Can’t Catch Up

Tonight is the first Friday night in a long time that I haven’t tried to conquer as much housework as I could before I crashed, but technically, I’m still working. I just finished making my grocery list. Now, I’m trying to crank out this post that has been stewing in my brain all week, but I’ve had no time until now to get my ideas onto paper. Tomorrow, I have to finish grading essays while I sit at my daughters’ dance lessons because it’s the end of the marking period, and then we have to pray we can still find decent Halloween costumes because I haven’t had a minute to think about them. Then there is still a (literal) laundry list of household chores to do.

Lately, my life has been stuck in fast forward. I say that I can’t catch up because there are so many things that need to be done, but most days it really feels like I’m trying to outrun an avalanche. 

I took on extra responsibilities at work when it looked like this year might be closer to normal, but now I’m teaching through another pandemic school year, one that’s now also been interrupted by a hurricane, we lost my mother-in-law two months ago, my oldest is struggling in school, my youngest seems to be constantly sick, and I’m wondering what the heck I got myself into when I agreed to those extra responsibilities. 

I am constantly going, constantly moving. I know I need rest, and I hear people tell me to take care of myself, but every time I try to slow down, the to-do list piles up, and I end up even more overwhelmed than I was before. Well-meaning friends tell me to prioritize and not stress over the things that are less important, but all the things have to be done at some point. If ever I catch up in one area of my life, it’s been at the cost of another area that now looms forebodingly. I might have finally caught up on grading and planning for work, but the jungle of weeds in my flower beds has me anxiously anticipating a fine from the HOA. That whole juggling metaphor about knowing which balls are glass which balls are rubber collapses when you realize the rubber balls can bounce back and knock you out.

I’d love to ask for help, but it seems like everyone I know is just as stressed and overwhelmed as I am. Everyone is swamped at work, overwhelmed with the everyday responsibilities of life, and struggling to find respite at home. Experts say it’s “pandemic fatigue” or “burnout,” but I don’t know how anyone is supposed to recuperate if hitting the brakes just means sliding on ice. 

And honestly, so much of it seems unrelated to the pandemic. I know I was a clueless kid, but I don’t remember my parents being this stressed and tense when I was growing up. We had time for family and friends. My parents had time for their own hobbies and interest. They even had time to relax and watch the news after dinner without worry about whether or not everyone was ready for the next day.

The worst part isn’t the chronic fatigue or the persistent overwhelm, it’s the things I never get to because I don’t have the time or the energy at the moment, but those things cost a lot more in the long run. It’s family time, it’s creating memories, it’s teaching my kids the importance of balance and mental health.

 I just need things to slow down for a bit. I need a chance to catch up AND to refresh. I just need a minute to breathe.

Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 12 year and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (7) and Hannah (3). Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy and a proud fangirl. Though she loves to stay busy and involved, she recently left her job as a high school English teacher and sponsor to focus on her family and health. She is now teaching composition part time for a local university, working to revive her love of reading and writing, and focusing on being a more present mom.

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