Yesterday I read an article about putting aside three hours for yourself every day and I was all like yeah right. And it was all like, we thought you’d say that. But then I was all like, ok, I’ll play along. And so I played along and did the math and laid out my schedule and even after only having 7.5 hours of sleep instead of the 8 suggested and having to up my commute time by an hour and a half because apparently the author walks and has a half hour commute to work or something, I only had 4.5 extra hours instead of the 6 he said you should have.
So I sat down and tried to divide up those 4.5 hours with the three things I should do each day for an hour to take care of myself. Them being (1) exercise or as he calls it ‘moving’- ok. I got that down. I had already scheduled that for an hour every day and some days an hour and a half, which is why I only get 7.5 hours of sleep because unless I got to bed at 8:30 pm, 8 hours isn’t happening. And I really don’t even get that 7.5 hours because even if I get into bed by 9 pm like I did last night, I’m not really asleep at 9 pm. I may be lying there, but then my husband comes in and we watch a little tv usually some movie that we’ll watch for half an hour or so, and then maybe I go to bed. I do usually fall asleep pretty quickly, so at least I have that going for me. The second thing (2) is learning. Now he says learning can be any number of things - reading, watching a documentary, listening to an educational podcast, taking a class. So yeah, I do that. I read on my commute, which obviously is a bonus since I get two things done at the same time and don't have to waste another hour on myself since i’m already wasting it commuting to work. The final thing (3) is create. So here’s where we get into sticky territory. Even if I did have this magical 6 left over hours - which as we know, I don’t - several of those hours are already spoken for. Yes, running takes up a big portion of my extra time, that’s why I get up at the ass crack of dawn to do it. Now, could I run less, sure. But still he’s suggesting an hour of ‘movement’ a day - and i’ve allotted myself two. So priorities. I prioritize exercise over a lot of other stuff because (a) it keeps me sane (in addition to the antI depressants - but you know, it helps, a lot) and (b) it means I can pretty much eat whatever I want, or rather, now that I’m 45, not have to worry too much about what I eat in a caloric way - so even though I eat pretty healthy, at least for the average American, which I realize is not a high bar, I still can have Ben & Jerry’s and carrot cake when I’m at knitting. So fine, now I have 2.5 hours left to stuff with. But, as I alluded to above, I read on my commute, so that’s one extra hour I gain. Problem is, my commute is closer to two hours total, but some of that is spent walking - which makes the reading hard - so there goes that extra hour. So now I have 2.5 hours left to do something creative, but also, have dinner, help my son with his homework, get my son in the bath and brush his teeth and into his pj’s and read him a book and then in to bed. Also I’d like to spend more than a few minutes with my husband. And then of course there is cleaning. So yeah, that seems like a lot to pack into 2.5 hours. No wonder I’m so tired every day. And why when I try to tell myself I will write everyday (clearly that’s my creative thing), I get so frustrated because where the hell am I supposed to find that time. And then I admonish myself because I guess if I can find the time to run for an hour or more a day couldn’t I use that time to write instead? But then, wouldn’t I get all fat and depressed, plus have like almost no social life, if I gave up running, so that doesn’t work. But you know, maybe that’s why Hemingway was fat and drunk right? He never exercised, he just hammered out great american novels and lived with cats that have six toes and drank and alienated everyone he ever knew. So forgive me if that doesn’t seem like the thing to do.
I’ve been looking to the answer for this problem for a while now. I think a lot of us have. And as much as I appreciate the advice of these well meaning people on how to get your life together, or get more out of your life and be happier with your life, sometimes it’s just not realistic. And so in the end, rather than doing what you set out to do, help your readers take care of themselves, you’ve ended up setting up unrealistic standards they’re trying to achieve and probably getting stressed out about it. And that’s the opposite of taking care of yourself.