Ignoring the Smoke Alarm When Your House is Ready to Burn Down

It’s funny how fast a human can move. How much sleep deprivation we can push through; how many emotions we can push down; how we ignore what our body is telling us, even when we hear it loud and clear.

I have always loved rest. I grew up reading under trees; watching movies on the back porch; falling asleep in the middle of the day listening to a storm roll in. I was trained to be a lazy river kinda girl, and damn it, I was trained well. Sleep was always one of my necessities, lounging one of my freedoms. These were on my list of non-negotiables. Sleeping, lounging, friends, books, movies, waffles. Or waffles-books-movies, it depends how Leslie Knope-ish I’m feeling. As the years have gone by the non-negotiables have changed shape, but rest and relaxation were always there. They were my best friends. My Lane Kim and Paris Geller. We had some hard times, but we struggled through and our bond was stronger than ever. Never have I had a time where I pushed them away until recently.

Lately I’ve been movin’. Like- only condiments in my fridge, haven’t had a day to myself, spending more time in the car driving between destinations than sleeping in my bed- kinda movin’. Somewhere along the line I’ve taken rest and relaxation and made them feel small so that I could manage my ever-growing list of loves. I see my people, I publish articles, I drive new places. I over pack my schedule and I say to myself, “enjoy these loves while you can. Things will slow down and soon you’ll be back to you. But for now we have to go-go-go.” But when is soon? Next week? The week after? When do I catch up with Lane and Paris?

I have been saying, “it’ll slow down soon,” to myself for five months. I haven’t been still for a weekend since I sat on that backyard swing on Easter. I have been adding what I deem non-negotiables to my list and trying to force them into a 24 hour day, and it has turned my life into a pie chart. For every item I add there are others in the circle that have to get smaller as a side effect.

I’ve kept reducing sleep to make room for more friends, more writing, more traveling. Lounging has been squashed to almost nothing. I’ve been suppressing my introvert in favor of my extrovert, and now she’s loosing steam and the upper hand. I’ve been pushing too hard for everything and everyone on my list of loves, because love, right? But I forgot to add myself to that list. I didn’t think to leave a section of the pie chart just for me. I’ve been running so much that I forgot to pay attention to the friction. I forgot to worry about myself the way I would someone else, and in all my moving I didn’t stop to think that all that friction can produce more than just smoke. I have been hearing my smoke alarm beeping and screeching, telling me to slow down, that the friction from my movement is getting to be a little much, but I’ve been ignoring it. I’m not letting myself see where the fire is about to start. I’m not letting myself see that if I keep rubbing sticks together the way I am, I’m going to burn the whole house down.

I have been telling myself to skip out on rest and relaxation in favor of the others on my list because this greatness won’t last. I won’t always have time to see the people and the places so I should take advantage now. These things won’t always be around, but rest and relaxation will be. That might be true. They might still be here if I keep pushing them down, but my sanity won’t be.

There’s only so long that you can ignore your smoke alarm. Only so many miles that you can drive, people you can see, late night writing sessions you can cram in, before the friction becomes too much. If you ignore that alarm for long enough it’ll be too late. Eventually the smoke will turn into a fire, and that fire can eat you up and leave you unsheltered and broken.

Keep that list of non-negotiables. Continue bending over backwards for your loves. But remember that you are on that list too. Your self-care is important (maybe even more important than waffles) and it’s always on the list whether you acknowledge it or not. There will always be times when you forget yourself to take care of others, or to experience some super fun shit, or whatever. But when you inevitably forget how important you are listen to that smoke alarm. And take care of you.


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