Hello friends and welcome to The Midlife. There are a few refrains I hear often from women our age. Raise your hand when you hear a familiar tune. They’re sad, they’re angry, they’re lonely, they’re resentful, they’re anxious, they’re exhausted. You can put your hands down now, I can’t see through them all.
I don’t discount these feelings as anything but truth. And I know you can pinpoint lots of reasons for all of it. The feelings are real and they are debilitating. But also they are habitual. You are in the practice of feeling badly. And you have worn a rut that keeps you pacing back and forth from shitty thought to shitty thought.
But I have a theory that you are actually misnaming these emotions. Or rather more accurately, you are describing the emotions that result from an entirely different root problem. You ready? Here’s, the true diagnosis; you’re just really fucking bored.
Does this happen to you ever? Someone asks you what you did today and you don’t have an answer. You know you never sat down. You know you were busy. You know things were crossed off your to do list if you have one, or would have been if you ever organized yourself to make one. But the entire day flew by and you feel like you truly feel like you have nothing to show for it. And don’t you just want to punch the person asking about your day? Poor dear husband, he was just trying to make conversation.
What the hell just happened? And more importantly, why does it continue to happen day after day, week after week, and most painfully, year after year?
No really, I’m asking you to think about it for a second. That’s ok, I’ll wait.
Let me give you your top three answers:
- You have a million people demanding things of you and your time is not your own.
- If you don’t [insert chore here, do the laundry, do the shopping, make the meals, clean the meals up] no one else will.
- By the time you’re done taking care of everyone else, you’re too tired to do anything else.
Yes. I know. And if you wrote down a log of everything you do each day, you’d recognize the true monotony of your day and you’d be bored to tears to read it because in truth, you are bored to tears to be living it.
I believe you are hard working. I believe you are capable. I believe you have untapped energy sources. But I also believe that you blindly fill your time with menial tasks because if you actually did have free and unencumbered time, you wouldn’t know what to do with it. And that is totally fucking terrifying. How could you, in all your greatness, all your intelligence, with all your promise and possibility be facing a bleak desert of nothingness?
So you default to filling your time, day after day, month after month, year after year. And you commiserate with friends, validating the boredom and the chore. You normalize the monotony and choose to accept it. Every morning you see your shadow. But it’s not just 6 more weeks of winter you are choosing, but god willing, 40 plus years of this. Let that sink in.
Some women I talk to think this is just a phase, and it will pass. I guess it depends on your definition of pass. It will end one day, but what happens between now and then is entirely up to you.
The speed at which time is passing is accelerating. We don’t notice it when we’re entrenched in our day to day but let me share with you that I am just coming back from a 10 day vacation and I am stunned by how quickly those days passed. It seemed like 5 minutes elapsed between the time I got off the plane and when it was time to get right back on it. I thought I was going to write like 3 months worth of podcasts while I chilled on the beach but instead, today’s words of wisdom were jammed out on the flight back with a steady stream of last hurrah mai-tais. If it’s sloppy from here on out it’s because #3 was just delivered.
So the problem is two-fold. One, how do we more efficiently combat the boredom, freeing up time for more meaningful pursuits and two, what do we do with that time we create?
Go ahead and start keeping that log of your daily activities, both at home and if you work, those too. The first thing I want you to start noticing is patterns of recurring chores, especially the ones that you don’t enjoy doing. I want you to evaluate each of these for three possibilities.
First, does this REALLY need to be done? Like will the earth stop spinning if the task doesn’t happen at all or if it doesn’t happen as frequently? If your answer is no, then ditch it. Yes, actually stop doing it.
Second, can someone else do it instead? I know by nature, we are not great delegators but that need for control over the task and the way that it’s done doesn’t serve us in the long term. I can give you a real good simple and personal example of this. Most nights, I make dinner and my husband will clean it up. Fantastic partnership. But for so long, for too long, I would come in behind him for a clean sweep, most notably, rearranging the dishwasher so that everything was directionally positioned the way I thought it should be.
I don’t know when it finally dawned on me, but thank goodness it did. The little fairies who spit the soap and water at the plates don’t give a shit which direction they’re facing. They don’t care if knives are up or down or if the same size glass is matched in each row. And certainly, I am not instagramming the inside of my dishwasher so why did I even care in the first place?
The truth is, this is just one example of things having to be my way. The problem is that I bet you have a bunch of those, and they all add up to a huge time suck.
The final thing you can do with these ever expanding have-to-do’s is batch process them. Again, let me give you a very basic and personal cuckoo thing I used to do. Laundry. Every day. Multiple loads. You know why? Because it took up time and it made me feel like I was taking “good care of my family”.
So take a look at those crummy things that you force yourself to do everyday and start packaging them to do on a single day. Don’t “run errands” everyday. Don’t go to a different market to pick up “just a few things”. It is actually ok to let some things pile up and tend to them all at once, provided you have a disciplined drop dead day to do it. What you will find is huge expanses of time opening up.
And so now we have circled back to boredom. Because what would you do if you had time? That land of possibility is at first intimidating. Fight the urge to fill it with the mundane. Do not reach for your phone and start scrolling. Instead, fill that empty time with a buffet table set with delicious options. Maybe a serving of learning something new, maybe time spent with a friend, maybe a hobby or job or entrepreneurial pursuit.
For a while, you may have to sit with the nothingness. In the stillness you may be able to reconnect with a voice you may not have heard in awhile; your true voice. The one that holds all your deep down desires that you have silenced or allowed to be silenced. She’s still in there and she hasn’t forgotten. She remembers what you want, what will entertain you, what will make you feel like you are living a life well lived.
You do know how you want to be spending your time. You just forgot, stopped asking yourself or stopped listening to the buried truth.
You may look real cute in a tophat, but I don’t want you to be living groundhog’s day. It’s time to break the monotony and start living the live you deserve. This is not the winter of your life. It’s time for spring. It’s time for renewal.
If you’re having trouble seeing how you can free up your time or you’re finding it difficult to let that voice inside have her way, shoot me an email. Let’s talk.