This month was a whole lot quieter than last month, but it still seemed to whirl by without me really breathing it in. Selah has been sick for the past week, and I have been home with her nearly all day, every day—staying home over the weekend when she was too feverish to get out of the house, working from home when she couldn’t go to daycare. (Dan has borne much of the responsibility too, just to be clear.) But after 6 straight days of being housebound with a sick kid, I realized that this week has actually felt like one unending day, each moment blurring into the last and the next.
The second half of our summer has felt like that in many ways too, as I recovered from surgery and then used all my energy just to do the basics of work and home. We did a lot of staying home, ordering takeout, and watching TV after Selah went to bed. But now, because it was all the same, I can’t remember much detail from September.
It got me thinking about what Laura Vanderkam said about time and memory on a recent episode of The Nuanced Life. She explains that the reason we remember the first day of a vacation in startling detail is because it’s a new experience. Our brains don’t know which information will be needed later, so every little detail gets stored in the memory. But when it comes to our daily tasks—like getting ready, driving to work, walking down the hallway to our offices—we have almost no memory of doing them on any average day because our brains don’t care and don’t need that information. She goes on to say,
The issue is that too much of that sameness added up means that whole years start disappearing into these memory sinkholes because there’s nothing memorable about them. And so people who have a very good command of time are conscious about creating memories—like actually doing things that are out of the ordinary with their time so that time does become memorable. . . . By doing this, you can expand the experience of the past and that makes you feel like you had this richer, fuller life and makes you feel like you have more time.”
I wish August and September could have been different, but I also don’t feel too bad about it because I know I did the best I could. We do what we need to do when we’re in survival mode, but the key is not to get stuck there. So now that I’m ready to push out of it, I’m looking for ways to disrupt our routines and make new memories.
Later Laura mentions that we are often tired in the moment and don’t want to get out and do something new, but our looking-back selves will always be thankful we did. What better time to push myself out of my comfort zone than as fall approaches, with all the memory-making potential of apple orchards and pumpkin patches? And I think traveling to Disney World will shake all of us out of our rut in the most magical way.
Here’s more about what I learned, loved, and read in September.
(But before I get that, Selah did have a two milestones of note this month: she switched from a crib to a big girl bed and is doing great with it, and she got her first big girl haircut!)
What I Learned
I’m not surprised that all of these are about productivity. As I crawl my way out of survival mode, I am having to relearn even my most basic habits.
- A good to-do list saves my sanity every time. I don’t usually accomplish everything on the list, but getting those items out of my head and onto a piece paper is basically a form a self-care.
- I do better with a do-a-little-laundry-every-day routine. I hate laundry. HATE. IT. I have always saved it and done several loads every weekend because 1. I thought containing the misery to a single day would help the other six to be more pleasant, 2. I like the feeling of being “done,” even temporarily, 3. I work during the week and thought it made more sense to do laundry when I had more time. Well, then my Saturdays were filled with constant sorting and flipping and starting a new load and folding, and it was the worst. Now I do one load almost every day (and gave up, for the most part, separating lights and darks), and it is so much more manageable. I start a load before I go to work, flip it when I get home, and (sometimes) fold and put it away before bed. The folding is my least favorite part but it takes less than 10 minutes. I’m a convert.
- When I’m not sure what to do next, ask, “What will make me feel ___ when ____?” For example, while Selah is napping, I’ll ask, “What will make me feel rested and recharged when she wakes up?” Related to this: “What will I feel resentful for having not done when she wakes up?” And related to the idea of time and memory I shared above: “What will make me feel like I made the most of my time when this season is over?” or “What will make me feel disappointed if we don’t do it before this season is over?”
What I Loved
- The Sleeping at Last Podcast. I wept my way through episode 4, in which he explains every detail that went into the composition of his song for Enneagram type 1s. So far there are episodes explaining 15 of his songs, including Enneagram types 1-6. I don’t really “get” music at a deep level, but even I can tell this guy is a musical genius.
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. For years I have been on the hunt for a high-quality protein powder that doesn’t taste like fake vanilla flavoring and doesn’t make me break out. This one is flavorless, nondairy, and blends into any liquidy food pretty easily.
- Fall-scented candles. My favorite is one called Farmhouse Pumpkin that my mom found randomly at TJ Maxx, but a close second and third are the Vanilla Pumpkin and Honeycrisp Apple candles from Trader Joe’s.
- Sleeping with the windows open. We get to do this approximately six times a year in Illinois, and those are my favorite six nights. There’s nothing like waking up to a perfectly cool breeze in the morning (though this makes it hard to get up with my alarm!).
What I Read
- The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn: I’ve recently read a bunch of thrillers that were duds, and this one totally pulled me out of my slump. It kept me turning pages until the very end—an ending I definitely didn’t see coming. If you love books with unreliable narrators, this one is for you. 4.5 stars.
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: A lyrical, beautiful, painful read about a black man who is falsely accused of a violent crime and put in prison. It’s a story about not just what he loses, but what his loved ones lose as well. This book is filled with flawed characters, and I love that there was no perfect ending to root for. 4 stars.
- A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today by Bonnie Kristian: As my faith has evolved, I’ve wished that there was a book that would tell me all the different “options” for belief about key doctrines that are within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. That’s exactly what this book does. From the meaning of salvation, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, to the Bible, hell, and the apocalypse, this book outlines views that faithful Christians throughout history have taken and provides resources for more in-depth reading about particular doctrinal issues. Definitely a bird’s-eye view, but a very helpful one. 4 stars.
- The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life by Vinita Hampton Wright: Like the subtitle says, this is an honest exploration of how creativity and spirituality coexist and influence each another. This book was a bit woo-woo for me (kind of like a Christian Big Magic), and I couldn’t connect much with the author. Still, it provided some ideas worth chewing on and some helpful writing prompts. 3 stars.
- Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre: Based on the title and the premise, I should have loved this book, but instead I avoided reading it and dreaded picking it up again each time. (I probably would have given up had it not been a book club pick.) I appreciated many of the author’s points and agreed wholeheartedly . . . but I found her tone condescending and the whole conversation felt privileged, without acknowledging that it was. This isn’t one I would recommend, though it’s very well-crafted and beautifully written. 3 stars.
- You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld: I read more than half of this book but did not finish. I love Curtis Sittenfeld (her book American Wife is one of my very favorites), and I found each of these short stories enjoyable but not interesting enough to keep going. This is to say nothing of Sittenfeld’s writing, which was nuanced and eloquent as ever. I just had a hard time investing in characters I knew I wouldn’t encounter again once the chapter was over. If you’re a fan of short stories, you may really enjoy this one, but it wasn’t for me. 3 stars.
What I Clicked
- “My pain in the NICU mirrored my daughter’s. She blows an IV, has to get a heel stick, cries when I leave, I’m a ten. She has a good night, a good result, smiles when she hears me come around the corner, I’m a zero. But ten or none, the nurses put me in that rocking chair, put my baby in my arms, and in so many ways put us both back together again.” (How’s Your Pain? by April Hoss)
- “Here’s my posture, at least: you can always come over here, take a breath, and remember that this moment actually means something.” (4 Ways to Live Deeply When You’re Busier than Ever by Daisy at Simplicity Relished)
- “When a woman says, ‘This man raped me a long time ago,’ we say, ‘But that was in the past. He can’t change the past.’ When a girl says, ‘This boy raped me last night,’ we say, ‘But his future! We can’t wreck his future.’ And there she stands, suspended between his past and his future, with no value of her own except for how much she’s worth to whichever political party is feeling desperate today.” (Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, When Do Girls Matter? by Simcha Fisher)