–no place to put a forgotten word.  I wonder when am I going to lose it living like this?  I smile because clearly its not going to be today so if I can just focus on today I can loosen the noose a little.  Yes…now I am breathing on my own.  Good girl.

And yet I feel so silly even worrying about this all.  Today my friend told me a story about a friend of hers–a woman who’s has struggled with so much more.  Her story makes me understand just how wide my margins really are–or rather what its really like to live with no wiggle room.  Hearing her story I hang my head in shame and embarrassment that I fret so when my life is really so precious and blessed.  For God’s sake…I am writing a blog.  Its not that bad when I have time to write a blog, is it?  But the thought of giving up this newly reclaimed creative time feels like a dealbreaker.  My journaling, my creative friendships they are keeping me afloat, they are keeping me sane.  The laundry will just have to stay dirty and I will just have to forgive myself–but can I?

But I remember today this week when it has felt so loosey goosey that asking for help is magic and so I get down on my knees and ask the universe to deliver it in whatever way she sees fit.  A cure for my energy blues?  That would be nice.  Someone to help me get organized and together? That would also work.  A new way of working smarter not harder?  Brilliant!  A giant huge serving of perspective?  That would do me just fine.  Something I haven’t even thought of?  Yes. Any help–any little bit of help at all.  Its hard to ask for help but its the only way I know to expand the margins even just a tiny bit.

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