Living a Small Life: Stick to the Schedule


Somewhere along the way during the summer, my life got too big. Between camp and activities, trying to rest and work, cooking and barbecuing, exercising and keeping the house clean, it was too much. We had no schedule and the kids stayed up way too late. This was when I needed an emergency backpack for my soul.

One week I got sick, and during those days all I could do was watch a movie and make some Lipton Noodle soup. I certainly couldn’t keep up my daily hobbies and chores. It almost felt like having a newborn again.

I remember wanting to sell everything and move into a tiny house with one frying pan.

I didn’t know how or when my life got so big and demanding, with so many moving pieces. As a teacher, I couldn’t imagine how September would go — would I feel bigger and ready to take on my life or would I just get engulfed by the enormity of it?

In anticipation of the academic year I made a weekly, hourly schedule to see how I would fit in the work I get paid for as well as the work I don’t get paid for, as well as the things I like to do for well-being and health.

Periodically during the summer, I would look at this rigid schedule with dread, thinking:

who made this? How will I ever be able to make time for all of that? Who likes to live by schedules?

But at 6 a.m. on the morning of my kids’ first day of school, I took solace in that sheet of paper.

Its presence meant that all I had to do was whatever that little box contained. Nothing else. I had accounted for everything, so I just had to trust my planning self.

For the first time in a long time, I felt very cozy in those boxes, just the right size for my life.

Sometimes a schedule can feel like a prison but sometimes it feels like sanity.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with schedules, routines, and calendars. Now I know that when life gets too big, I should make a schedule and only do what’s in this hour’s box. It’s the mental equivalent of moving into a tiny house with one frying pan.

At some point, I predict I will want to bust out of the schedule and free-style more of my life — maybe in the Winter or Spring. But for now, the little boxes hold everything together — they show me the way to get everything done a little at a time. For today, the schedule is comforting. The routine is helpful. Tomorrow, maybe it will be oppressive!

Are you pro-schedule or anti? How do you keep your life from feeling too big?

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Mariana loves sandwiches best, although going 95% vegan two years ago means having traded in ham and swiss for eggplant and roasted red pepper. Her boys, Santiago (5) and Sebastian (3), agree that sliced bread is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The boys are native Spanish speakers despite the fact that neither of their parents is, which has made raising them in Spanish a labor of love. Her commitment to raising bilingual children was made possible by being a first-generation Chilean-American born and raised in New York City, and by having spent two pre-kid years living abroad in Mexico City and Salamanca, Spain. Mariana moved to the RGV in 2010 and never wants to live anywhere else. While the kids are at school, Mariana is a full-time Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UTRGV. She has written for the New York Times, Womankind Magazine, and Yahoo Parenting.


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