Plate spinning is a phrase among PUAs that means they are juggling a lot of chicks. When you become a dad, plate spinning takes on a different meaning. And when you are a Type-A personality, the spinning of enough plates becomes a gravitation force that sucks energy like a black hole for any more plates to be spun. That is, there becomes a point when you finally cry ‘Uncle’ and go to your little hidey-hole to keep your shit together rather than take on one iota of more stuff. I was at that point for the last several months.
This next paragraph leads a little like a mix between whiny-bitching and humble-bragging, but bear with me…
I may have mentioned I have to take a couple of courses for an internal MBA-like leadership institute. My normal plate spinning up to that point was at a dull roar – kids school events (band concerts, science fairs, dioramas, that sort of junk), wife stuff (who has a stressful job and likes to bring drama home), lawn stuff (like killing it, wrong bottle of spray),
kid sports events, kid music lessons, weight lifting, running, hiking, camping…and the ever present work obligations, meetings, and functions. But I kept adding on, with college classes. Then I added a board membership in my Homeowners Association to the resume. And for good measure, decided to do a moderate sized home improvement process over the long 4th of July weekend instead of recharging (the project inevitably took the whole week to complete, I estimated about 55 hours of my time, some after working a full day). And then a key lieutenant to my growing role in my company quit to buy his FIL’s business and compete against my firm. Which means more time at work to keep the plates there from falling. Finally, with my brother ‘retiring’ (he pseudo-FIRE’d at age 37, good for him as single bachelor who squirred away his money) he also retired from his role as a long-time money-league Fantasy Football commissioner. The league is fun and we started it together, so rather than let it dissolve, I added yet another obligation to my plate.
I had no more room for anything that would have been fun, like writing or creative thought.
Even sex was more sporadic and less awesome than usual. My wife was spinning her own plates at home and work and between the two of us sex wasn’t exactly at the top of the list.
Another fun thing that we did during this time: my wife Holly and I both tried a longer water fast going 5 days without eating. Without getting into it (probably another post topic), we did it for the alleged health benefits we had read about as well as to assist with leaning out for the last couple months of the pool. It was successful and less difficult than I expected. I lost over 6 pounds in that span, my wife maybe half that. It is something we plan to do in some capacity going forward as you feel good about the willpower. When you take food out of the mix, life gets simpler. It’s odd.
So if you haven’t seen me here, that is why. But I have finally come up for air, and have some energy again for creativity. The home flooring project is done, my first college class since 1999 is done, kids summer activities have calmed down to just a few things a week, and work is on autopilot for a short bit at least. Because of the small opening of time and energy I added another area to learn about and new pursuit to try: screenwriting and filmmaking.
My brother and I run another website where we review movies, in a unique way. At this stage, it is mostly him, but it’s been a fun project to work on together even though it is mostly a gag. For some reason we got it in our head to write a screenplay that we would cast friends in and film ourselves – think of it as an amateur version of how Kevin Smith did it for Clerks. We have a ways to go, but it is a buddy comedy with some great action scenes using live firearms and martial arts. I’m sure it will be awful, but hoping so in a hilarious way. If it happens, I’ll be sure to provide a link when it goes up. It’s actually pretty energizing to be doing something creative again between my other more tactical, practical, and logical obligations. Even if this is merely a thought exercise I’m sharing with my brother, it is still a fun creative time.
I have some tips for the busy plate spinner to get through those challenging times.
- Relax! Take solace that this will only be temporary. Grind it out.
- Don’t start drinking. It is easy to begin to self-medicate after a long, busy day, and for those days to stack on top of each other. I’ve been there in a past time, and pulled back.
- Exercise. You can usually still find time for a walk at lunch or to throw some weight around for 30 minutes while your wife is cooking dinner. I’ve had some really good thinking sessions, and always feel better after exercise.
- Eat healthy. With all the stress that comes along with this hopefully short-term obligations, your cortisol will be high meaning your body will want to gain fat easier so it is important to eat tight. Even if what you really want is Twinkies and ice cream
- Use those quiet times productively. When at my daughter’s martial arts practices, I’m catching up on work e-mails, or researching things I can’t get around to at other times. I killed Facebook at the start of the year and I spend WAAYyy less time fucking off on my phone.
- Commiserate with a friend, not your wife. Get away from your routine, find a buddy and go fishing. Or to a movie. Last week I went to a screening of Pulp Fiction at the local brew-and-view with an old friend who recently got his new 19 year old girlfriend (now 20 year old wife) knocked up. He is early 40’s and his new wife is cute, but his drama (this is kid #5 with baby-momma #3) makes mine pale in comparison. Regardless, your friend is likely have their own busy life, but maintaining a male friendship of this type is a good way to blow off steam and stay bonded to masculinity.
- Get good sleep. Nuff said.
When you are in these sorts of spots in life, it can be fun with the right attitude and coping mechanisms to deal with the added stress.
It’s like roaring down whitewater rapids where you’re hanging on for dear life, paddling through the eddy to reach shore.
When you finally get there, you look back up the rapids you just came from with a sense of satisfaction at having survived, maybe advancing a little down your goal road.
Stay strong out there my amigos! Hopefully all of you are finding your path…