I had a panic attack last week. A full-fledged hyperventilating, heart pounding, must do deep yogic breathing to remedy it, panic attack. What brought this on? A death in the family? Another discipline note sent home from the school? Actual pictures of Demi Moore with a can of Redi-Whip up her nose?? Nope. A friend surprised me by taking my 3rd son (a.k.a. the one who has been insanely obnoxious ever since his sister has been born…2 years ago) for a playdate. Seeing as the eldest two were in school and Jelly Bean was napping, that left me with… no kids! For TWO HOURS.
My mind reeled at this unexpected gift. Do you know how much I can do in two hours without anyone clinging to my leg and peeing down my sock (true story)? This is when the panic set in. Do I write? Blog? Pay bills? Mop the floors? Read a book? What if I make the WRONG choice and WASTE this precious gift?! Oh the hysteria!
So I did what any rational person would do (that’s my new hobby: copying what rational people do in the hopes that someday I will become one) – I posted my quandary on Facebook. Immediately all of my friends replied: Take a nap!
I should have. I’m certainly sleep deprived enough to be able to lay down anywhere anytime and conk out. And yet, I was so worried about not making the most of my time, I cleaned instead. Like many of us, my to-do list is a mile long and I never seem to make much progress on it. So I went up to mop the entry way which thanks to the ridiculous layout of our house doubles as our mud room and therefore needs mopping a hundred times a day. But then I realized I had to sweep first. So I went to get the broom out of the kitchen. Only to get distracted by the breakfast dishes still in the sink. I started loading the dishwasher and then realized I needed to run to the basement to get more dish soap. If I’m going to the basement, I might as well take down a load of laundry! You can see where the two hours went. The worst part is that within an hour of all the kids coming home it was like I hadn’t cleaned at all so I could have saved myself the effort. (Cleaning with children = snow shoveling in a blizzard.)
Thankfully we had sushi for dinner (after all that cleaning I didn’t feel like cooking!) and thanks to the randomness of my mind I remembered The Okinawa Program – a book that I based a Great Fitness Experiment on several years ago. They have a whole chapter on a phenomenon they dubbed “time sickness.” Apparently in Okinawa, most people reject the Type A, overachiever, must-do-everything mentality. As the authors observe, there is a difference “between feeling in control of time of feeling controlled by it.” Oh, Sensei, is this girl ever controlled by time! (Which means that if I ever move to Japan I’ll either have to get a personality transplant or disappear into a poof of magic dust.)
Are You Sick Too?
They offer a handy quiz to discover if you too have Time Sickness. There are 30 statements that if you answer yes to 16 or more you have a “time sickness behavioral pattern.” Let’s just say I hit 16 points by statement number 10 (I gave myself double points for the ones I’m REALLY obnoxious at. Here’s a sample (because let’s be honest, who has time to answer 30 questions??):
1. There is rarely enough time in the day to do all the things that I have to. (My motto. This will someday be written on my tombstone.)
2. It’s irritating for me to sit in traffic. (Just yesterday I was fuming over the fact that instant teleportation a la Star Trek has not come to fruition yet. Journey shmourney – I’m all about the destination!)
3. I sometimes finish other people’s sentences for them. (The Gym Buddies admirably restrain themselves from smacking me as I do this more often than people crack jokes about Mariah Carey bringing her own “globes” to the Golden Globes.)
4. I spend more time and attention on my career than my family. (Mother guilt! My specialty!! And while I answered “no” to this one, it would be a “yes” if the little nippers weren’t so insistent. There will be no ignoring my children.)
5. I often feel I have too many things to do. (Have you met me??)
6. I have trouble concentrating on one thing at a time. (Hello – broom… kitchen… laundry… wait, where’s the baby?!)
7. Passengers in my car ask me to slow down. (You know you have a problem when your 5-year-old screams “Hills are scary, mommy! You go too fast!!”)
8. I would describe myself as goal-oriented. (I suppose that would be the nice way of saying it.)
9. People tell me I talk fast. (Again, have you met me?)
In addition to the above questions, I also ‘fessed up to being irritable, competitive, cynical, a workaholic, perfectionistic, controlling and a micro-manager (just ask my husband about when he loads the dishwasher and later catches me sneaking down in the middle of the night to fix it “the right way”). Frankly the only question out of the 30 I could outrightly say no to was the one that asked if I needed tobacco, alcohol or intoxicants to wind down. I don’t but I’ve often thought that was solely thanks to my religion. Not to mention I don’t really wind down. Like, ever.
Obviously this has got to change. I had an epiphany the other day: even if teleportation were invented, I’d still find a million other things to fill all my newly freed time.
The book does offer a few suggestions to reset your internal clock to Okinawan time:
– Meditate. I love this! I know it helps me. A lot. And yet when I get busy – which is all the time – it’s one of the first things to go.
– Breathing exercises. Again, one I already know and love. This is key to managing my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
– Muscle relaxation exercises. Yoga saved my life!
– Hypnosis. Uhhh… no. I had a therapist once who tried to hypnotize me and finally decreed my un-hypnotizable. I’m too much of a control freak. Ah well.
– Healing touch. I love massages in theory. And yet I’ve had exactly one in my entire life and it was when my friend showed up at my door with her massage table and tried to get me to relax while our combined children ran shrieking in circles around us.
– Biofeedback. Never tried this but I know several of you (Hi Leslie!) have had good experiences with this.
– Regular exercise. Finally, one I can say HECK YES to!
– Eat right for your psychospiritual health.
– Maintain your “healing web” a.k.a. your support community: #1 key to longevity!
Other ideas also mentioned include learning to be optimistic, learning to manage hostility and anger, managing your time wisely, cultivating a healthy sense of humor and practicing conscious awareness.
It sounds like a lot but the more I think about it, the more I think these are just the kinds of changes I am looking for. Perhaps I can’t force myself to stop being neurotic about stupid things but maybe I can squeeze out the crazy by filling my life with positive things like this! Well, this and lots of seaweed. One step at a time, right?
Anyone else not know what to do with their free time? Any other time sickees out there? How do you manage it? And there is totally a “right” way and a “wrong” way to load the dishwasher, right??