Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte

I’m going to chalk this up to a classic case of me not really listening to the radio because I am doing four things at once.  This book was not what I expected at all.  I think that I thought that I was getting something like The Happiness Project with something like suggestions and ideas on how to make my time work.  I don’t even have kids and I am busy, y’all.  I can’t even work overtime and I’m busy.  I can’t even take work home with me and I’m busy.

A typical day for me starts at 6:20.  I jump out of bed, work out, shower, dress, journal, eat, check my e-mail, listen to podcasts while I do my hair and makeup (a routine I have down to 5 minutes, 10 when I put my contacts in).  I do house work until I have to leave for work.  If I can pop home on my lunch break I do housework then, too.  I work three days a week from 9:30 to 7.  I get home at 7:30, cook, do more housework, try to tie up loose ends. Usually by 9 I get a chance to sit down and then I look around at all of the things I didn’t get to and feel horrible.  I’m irritable.  I snap at my husband.  I nag him about the broken dishwasher.  I feel resentful when he comes home and opens a beer because I want to do the same but feel like I can’t.  By Friday, my early day, I just want to die.  After work I rush back into town and buy groceries, rush home and hope to get in a nap before Hubby gets home.  I’m trying to read 100 books this year.  I’m working on my novel.  I am making sure that the kitty litter is cleaned every morning and that coffee is ready when Hubby gets up in the morning.

It was an interesting week for me to read this book.  Everyone is talking about Lean In and whether they should be doing that or leaning out or living life on a rocking chair.  I took a lot from this book, really, but a lot of what I took was disillusionment.  We’re failing as a country, you guys.  I remember taking a course in college called Women and Work and we read about family leave policies in other counties and how well they worked economically.  Not once were the emotional benefits mentioned.  Not once were the men mentioned.  But here we are, looking at it from all these different view points, seeing what is good for everyone as opposed to just women and then, my friends, is what feminism is about.

Now that I’ve rambled on a bit, this book is about the growing phenomenon of the overwhelm.  We’re all overwhelmed.  We are all trying to be the ideal worker and the ideal mother.  Men, poor men, don’t even have that much of a choice.  Even where there are policies in place for fathers, other men look down on them for taking them.  So many of these issues are so deeply rooted that it is hard to break out of it.  Schulte decides to study time, how we spend it and where it goes and why we are all so overwhelmed, why we don’t have time to play.  She looked at science and policies and studies on a range of topics and pulled together the research into the information dense volume.

There is a lot here but it is more of a sociology book than I was expecting.  Sometimes there was too much information coming at me for me to properly process it or even care.  Again, this was not the fault of the book but it was not what I had been expecting.

Tally Monday- April 28, 2014

Checked Out 

  1. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
  2. Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

Bought 

  1. I am America (And You Can Too) by Stephen Colbert
  2. America (The Book) by Jon Stewart
  3. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  4. Stephen King Goes to the Movies

Read 

  1. Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets by Dav Pilkey

TBR 

32

 

I was discussing this little Monday project with the hubby this weekend and he scoffed at the name.  “Tally Monday?  What is that about?”  I told him that I tried to come up with something clever but was unable to on the fly to which he replied, “You should have called it Manic Monday.” SOB.  He’s totally right.  Oh well, too late now.

You’ll notice two things about this week.  First, I only read a Captain Underpants book.  Now, part of this is that I stressed myself the eff out last week and was completely unable to function on a mental level.  The other part of this is that I am in the middle of Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed and it’s kind of an involved and slow read.  Mostly I feel like I am just watching myself slip further and further behind.  Hopefully I’ll speed back up when I’m done with this and maybe even possibly catch up.  But don’t hold your breath.

The second thing you may notice is that I bought a lot of books this week.  We went to second hand media store.  You should see the record list.  Also, I had that brilliant idea aobut challenging myself not to order in any more library books for four whole weeks.  This is week two.  I’m itchy.  Some are still trickling in but for the first time I am really seeing how bad my habits have gotten.

I am trying really hard to get through the Schulte tonight.  It’s like my goal except that I have to fold laundry and shit when I get home.  Sigh.  No rest for the wicked.  Still, keep your eyes peeled, my sweets!  This book is giving me lots to say and hopefully I can remember it all!

HP Update: April- Make Music Matter

While it seemed important to me to make music matter at some point this year, by the time April rolled around I was feeling pretty unmusical.  I was listening to audio books and podcasts and when i was resting I just wanted things to be quiet.  (Last night I came home frazzled and Hubby started playing his guitar and I could have screamed even though that is usually something that I really enjoy.)

I live in a pretty musical household and come from a decently musical family.  My brother played trumpet and introduced me to hair bands and 90’s country.  My father’s favorite musicians are Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, and Alice Cooper.  He also tinkers around with the guitar.  My mothers favorite musicians are Janis Joplin and ACDC.  I played percussion in band until high school.  Hubby played sax.  Between the two of us we have: a harp, a ukulele, a banjo, four or five guitars, and two drum sets.  We collect vinyl and both have pretty massive CD collections.

But I had been feeling too stretched to enjoy music.  I was listening to the same things over and over and starting to feel burned out.  The banjo we purchased on our honeymoon had barely been touched even though I really, really wanted to learn.  So, my goals this month were simple.  I was going to listen to more music, try some different music, and play the banjo every day.

I started by listening to music while I showered.  My showers have been pretty quiet lately because the light in our bathroom is hooked up with the fan and the fan is just always on and way too loud to hear my podcasts over.  I pulled up Pandora and turned up the volume and sang along and it was wonderful.  I’ve listened on my computer while I was writing and recently I gave up on an audio book and have been listening in the car while I wait for my next one.  I’ve enjoyed it.  It makes me feel better to sing along and dance around while I do the dishes.

One morning I decided that I wanted to listen to some oldies.  I pulled up Pandora and discovered a 60’s French Pop station!  I cannot understand the words but I have been absolutely in love with it.  It makes me feel… sophisticated.

And I have played my banjo for at least 5 minutes every day.  It may not seem like a lot but I am forming calluses and learning how to use finger picks and do right hand rolls and I look forward to it.

Has music made me happier this month?  Yes.  Definitely.  I had forgotten how much I love it.

On Stress

I would like to confess my crazies to you.

You know how I am always talking about how busy and behind I am?  You know how I am constantly stressed about what I should have done and didn’t or maybe just didn’t do well enough?  What if I told you that I do every single one of those things to myself.  If you saw what my planner looked like, you may even laugh at me.

Every day I have certain things that I expect from myself.  Every day my planner lists: read, write, puzzle, mag, clean, clean, blog or money, bio, and banjo.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday also have “tone” and Thursday has “Grocery List” and every other Friday has “bills.”  These are not the most important tasks in the world, I will admit, and my mother thinks I’m crazy and I try to keep it hidden from Hubby.  But I am doing exactly what all of those books have told me to do.  I am scheduling myself into my day.  I am making time for leisure.  I am doing a little bit every day and making progress.

See, the only thing that takes any real time in my list of to dos is reading.  I aim for 50 pages a day and when I finish a book I add in a short story.  Other than that, I am asking very little of myself.  500 words on my novel.  My puzzle a day calendar, 50 pages of a magazine (which I usually don’t even read), two small cleaning projects (Today?  Two shelves in the fridge.  About 15 minutes total.), cleaning up my wallet or writing an entry, reading from my Intellectual Devotional (Biographies), and 5 minutes of banjo.  Maybe it is a lot when you really add it up but they are things that I feel I should be able to do in a day.

The problem I had this week was that there was a holiday weekend.  I fell behind and then I didn’t clean the house and do laundry on Sunday when I usually do.  Monday I made the decision to approach this week Like a Boss, keep myself sweet to everyone and get through my list.  The only problem is that by the end of the day I am worn out and the shitty moods of others wears me down until I am a heap of useless human.

This morning I awoke in a panic.  I felt desperate.  I felt trapped like a fox with her foot in a trap.  I wanted to claw my way out of my life, out of the world, back into ME.  I wondered who i was for a while, where the girl who had time for this and that and the next thing went.  How did I get into this state?

It hasn’t gotten better today.  I thought maybe I could put in one last push and make it through my backlog of stuff that I think I need to do.  The only problem is that every interruption has become a nuisance.

Is this the plight of the modern woman?  Busting ass at work for at least 40 hours a week.  Trying to keep the house semi-clean, chasing a trail of trash and discarded socks.  Spending lunch breaks at the grocery store or cleaning the fridge.  Planing and making dinners.  Taking a phone call from your mother at work while your husband texts you about dinner and you’re half way through a task.  And I don’t even have children!

I don’t even know where I’m going at this point.  There is nothing to be done.  I can just not have time to do the things that I find important or I can schedule them in. That’s That.

Tally Monday- April 21, 2014

Checked Out 

  1. Don’t You Forget About Me by Cecily von Zeigsar
  2. We are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson
  3. Michigan Haunts and Hauntings by Marion Kuclo

Bought 

  1. Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett

Read

  1. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

TBR 

32

 

I have a confession.  I may have been estimating my TBR stack the past couple of weeks.  I kept forgetting to actually count and I didn’t want to forget to do the post so I closed my eyes and visualized the stack and called it good.  Apparently, that is not good.  In fact, this was kind of disappointing week as far as books and reading goes.  See, I was distracted and Flowers in the Attic was a slow starting book.  I’ve been trying not to screw off as much, which is usually when I get my reading done, and I ended the week feeling like I hadn’t accomplished anything, even less than I usually accomplish, and I didn’t even get to read.  Plus, I may have gotten sucked in to Dexter and House this week.  I really don’t need more shows to watch.  I would like to finish some of the shows that I started.  And it’s the same way with books.

What is it in me that constantly takes on more reading?  Why is it that I cannot have the single minded focus to just get through stuff.  Like, I am already trying to finish the Gossip Girl series, why would I add Captain Underpants?  I am already trying to read all of the Stephen King, why would I add V.C. Andrews?  And then I go and decide to challenge myself with a summer assignment??  I must really like to torture myself.

But the truth is that part of me firmly believes that I can do it all if I just push myself a little bit harder.  Just a little harder and I will manage not only 100 books but 110 books this year.  And there are so many glorious books to read!

One disturbing thing about Flowers in the Attic:  Am I really going to read a series of books about a brother and sister being… romantically involved?  Isn’t that, like, beyond icky?  But, I have to know.  I have to know!  #readerproblems

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

I was listening to an old episode of a book podcast they other day and they were talking about V.C. Andrews’s life story and how big of an influence Flowers in the Attic is on young girls.  It’s true.  I remember girls talking about reading it in junior high.  A lot of the girls had found the book in their older sister’s room or spotted it on a mother’s bookshelf.  Me, I was attracted to it because it was one of those awesome books in K-Mart that had a little hole in the cover that showed a girls face.  When it was opened there was  a whole picture!  So, I handled V.C. Andrews books and eventually read this one.  I reread it in my early 20’s with the intention of finishing the series.  Now, in my typical neurotic fashion, I have decided to read ALL of the Andrews.  Of course, I have to start all over.

This is the story of a perfect family falling apart and the ugly rearing of secrets.  The Dollangangers were a beautiful family.  The mother, Corrine, was breathtakingly beautiful, devoted to her husband, and cheerfully charming.  The father, Chris, was handsome and bright, making his way in the world.  They had four children.  Christopher, the oldest, wanted to be a doctor and was very smart.  Cathy wanted to be a ballerina.  Carrie and Cory, the twins, were a little unit of beauty.  After Christopher dies in a car accident, Corrine tells her children that she has been hiding her rich family from them and that she can win back her father’s affection if they go to live with him.  He is sick and will die any day.

But winning back the man’s affection means hiding the children in one room and the attic under the watchful eyes of their righteous and cruel grandmother.  After their arrival, they learn that their mother has been disinherited because she married her half-uncle.  She promises her children over and over that it was not a sin and that they will not be punished for it.  All they have to do is wait for the grandfather to accept them.  When it becomes apparent that this will never happen, they have to wait for him to die.  Slowly, the weeks stretch into years and the captive children waste away in the dusty attic with everything money can buy but no idea when they will have their freedom as their mother becomes increasingly distant.

From the rereading point of view, there were a number of times when I looked up and thought, “I know where we are heading but how do we get there?”  It’s in measured steps, one at a time, so that when the inevitable happens you are not surprised.  I knew that Chris and Cathy were going to sleep together but I could not see how it was going to happen.  Then it was a kiss here, a reliance there, a surprise tenderness.  I understand how my little feminist heart is supposed to feel about it, too.  Chris rapes Cathy but he is her brother and she loves him so much that she just forgives him, makes excuses for him, and blames herself.  This isn’t the sort of thing I want my (fictional) junior high aged daughter reading about but on the other hand by the time it happens you’re just like, “Well, this is a messed up book and I don’t know.  I’ve never been locked in an attic.”

I’m not going to say that this was a fantastic read but, you know what, I enjoyed it.  Sometimes, messed up stuff really is the best escape.

Girl Books, Boy Books, and My Reading Life in the Near Future

Sometimes I feel like I really got the short end of the stick with my education, particularly when it comes to reading.  I feel like required reading was really dumbed down by the time I got to high school.  We read the standards (Beowulf, The Crucible, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, A Separate Peace, a touch of transcendentalism, and a short story and a poem from Poe) and I enjoyed what I read and took a lot from it but it when I talk to other people they read a lot of way better stuff.  My senior year I read my first Hemingway for school and I chose it off a list.  (Actually, I read The Sun Also Rises and it wasn’t on the list.  I got special permission.)  My high school teachers were great English teachers, though.  I remember so much of what I learned in those classes.  I guess I wish that I could have, like, doubled up on English classes more than once.  (Seriously.)

But in the formative years of my reading, I feel like I mostly faced discouragement.  I was a smart kid and my mother recently told me that I used to drive her batty by carrying around a notebook and writing all of the time.  This is who I am and who I have always been but I had a hard time with reading.  The problem was, and I understand that it is a pretty common one, I wanted to read and read everything right away and I wanted it so badly that I was easily frustrated.  I was in the special reading group for two years.  Reading didn’t really hit me until 6th grade.  I remember being in 5th grade and struggling with the reading, with taking any meaning out of the sentences even though I read them easily.  In 6th grade I started reading Shakespeare on my own and I understood it.  I just did it because I wanted to and at the library nobody told me that I couldn’t handle it and my mother sure as hell didn’t discourage it.

At school, though, I faced a few challenging teachers.  In 7th grade I had a horrible witch who repeatedly told me that I couldn’t read the books I checked out of the school library.  They were “too advanced” and “too difficult” and for a whole year the joy was sucked out of reading for me.

But the one that I really want to talk about is my 6th grade teacher.  Mrs. B just should not have been a teacher.  She was horrible and mean.  She used to pick her nose and wipe it on kids.  She reduced me to tears a number of times.  I remember my reading in her class.  I remember Old Yeller and The Cay.  What I remember most was the day she brought two big boxes to class and told us that one had a boy book and one had a girl book but we could choose whatever we wanted.  What kind of hellish thing is that to do to a child?  The choices were Old Yeller and Where the Lilies Bloom.  Of course, all of my friends wanted to girl book.  We had two weeks to read our book during quiet reading time and I spent the first week struggling to get through Where the Lilies Bloom before I finally went to the teacher and asked to switch.  I couldn’t stand it and then I felt like a loser because I couldn’t read the books that the other girls liked.

In 8th grade I discovered Carrie by Stephen King and my life was never the same.  It’s the first book I remember devouring, wedged between my bed and the wall with my feet on my stereo speakers.  My English teachers from there on out were encouraging.  They were in love with the fact that I wanted to read.  They were in love with the fact that I wanted to write, that I was constantly trying to improve.  They made me read out of my comfort zone.  And in the past decade I have been working to read some of the books that I missed because they were “too advanced.”  But I still feel a little bitter.  I missed a lot.

What does the near future hold for my reading?  I have just made the decision this morning!  Next month I will be working to decrease the size of my TBR stack.  Now, I have a complicated rotation system and it’s going to have to be put on hold for a month.  One month, no book ordering.  Instead, I will be adding books that I should be ordering to my library’s list feature which will save them until June when I can order away and go back to the chaos.  This summer I have decided to do a Summer of Twain.  I have only read one short story by Twain.  That’s it!  I want to read more.  I have some time to work out the mechanics.