Most days ... that's probably not true... some days, sometimes even some weeks I not only have my act together, but I juggle two high-demand jobs, committees, commitments, physical endurance training, parenting and planning for the future like superwoman. I end the day with a tall glass of ice cold, unfiltered pale ale. I bring the glass to the bathroom and sip my beer as I remove my makeup, carefully, with the facial wipes specific for my skin type - the ones I researched online, smelled in the store, comparison shopped for and remembered to bring from the car into the house, and then later remembered to bring upstairs to the bathroom. I swab my face and neck with the 15% glycolic acid wipes, skipping the more sensitive spots. I dry brush the skin of my legs and arms. I pull on baggy shorts and a tank top, and with my hair in a top knot, I lounge in my sweet smelling, freshly laundered bed linen, under my giant down comforter. I pull my computer on to my lap and I return emails. I post in forums. I read, take in, understand and carefully respond to my friends' stories and ideas. I journal! I play soft Enya or Einaudi in the background, to remind me of the peace I feel at the end of a genuinely productive day. I remember to bring my empty glass back down to the kitchen. I set the timer on the coffee maker (for 445am, so it will be brewed by the time I wake up). I brush my teeth and add peroxide to my water pick, and use the entire reservoir full, really doing it right.
And on those nights I think: this wasn't hard. It was actually very easy. The more I do, the more I feel capable of doing. The more accomplished I feel, the kinder I am to myself. I have time for everything - tonight proved it. Today was a good day. A productive, well-lived day. This is the day that regular grown adults have - every day. This is the day my mother had, plus some extra children, plus a husband, minus a couple of full time jobs and sports. This is the day a normal adult is supposed to have - every day.
But after a few days, my energy starts to lower. My linens aren't as fresh, the cats' water is getting old, the plants are peaky, dust bunnies are accumulating on the stairs. I can't maintain the perfection of effort and endurance every day. I start to surf gossip sites, my comments to friends become argumentative and petty. I don't return calls, because talking to someone takes up too much energy. I avoid my work email account, knowing the time it will take to sort through - and a few days of this avoidance creates a ticking time bomb of stress hanging over me. I keep up with my skin routine because I can be vain and shallow about my looks and I'll find the extra time to make that routine happen, but I'll do it while watching Law & Order SVU with my laptop propped on the bathroom counter, my third beer in a glass next to me, avoiding my own tired eyes in the mirror and becoming enraged with the cats for getting increasingly loud in their need for attention. I fall asleep with lights left on, the latest SVU victim working their way into my dreams. I awaken unrefreshed and guilty at the magnitude of my to-do list. A day off could be productive - and I take it - but I lounge all day instead, rationalizing everything.
The thing is, on days like that - and they might actually be half my days, if I can admit that - I know how much better I'll feel if I grimly pen a to-do list and grimly march my way through the top 5 things on it. It will scare me, annoy me, make me resentful at first - and then the magical transition happens, when the momentum feels good. I think: this is how it works. This is how the good times begin. You make a list, you follow through. You are not afraid to read your email, answer your phone, see your boss walking up to your office door. You don't regret your dietary decisions, and you don't watch a low-def youtube videos of a netflix series because you don't want the people who share your account to know how much time you've invested in TV that day. You run at the break of dawn, you feel smug and accomplished about that all day - go on, you deserve it, it was hard - and you tackle things, and you feel powerful and accomplished and more worthy of self-care.
However today is simply not one of those days.