One day last week, I took the 11:50am train to Chicago for an 11:45am lunch. No, that's not a typographical error, nor are there any time-zone adjustments or wormholes in space involved. This clear case of mental meltdown is a symptom of an affliction I call five kinds of crazy. The irrefutable proof that life has spun out of control, or at least become blurred around the edges, is when you are:
1. Overcommitted and over-scheduled. While related, they are not entirely the same. The first is a state of mind that says "I can do it all." The second is the wildly insane attempt to bring the first into fruition.
2. Under-slept. Maybe you need eight hours, maybe you need six. My number is seven. When that turns into four, the circuits get a little frazzled.
3. Over-tasked. When the busy need to get going, they multitask. When the über-busy go crazy, they over-task. Think of an octopus jugging flaming soccer balls on a skateboard, backwards. Something is bound to slip and it's going to get messy.
4. Under-happy. Not unhappy, just not happy enough -- think periodically cranky, with intermittent periods of ennui.
5. Over-worried. The economy, world peace, that funny clicking noise in your car dashboard ... pick a topic and it's a reason to worry (especially if you are also showing signs of 1-4).
If you have at least three of these symptoms, you're probably feeling a little tense right now. If you scored a four or five, you are, well, me. I find it oddly comforting to know I'm not alone with my five kinds of crazy, but honestly, I don't want this to define my permanent state of being.
It does occur to me that five kinds of crazy may be endemic at mid-life. Perhaps being in the second half, we're trying to make up for all the goofing off we did in the previous four decades. Or, another euphemism for maturity may be having even more reasons to worry. Whatever the rationale, here are some antidotes to five kinds of crazy.
It's hard to say no right out of the gate, with all the guilt that comes with it. Saying yes all the time isn't the answer, either. Maybe lets you prioritize when your head is clearer -- or at least when your sister-in-law isn't staring at you with a signup sheet for the youth group car wash/garage sale/pig roast/steeplechase competition.
The crazier life gets, the more you need to be deliberate. Since I was on a real train last week and not Harry Potter's magical Hogwarts Express, I needed to write down on my calendar "time I have to leave" as well as "time I have to get there."
Even we "plate-spinners" who are good at keeping everything moving in the air without dropping a single dish are governed by chronology and the laws of physics. Time, at least on this plane of reality, is pretty much standard for everybody. No matter how late you stay up, there are still 24 hours in the day.
Unless you are a 12th century mystic, you cannot bi-locate. One place at a time, friends; that's how it works.
Apparent oxymoron aside, I need to prescribe having fun because, otherwise, it doesn't happen. That insatiable beast known as work will just keep chomping on my leg. If I write down (in ink) on my calendar to visit a friend, stop by a gallery, or go to the farmer's market, it will happen. If left to its own organic, spontaneous unfolding, it won't--and that 52-page client white paper will just keep grinding its teeth on my shinbone.
Follow Patricia Crisafulli on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TrishCrisafulli