I spoke at a local high school today for their Writer's Week program. All week, students and actual honest-to-goodness real writers share their work and their insight with an audience of students and teachers. And then there was me. I stood up there, palms sweating so much I think they made a puddle, and I talked. I don't even remember all that I said. I guess it went ok. I mean, no one boo'd me or threw rotten produce at me, so that's good, right? My sister videotaped me speaking so that I could see what not to do the next time I speak anywhere, but I didn't have the software to transfer the video to my computer. I'll try to get a video on YouTube soon.
Last night I had a dream. It was actually more of a nightmare. I used to have this dream frequently back when I was a waitress, but I haven't experienced this dream since 1992. Except for a few variations, this is how the dream generally goes...
I'm working in a crowded restaurant and the hostess has seated me like 8 tables at once. Everyone is demanding something from me.
"Miss, can you take our order now?"
"Oh miss! What is your soup du jour?"
"Where are our drinks?"
"Can I get the bill?"
"Where is our food?"
"This isn't what I ordered."
I was running around in circles, trying to get everything for everyone, but I just couldn't keep up. I went to the bar to wait for my table's drinks, but the bartender forgot how to make a martini and had to look it up in his bartending manual. He couldn't look it up though because he didn't know how to spell "martini" and no one had a clue. I kept trying to tell him that it started with a letter "M", but he didn't believe me and meanwhile, my customers were getting angry. (At least I could spell in my dream.)
Instead of waiting for the bartender, I started adding up customer's bills, but I couldn't do the math. The calculator was broken and I couldn't figure out how to add the bills. I kept looking at the tickets, but they were written in another language and I just didn't understand the characters that were supposed to be numbers. The sommelier, who was Gary Cooper wearing a cowboy hat in my dream, came by and told me that I was stupid and not only did I have no clue about wine, but I couldn't do simple addition. I almost cried.
The next thing I knew, I was trying to ladle out bowls of soup, but instead of soup, the containers were filled with water. A gentleman, who had been seated at one of my tables, walked into the kitchen to get his own soup.
I decided that I had to run to the grocery store to buy soup for the restaurant, but while I was there, I realized that I was missing my bowtie. Suddenly I wasn't in the grocery store anymore, but I was at the mall trying to find a bowtie so I could go back to work and take care of my tables. I was running from store to store in the mall, freaking out that I had tables who were impatiently waiting for me and I couldn't go back until I found a stupid bowtie. (Yes, I know it makes perfect sense to leave your job in the middle of a shift to go shopping for formalwear.)
I awoke feeling frustrated, feeling like I needed to do something, feeling like everyone wanted something and I wasn't able to get a grip. I was dropping the ball and messing up everything. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about. It's sometimes difficult to juggle everything. It's so hard to keep up with housework, to pay bills on time, do laundry, make doctor appointments, and make sure your kids have clothes they haven't outgrown. Then there's getting the kids' pictures taken, arranging birthday parties, planning out Sunday school lessons, going to the grocery store, making school lunches, and cooking dinner. And let's not forget making sure you spend enough time with the kids together and individually, helping them with their homework, reading to them, making sure they do their homework, and practice their instruments, ensuring they eat a balanced diet. And if you work outside the home, there are the meetings, the paperwork, the business trips, and the phone calls to deal with as well. It's a wonder we don't all wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night after having the waitress dream!
After thinking about this for a while, I came up with these suggestions to help beat the stress of feeling like you just can't do everything and make everyone happy.
1. Delegate - This is where you tell the kids, "You WILL clean up your rooms, vacuum the family room, and set the table, or I will lose it and run away from home, leaving you to eat nothing but Fruit Loops and Kool-Aid fish for the rest of your lives.
2. Say no to non-essential things - "Hey Mom, can you go to the grocery store? There's nothing to eat in the house."
"Sure there is! Look in the couch cushions. Those Cheerios can hold you over for at least another week."
Or "Hey honey, are you going to do laundry sometime soon? I don't have any clean clothes."
"Eh, I've got your old boy scout uniform packed away in the attic. Just pull that out and wear it."
3. Make a list - I find this especially helpful. Make a list of everything you want to get done during the day, then cross off tasks as you complete them. If you do something that isn't on the list, write it down and then cross it off. Trust me, it'll make you feel like you're really accomplishing stuff. Make sure to add all ordinary things like brushing your teeth, going to the bathroom, and drinking a cup of coffee to the list.
4. Baby steps - Break tasks up into smaller chunks that are easier to handle. Like cleaning one room instead of worrying about cleaning the whole house at once. Or like eating just one piece of pizza at a time instead of trying to devour the entire thing at once.
4. Take a deep breath and relax. Remember what's important and things will fall into place. If they don't, just take some time out and escape the stress for a little while by going shopping for bowties at your local mall.