Friday, December 16, 2011

Indulge? Maybe in 2012

I don't have much time for indulgences anymore. I'm not sure when that happened. After the first baby, certainly. But even then I found time to curl up on the couch for a few hours and read a book or watch a movie or both. But then the contracts started coming in (no complaints here!) and hours spent reading for pleasure suddenly became hours spent reading for anthologies or promoting forthcoming books or writing stories and introductions and blog posts.

Somewhere between the first and second baby and fourth and fifth anthology contracts, I ran out of time for most indulgences. I know this to be true because this morning I attempted to schedule a massage. I honestly believe a massage should be considered medicinal and therefore necessary (like the cardiology appointment I have yet to schedule), but I still lump it in the indulgence category. However, the only reason I was attempting to schedule a massage was because I have a gift certificate. The gift certificate expires at the end of December. I have had this gift certificate for almost an entire year and have not made the time to indulge myself. Making the appointment felt like something I needed to do, not something I wanted to do. But I got off the phone without having scheduled the massage because they didn't have an appointment available at a time that was convenient for me. The woman was very understanding and said they would still honor the gift certificate in January if I can't get in before the end of the month.

How sad is that? Twelve months and I haven't had time to get a massage. Disclaimer: I did get one massage over the summer, courtesy of a friend who took me out and pampered me. That was certainly an indulgent day, but they have been few and far between the past two years and usually involved me leaving town or someone else pushing, prodding or abducting me. My definition of indulgences has become limited to getting pedicures during the months I wear sandals, going to the movies (though I can't remember the last movie I saw, it's been a couple of months) and getting a second coffee on days when I am really, really dragging.

What's sadder is that I don't think January will be any better for scheduling a massage. Surely there is something wrong with me when my thought process goes, "I don't want to waste this gift certificate, so I should just go ahead and schedule the massage and get it over with." When did that happen? When did planning a fun vacation turn into an adventure in scheduling readings or networking opportunities so the trip isn't a frivolous waste of time? (I actually said that the other day.) When did the holiday rituals of shopping and wrapping and card writing become chores instead of indulgences, taking precious time away from the hundred other things I need to do? The list is endless and includes things like sorting the baby's clothes and cleaning out closets and donating items to charity and scheduling doctor's appointments and sending thank you cards for Patrick's birthday and food shopping and doing a spreadsheet for my anthology royalty statements and overhauling my blog and updating my recent sales and getting new author photos taken and cleaning out the pantry... it goes on and on, my to do list.

I do indulge myself at times. I'm not a martyr, I swear. I have my wildly indulgent moments. (Stop laughing.) When a friend comes to town and I declare a temporary moratorium on all but the absolute necessities of writing/editing and housework (which is still a substantial list) so we can spend a few hours talking and drinking coffee. When I'm sick and I know the illness will linger for weeks if I don't get some much needed rest and I take to my bed for as long as I can. When I'm feeding my baby or playing cars with my toddler and time stops because the voice in my head says I need to hold onto these moments because they are fleeting and precious. But always, always, in these moments of indulgence (which I know are really just moments of a well-rounded life), there is a feeling of guilt that I should be doing more, multi-tasking better or squeezing in an extra chore. And so I find myself staying up until 2 AM on Thanksgiving to finish some stories I promised to an editor or emailing my publisher while the baby nestles sleepily in the crook of my arm or wiping off the layer of dust on the dresser when I am getting ready for bed or paying bills while I'm fast forwarding through the slow parts of a month's old episode of "Grey's Anatomy." There is always something to do and not enough time to do it and something must give. And it is the indulgences.

I'm working on it. I recognize that I'm my own worst enemy. I know there is no shame in taking an hour or afternoon or even day for myself. I realize it's important to have fun, to have adventures, to laugh, to relax, to recharge, to do nothing for a little while.

I haven't read Eat, Pray, Love or seen the movie, but this clip hits a little too close to home for me right now. I need to learn (or relearn?) "dolce far niente." The sweetness of doing nothing.

It seems frivolous (there's that word again) to be thinking about indulgences in this economy. To be thinking about indulgences when I have two babies and deadlines and a house that hasn't had a good cleaning since before baby #2 was born. To be thinking of indulgences when I know people who are doing a hell of a lot more than me. I promise myself rewards for doing X, Y or Z and often never find time to actually collect my reward. From myself. Oh good grief, what is wrong with me?

I was told recently that part of my "brand" is that I am a superwoman who does it all. First of all, I didn't think I had a brand at all. Second of all, I don't know if that's the brand I want. It doesn't feel accurate, if nothing else. I'm not doing it all. I wish I was. It is an illusion that I am superwoman. What I really am is a crazy person running from one thing to the next, never satisfied with my efforts and always trying to do more than I really have time for in any give day. Is there a brand for that?

I'm going to start indulging myself more. Really. I am. I am going to make it a priority to do silly, frivolous things for absolutely no reason other than they make me deliriously happy. I will do things I enjoy with no hidden agenda and without multi-tasking. I will be happier in my indulgence. That is reason enough to indulge, right?

And I will start with a massage.


  1. GIve yourself permission to have some down time.

  2. I do hope you get a massage soon, everyone needs that. I find though i do heave a sigh at the demands you juggle for your fans, contracts, people asking for your stories and giving readings. These are burdens I can still only hope to aspire to.

    You;re very lucky in many ways.


  3. Kathleen ~ I'm trying.

    And Garce, you are a better writer than I ever hope to be. And that's not kindness or modesty. (And yes, I am very lucky. And I'm grateful for it.)

  4. Kristina,

    If you "try" to indulge yourself - if you do it because you think you "should" - then honestly, it's not indulgence. As you've said yourself, when you do take those few minutes, you can't shut down your mind accusing you of slacking... that's not indulgence.

    I worry about you. Seriously. If you don't start winnowing your responsibilities, you really are going to get ill. And then you won't accomplish anything.

    Think about what's most important. Your health. Your kids. Your husband. Yes, your friends. Housework? Near the bottom of the list, in my opinion! Your writing and editing commitments? Yes, they should get some priority, but you also need to consider when you accept them how they'll fit in with what you've already agreed to. Nobody, not even you, has infinite capacity!

    Please - we care about you, and we really don't want to see you crash and burn!

  5. Thanks for your concern, Lisbaet. I really do appreciate it. I took all of this to heart yesterday. I spent the entire day in my pajamas, decorating the Christmas tree and baking cookies and playing with babies. I even took a two hour nap! Maybe there is hope for me. :-)


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