Stop Holding Your Breath

In June, when I started brainstorming my summer, I came to the thought that I desperately needed to find a way to get some order into my days. I needed to know where everyone was going to need to be when. I needed some kind of system that wasn’t something no one would use. It needed to be something easy to follow.

This was an area, this area of “Schedule and Family Planning”, that was just not working. At all. It was a point of contention, a fireball of nerves. It was, more often than not, what caused me to want to pack my bags and run off to join the circus.

Progress made

I don’t know that I shared this update, but I made two little tweaks to the system since I decided that there would need to be some change. First: I bought a little magnetic pad that currently lives on our refrigerator. It has a weekly planner. Secondly, I took our little family calendar that used to live in an in accessible little passageway and tacked it up next to the fridge, just under the clock.

At some point since I did that, my indulgent husband had the good idea to put the meal plan next to the weekly planner. (This was entirely his doing, proof that when we make little changes, sometimes even without saying anything, they simplify everyone’s life.)

For the last two weeks, I have known what was going to be for dinner, because our little meal plan was tacked to the fridge. For the last two weeks, if there is something I noticed we would need at the grocery store, I’ve written it on the notes section of our little weekly planner.

Consolidating, making visible and accessible everything we needed get organized for meals, grocery lists and activities was a first, very very low-hanging fruit to pluck in this mountain-from-a-molehill that I was struggling with.

Yay me.


Go back and read that subtitle like the bishop from the Princess Bride. Just do it, because I have been repeating that glorious moment for the last twenty-four hours. I want to get that in your head, too.

Yesterday, for the first time in five and a half years, something extraordinary happened: my indulgent husband was going to have a day off, while my scalawags were going to be taken care of in the context of regularly scheduled programming (they were still in school.)

Yes, in the last five and half years, we have had Aunt Poppy visit, and Popeye and Grandma Daisy visit. They have gladly taken those boys off our hands for us. But this was different. This was us, dropping the boys off for school and knowing we had a whole morning ahead of us.

When we were younger marrieds, without children marrieds, we used to have a weekly date at a coffee shop. We would compare notes about things we needed to do, or wanted to do. It was a ritual. A routine. A habit. I don’t think we ever had a shared calendar, but it didn’t much matter. No one else was depending on us, so if I forgot that he had a late meeting, I didn’t get worried. If he forgot that I was going to be out for dinner with a friend, I would have left a note on the kitchen table. (Oh, yes, because we didn’t get cell phones until very, very recently. Remember, I have a phobia of telephones. The sound of a ringing telephone sends me into a panicked, adrenaline-filled zombie-like state.)

We could have done anything with our child-free morning. But do you know what he suggested we do? He suggested we go to the coffee shop and, get this, plan our summer.

He was speaking my love language right there, folks. In (nearly) twenty-two years of marriage, I don’t think I have ever felt so understood.

Holding our breath

In so many ways, after our coffee date, I felt like, for the first time in nearly six years, I had fully exhaled. I hadn’t realized that for nearly six years, we had been holding our breath, just to get through all the itty bitty little boy crises and the sleeplessness and the overwhelm and the COVID and the menopause rage.

Although we don’t know what his school schedule will look like in the Fall, his principal gave something that looked vaguely like an apology for the rotten schedules he had been given the last four years (a what? Yes, yes, a French bureaucrat apologized for something. If you see a pig swooping passed your window like a swallow before a storm, do not be surprised.) The very same principal made a promise that this fall, the indulgent husband’s schedule should be tighter.

We both agreed that if there was any possible way for us to arrange it, we would try to have a weekly scheduling date again. Just us, at a coffee shop, no scalawags. Return to what had worked for us for all those years, that the fact of being in apnea had all but suffocated us into forgetting.

So: Let it not be said that progress is not possible. Even in the areas that make you want to pack up and join the circus, progress is possible.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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