Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Quality of Life

I’m sitting here curled up on my couch. I called in sick because I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by an old Chrysler with its muffler dragging. In the back of my mind for the past few weeks I’ve known that something has got to give, and I was just hoping it wouldn’t be me. Well, I guess we’ve found the weakest link. Now it’s something else’s turn.

By all typical standards used to define quality of life, I’ve got it made. I have no chronic or incurable illnesses. My income exceeds my expenditures, and my expenditures are enough to put me in a very comfortable apartment. To surround myself with a sufficient number of beautiful, entertaining, and educational objects. I have plenty of clothing, much of it fairly expensive (which wouldn’t be the case if I could wear jeans to work every day). I have plenty of food. I have clean hot water to shower in and clean cold water to drink. I have a car that isn’t in the habit of breaking down. I can afford to put gas in it, and I drive it down the street to work or across state lines to New Orleans with the same lack of concern or consideration about whether or not the car can make the trip. I’ve traveled to Europe twice now, and have the luxury of enough time off from work to make several trips a year. And to call in sick when I need to. I have enough and more than enough to the extent that I’m currently examining ways in which my more-than-enough can help shift someone else’s not-quite-enough into at least just-enough. I have wonderful friends. I am blessed with more than the average share of brains and talent. For all this, if you asked me right now if I have a good life, I’d have to say that while it sure looks like it, it sure doesn’t feel like it.

I am officially the poster child for Over-committers Anonymous. I play trumpet for three bands, sing in my church choir, and now in a performance chorus. I have one night during the work week that I’m not committed to be somewhere. Leaving out my actual full time job, which might occasionally require overnight travel, my schedule looks a little bit like this:

  • Monday: Jazz Band Rehearsal 7-10pm
  • Tuesday: Choral Rehearsal 6:30-9:30pm
  • Wednesday: Dinner 5:30-6:30pm
  • Wednesday: MOB Rehearsal 7-8pm
  • Wednesday: HCB Rehearsal 8:30-10pm
  • Thursday: NOTHING! WOOHOO (Oh, but I could be at MOB rehearsal 7-8:30pm if I were actually going to be at a game)
  • Friday: Valhalla and Dinner 5pm-whenever
  • Saturday: Probably dinner with folks, and maybe a football game, and maybe a chorus retreat
  • Sunday: Choir Practice and Mass 9-11pm, maybe a chorus rehearsal, maybe an HCB concert

It’s just a little bit insane. It’s not that I feel obligated to see my friends, but I like to see my friends, you know? So I put them on the schedule. Those are the things I do because they’re fun! So, I’m thinking, maybe I should make a matrix, and rank all of my activities based on three factors:

  1. How fun they are
  2. How they help me grow
  3. How obligated I feel to be there

Then I think I need to pick at least one thing to quit. It’s hard, because I do all of these things for good reasons. But there are so many things outside of my control that could lower the quality of my life, why on earth am I doing this to myself? Not only do I not get enough sleep, to the point that I start to get sick, I’m constant feeling like I have somewhere to be and something to do. And that kind of stress, that feeling of being put upon (by myself, ultimately), has started giving me heartburn and frantic dreams and emotional spazing that are keeping what sleep I do get from being restful.

I don’t have enough time for just me. I don’t have any time for anyone but me. Even when I start feeling like meeting new people, going on dates, I really can't at this rate. I won’t ever have time. I mean, I could try to squeeze a date into, like, Thursday. But it’s hard enough for me to meet new people. It takes so much out of me. I’m so painfully shy. If I start shoehorning people into my last ME evening, I know I'll just start resenting the intrusion. And resenting some poor guy for just being there? Yeah, that sounds healthy. That doesn’t sound self-defeating at all.

So I need to cut back. To simplify, let's say there's:

  • Jazz Band
  • Chorus
  • HCB
  • MOB
  • Friend time (including Wednesday dinner and Friday celebration)

All of these are high on the fun list, probably in this order: Friend time, MOB, HCB, Jazz Band, Chorus

The growth as a person list goes: Jazz Band, Chorus, HCB, MOB, Friend time

The obligation list is: HCB (I feel a loyalty to my section), Chorus (I've got a solo, after all), Jazz Band, MOB, Friend time (the last three kind of tie for last)

Hmm, so if we do a straight vote from 1 to 5, Friend time gets 7, MOB gets 8, HCB gets 11, Jazz Band gets 10, and Chorus gets 9. Friend time is NOT going out the window. (I'll need to do this more scientifically, weighting fun more heavily and maybe refining my definition of "obligation" to differentiate feeling involved vs. feeling put upon.) MOB is pretty much already almost not on my radar. That leaves Chorus. But in Chorus I get to sing a solo in Jones Hall, and might get more if I stay with it! I've also been looking for a singing group for ever. This is not going to be easy. :-(

But I have to do something. When it comes to life, it really needs to be Quality. Not Quantity.


Amy Barr said...

What.... what... WHAT... is this "obligation" crap??
Laura!! The ones you "feel most obligated to do" are the ones that are dragging you DOWN! THOSE should be the FIRST out the window!!

Were we not talking the other day about it not being our responsibility to save the rest of the world...?

Quit those guilt-laden obligations, yo.

Summer said...

Oooh! Oooh! Can I be VP of your over-committers anon club?? :D I'm not sure how I'm going to fit it in around my: work schedule, class schedule, trying to spend time with my friends and boyfriend, homework time, planning and grading for the class I'm teaching, planning, meeting, and organizing events for the honors society that I'm president for, and the meetings, etc. that I have for the two committees that I'm on, but, being who I am, I'm sure I can figure something out! :)

Britton said...

Actually, it is our responsibility to save the rest of the world. If not us -- the ones who have the health, time, and resources in general -- then who?

Or at least some small part of it. :)

That said, I fully agree with the sentiment that you're over-committed, and am extremely sympathetic to your anguish over having to pick something to drop. Once you do, though, you'll feel a lot better. Just don't let yourself feel guilty about it once it happens!

gumchain said...

I agree with Amy. Extra curricular activities are supposed to be stress-relieving activities that you _want_ to do. If you don't want to do them, stop doing them. Forget about the guilt (I know it's hard. I struggle with it every day) everyone can and will get along fine without you. It might not be easy, but as you said, you are in groups filled with smart, good people, and they will step up and make it work. Don't get sick over extra-curriculars. =)