My fella: How do you feel?

Me: (in pain, in slug pose, melting into couch) Like a dingbat.

Fella: Why a dingbat?

Me: Because I hurt myself planting a flower.

Fella: Well, when you put it like that…

True story. This is me today. I’ve been feeling totally overwhelmed lately—with work, and family, and life in general. This is one of those periods where it all is just feeling like too much, and I don’t know how to keep my head above water anymore. I feel like I don’t have time to do the things I really love anymore, and that’s not a good feeling. Time feels like it’s racing by, and it’s just passing between one work obligation and the next, leaving no time to relax or do what brings me joy.

This happens. It’s cyclical. But I’d like it to not happen.

So I’ve been trying to find ways to carve out time to write, to make art, to get more exercise, and to breathe. I started doing a little Pilates and yoga, just 20 minutes each day to relax, and give my mind a break, and stretch out these muscles that hurt so bad. (I go to a masseuse who is magical, but she always makes somewhat disappointed sounds when her fingers dig into my shoulders. “Your shoulder blade won’t move,” she said to me a few weeks ago, and I thought seriously about buying one of those little wooden meat tenderizers and asking my fella to try it on the most offending parts.) I had to MAKE myself step away from work for these 20 minutes (when did I become a workaholic??) and it’s already making a big difference. My shoulder blade almost moves again.

This weekend I had the bright idea to do a little gardening. Don’t let me mislead you: I am no gardener. I have no green thumb. I wing it with flowers. I buy what’s pretty and smells nice, and depend greatly on the lovely Kathy at my local greenhouse (who is like my fairy godmother for planting), who gauges the likelihood that what I’ve selected will survive in my shade conditions.

Planting things helps me breathe. It gets me away from my desk, it gets my hands in the dirt, and it makes me happy when things actually grow and thrive. It makes me feel more like a human and less like a part of a machine.

So I collected some flowers from Kathy, planted them yesterday until a thunderstorm rolled in, and finished the last few pots today. And as I planted something that looks vaguely like a dahlia, I turned the wrong way, heard a snap, and was frozen for a second in sharp pain. Did I really just snap my back out of normal by planting a flower? Is some planet in retrograde again?

Nope. This is the universe telling me to slow down. I know it.

For the rest of the day, I tried to relax. I read a little. I edited a manuscript. I thought about ways I can carve out a little more time for myself again. I think our bodies let us know when they need a break—when we’re pushing ourselves too hard and need to take a step back. We really do need balance, and our bodies remind our brains sometimes, when our brains are saying “GO, GO, GO!” at 100 miles an hour.

I got the best advice one day, from my dental hygienist, and it pops into my head at times like this. My dentist had determined I ground my teeth at night, and that I had done severe damage. She said, “Honey, stress will take you right out of this world.” And I know, she’s absolutely right. We have to find balance, and we have to make time for ourselves. We have to make time for the things we love, and the people we love.

I feel like my body had to put me in time-out to remind me of that. But I’m on board again, body. I hear you.