issue #151 - the one about the new normal
Have you ever been perfectly described in 280 characters or so? I just have.
This is me. When I’m out and about, I genuinely love catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, having great conversations, learning new things…until my social stamina is depleted and I need to completely recharge.
In pre-pandemic times, I didn’t think otherwise of workdays filled with meetings, attending a couple of events before meeting friends for dinner, then going to bed and doing it again the next day. It was just a normal day, or so I thought.
Reflecting on the past few years, days like these feel like they’re at one extreme, and one that is centered more on other people’s priorities than my own. The normal for most of 2020 and 2021, however, was hunkering down at home. While the early months of the pandemic were a chaotic swirl of remote learning and near-constant screen time for my kids while we worked, the months when they returned to school and we continued to work remotely gave me an opportunity to build better boundaries around my time (and I am aware that an immense amount of privilege let me build these boundaries, both in my work and in having an amazing team to help us care for our family and home). Save for the mornings with the kids and the interviews I conducted, there were days I went barely speaking to anyone when I was writing WE’RE SPEAKING.
Was my social stamina simply stronger in those pre-pandemic times?
Were my boundaries simply stronger in those pandemic months, or did my book deadline force me to enforce these boundaries better?
More importantly, what is the normal I wish to define for myself now?
There will always be meetings that I need to attend and events I genuinely want to go to. Quality time with my friends and family are a non-negotiable, as is the time with myself to do what I need to do (sleep, exercise, prepare and eat healthy meals, meditate) and to do what I want to do (sit on my bed and scroll TikTok for an hour, read a romance novel for long stretches, stitch or crochet while watching reality television).
I reject the fallacy that we have the same 24 hours in a day as Beyoncé, but I do heed the words from BREAK MY SOUL to release the anger and release the stress, and to protect my soul from other people’s expectations of my life that do not align with my own (which is easier said than done). Here’s what I’ve adopted that works for us, and what I continue to work on:
Weekends are strictly for our family. With the exception of our kids’ friends birthday parties, we decline most plans and invite our parents to come over and spend time together. I also relish our Sunday tradition of taking the kids to karate, then to brunch at one of our neighborhood favorites, and then home for a lazy afternoon of reading and coloring and playing before putting on a movie for the kids while I prepare dinner. The day when our kids would rather hang out with their friends and do their own thing on the weekends will come, so I want to savor this time when they want us.
I also have been leaving my phone in our room on Saturdays and not wearing my Apple Watch or Oura ring to give myself as much of an unplugged day as I possibly can - the only device I carry is my Kindle, and I end up reading my current read (skipping any salacious or inappropriate parts) aloud to the boys.
With the help of Komal, I’ve been blocking off chunks in my calendar as “recovery” blocks the day after an ‘out and about’ day. This time is for me to spend how I wish, whether it’s finally tackling my anxiety piles in our home or reading a book cover-to-cover. Some days, I only have a 30 minute block to spare. Other days (ones scheduled further in advance), I’ve carved out a couple of hours. Rather than focus on the quantity of this time, I focus on the quality - turning on the Forest app on my phone so I don’t mindlessly scroll, and doing what I actually want to do (most days, it’s a quick nap or reading with a hot cup of tea).
I want to limit my evenings out to just 2 a week, maximum. This may be a 2023 priority, but I’m working on it.
How are you adjusting to the new normal? What about pandemic life are you bringing into this new normal, and what are you excited to resume doing again?
And if anyone has any advice on strengthening one’s social stamina, please let me know! I could use any advice on this front.
What I Read This Week
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman - this book definitely influenced my editor’s letter and how I think about time in general these days. Rather than providing the hacks or the so-called guaranteed frameworks in most productivity books, Four Thousand Weeks begins with the hard truth that we likely have four thousand weeks in this life we’re living, and to examine how we’re currently spending it vs. how we’d like to spend it. It forces us to question ourselves about the very real fact that the more we do, the more we will end up having to do, and to build stronger boundaries around the little time we have for ourselves, and how to spend it meaningfully (and on each of our terms). This was a rare triple purchase book (I own the hardcover, the Kindle version, and the audiobook so I can revisit it at any time), and I can’t recommend it more highly.
Heartbreaker by Sara MacLean - Sara is one of my favorite romance authors (and certainly a top 3 for Regency romance), and I’ve been waiting for the second book of the Hell’s Belles series since I finished Bombshell last year. The wait was worth it, and it had me going back to re-read the former when I finished because I realize how little I had noticed Adelaide, and how incredible the Matchbreaker and Princess of Thieves is and how the Duke of Clayton is truly her match. This book had some many of my favorite tropes in romance and Regency - secret identities, the single bed conundrum, an adventure outside of London or country seats. Sara brings the heart, the feminism, and the steam in every single one of her books, and I also appreciate how accurately she captures the diversity of the Regency era.
Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes - ancient Greece and Rome was the focus of my history degree, and every now and then I get the itch to re-read the old texts or to revisit this world. I don’t remember how I stumbled across Pandora’s Jar, but I thoroughly enjoyed every word of Haynes careful analysis of the women of Greek myths - how we view them today, how they were originally written and depicted, and this disconnect between history and the present and the impact its made. It’s such a smart book, but also incredibly readable (the boys enjoyed me reading this one aloud). I’m now on a Natalie Haynes tear and have preordered her forthcoming novel Stone Blind, which retells the story of the most misunderstood woman in Greek mythology.
What Everyone Else Read This Week
Alive At The End Of The World by Saeed Jones- Okay so TECHNICALLY I haven’t yet read Saeed Jones’ new poetry collection in its entirety… but that’s only because my preordered copy hasn’t arrived yet. But I’ll vouch for Jones’ work tirelessly, to anyone who will listen: his memoir, newsletter, new podcast, first poetry collection, and Instagram.
Top #5SmartReads Of The Week
The Queen Represented Racist Violence As Much As She Did Glamour (BuzzFeed News)
‘Gilmore Girls’ and Its Unlikely South Asian Fanbase (The Juggernaut)
The rest of the week’s reads + last week’s (and conversations!) are below:
Your Questions, Answered
How are you doing/feeling? I know you said you were going through a hard time.
Thank you so much for asking and checking in. I had a pretty bad depressive episode last month, and am mercifully climbing up from it. Twice-weekly therapy sessions, setting expectations with my teams and taking some time off from work, and some extra support from my parents, husband, housekeeper, and caregiver also helped me prioritize my own healing.
While I hesitate to say I’m on the other side of it all, I can say that every day is a little bit better than the one before.
What new item would you want to see on the Taco Bell menu?
I want the Enchirito, the Spicy Tostada, and Triple Layer Nachos to return!
Please make it happen Taco Bell!
I also want the tikka masala burrito from Taco Bell India to be available here-it’s so insanely good!
Burnout help! Best way to say “My work project plate is full”- understaffed federal employee.
”I’m currently focused on X,Y, Z and am unable to take on a new task unless one of these no longer requires my involvement. “
I would ask for a meeting with your manager to walk her/him through what is currently on your plate and how you’ve prioritized it, and to communicate the deadlines that are possible for YOU alone. It opens up a conversation to reprioritize things, but also shows that the workload you have is not manageable for one person and hopefully you can get their support to delegate or remove some items from your plate.
Try to make this a regular thing-it’s something i’ve done with my direct reports and have done with my managers 2x a month.
5 day solo trip (need break form kids/husband) to NYC any recs for just cold travelers?
I would honestly rather go to Miraval Resorts if I had that much time for a solo trip to rest and recharge and do all the actives and things that I Want to do!
I’ve been to Miraval Berkshires and highly highly recommend.
Raising kids who are born with a lot of privilege (unlike me)? Any tips from your parents?
I asked both of my parents (and some of my cousins who have raised kids with far more privilege than they were raised with), and here is some of their advice:
Just because you can give them everything they ask for doesn’t mean you have to, or you should. Setting clear expectations and acts to earn the things they want help, and utilize checklists/trackers to help them visualize their progress towards this goal.
We do this with both kids - for Rhaki, it’s more like a bar graph we color in, and for Rho it’s a contract we discuss, negotiate, and sign and keep in the kitchen for easy reference.
Talk about it, beyond the “when I was your age, I never had…” statements. Phrases like “I hear that you want…” to start the conversation, and go deeper on the “why.” Affirming their feelings helps them feel heard and understood, and it opens up the chance for you to say “I feel…” about the situation and to re-communicate your family’s rules and boundaries.
I remember being on both sides of this, as a kid and as a parent. Looking back, I was asking for things from my parents when all I really wanted was their attention and for them to do something with me, and I try to keep this in mind when the kids are asking me for things. If I end this conversation with “how would you like to play together with these toys?”, it affirms that I heard them, but that I also am giving them the attention they’re looking for within our boundaries.
Get them involved with their community and in volunteering.
We love Alltruists volunteer projects for this, and we are looking for volunteering activities we can do as a family in our neighborhood!
Best wedding shawl/wrap that doesn’t look matronly?
I find a lighter weight wrap to drape more elegantly and not look so matronly - Quince has an excellent cashmere one in a number of colors and a great price point ($60). If you need something warmer, I can’t recommend this Cuyana cape more highly - it drapes beautifully and is so warm! I’ve had mine for 7 years.
Are your kids still wearing masks to school?
Right now, they are not. The school building went through a massive air filtration upgrade recently and they have extremely high vaccination and boosted rates among teachers and students, which gave us some comfort in letting them start the school year unmasked. We continue to test regularly and check in with them and ourselves to reconsider this stance on a week by week basis, and will likely have them mask at school during flu season for a bit of added protection.
Best Broadway shows for Indian parents? For a 4 year old visiting NYC for the first time?
For parents and four year olds alike, The Lion King and Aladdin are excellent choices. I think Disney’s Broadway productions are the perfect first show for kids, and they honestly are great for patrons of all ages.
For older parents, I find the shorter shows are your best bet. SIX is wonderful (I’ve seen it 3 times and would go again!), and I think & Juliet (an alternative ending to Romeo & Juliet if Juliet had lived and features early 2000s pop music) would be a great watch. I’ll also add Come From Away, Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, and MJ to this list - and when Come Fall In Love (the DDLJ musical) hits Broadway, I’ll definitely be taking my mom and MIL!
Overwhelming guilt of taking dream job I got through family connections…how to cope?
I can empathize with this completely.
Your connections may have gotten you in the door, but it’s on you to perform and do the job. Those connections likely landed you the interview, but you still had to go through the entire process and all the interviews to earn the job. Focus on how you’re going to seize this opportunity and do your absolute best in the role - be curious, eager, and ready to work and contribute.
Congratulations! I’m rooting hard for your success.
Here’s to a new normal that you define for yourself.