“Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: Like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”
~Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
The first half of 2023 has left me overstretched, overtaxed, and overextended. David quit his second job in two years when his patient load dried up and was unemployed while looking for a new position. The daughter endured the whirlwind marathon that is high school graduation, with the 175 events that go with it (not to mention the new dresses, announcements, gifts, and senior photos that aren’t free or cheap). She is making big life choices right now. What will she study? Where will she live? How will she pay for it? Both of those people are triggered by too much simultaneous transition, so there were some mental health struggles to traverse and trauma to process while we regulated therapy and medications. They both need me more and less in new, strange ways. Both of my in-laws had recent life-threatening medical emergencies. The HVAC gave up the ghost, gouging a budget already tight with loans and looming school costs. David and I are longing for and dreading our soon-to-be empty-nest status in equal measure. I turned 50 and continue to navigate the shitshow of menopause, while steering the familial boat as best I can. Oh, and did I mention that we did not get to see Taylor Swift and had to basically quit social media because seeing everyone we know at her shows made our heads want to explode in frustration?
Mental health practitioners list the top ten stressors as death, divorce, moving, major illness, job loss, marriage, increased financial obligations, retirement, caring for a sick family member, and enduring a traumatic event. My 2023 life has – so far – hit a respectable 7 out of 10. Everything feels big right now. I’m juggling far too many transitions, responsibilities, time commitments, and priorities.
There’s too much bread and not enough butter.
In this metaphor, bread is every responsibility that comes with being a modern-day woman. The societal expectations to be a good partner, mother, administrator, organizer, caregiver, business woman, educator, disciplinarian, cook, nurse, social media documentarian, and problem fixer at all times. To maintain our youth, our figure, and – above all – our positive attitude. As Gloria says so perfectly in the Barbie movie, “It is literally impossible to be a woman…And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault.”
Now, the obvious answer to spreading ourselves too thin is to lessen the amount of bread. Rather than trying to dredge up more energy to tackle the ever-mounting problems, we pare down our lives into more manageable bites. We – and by we, I mean women – are told to cut out good things to make room for the best things. And by best things, I obviously mean our spouses and children. Because paring down our problems only means making personal sacrifices. We are welcome to give up something that matters to us as long as we can continue to hold space for our spouses and children.
Every woman reading this knows less bread is an unattainable goal.
So we must lean into a life of more butter instead, those resources that create resilience and joy, those things that help us melt into the moment..
My butter is time off to puzzle, sit on my porch, and read thrillers. It’s Game Night with the girls and bottomless prosecco at brunch. It’s too much sun by the pool with Lauren. It’s live music and dancing. It’s legs up the wall pose. It’s Thursday guitar lessons with Steve and Izzie. It’s my Book Club and memes from the girls and early morning sweat and bitch sessions at the studio with the Mobility Mafia. It’s taking more pictures of my dog than my daughter and telling my cat for the 17th time what a perfect boy he is. It’s fresh highlights, a pedicure, sliding on my glittery Birkenstock dupes. It’s a long, rainy day nap. It’s egregious amounts of actual butter, salted and melted on bread fresh from the oven. It’s a conscious choice to look for glimmers and linger in them when they appear.
When life doesn’t allow for less bread, order more butter.