**Did you read Part 1? Do that first so this makes sense.
Dear Saggy Sister –
It’s true that I’m very smart. I am also very beautiful, and wish you had mentioned it. But it’s hard to hand out compliments when you’re low, so let’s see what we can do to pull you up a bit.
First, let me apologize for failing to anticipate this. A living spirit must be nurtured and loved, and I have been busy NOT INTERFERING but helpfully offering wise guidance to those who need it. I woefully underestimated your need for the same.
Second, let’s dispense immediately with this fear of aging thing. Yes, you have wrinkles. So does Helen Mirren. Does anyone talk about her being old? No. Everyone thinks she’s beautiful. And you can deadlift 200 pounds and do 200 squats without feeling sore the next day. Does that sound old? No. Also – consider the story of Anna Sewell, author of your favorite childhood book, Black Beauty. She started writing it when she was dying of hepatitis at age 51 and it was published when she was 57, just five months before she died. But don’t worry about the dying part. That was 150 years ago, so, you know, modern medicine and all.
It’s interesting that you bring up Joan of Arc. One of her most famous quotes is this: I am not afraid….I was born to do this. You could say the very same thing, except for the not being afraid part. You are terrified of writing, and I don’t know why, although I have my suspicions. But you were born to live this life, and you must embrace it. I’m sure you’re thinking it’s easier said than done, but that is not true. It’s actually quite easy. Well, not easy. But it’s simple. Okay, it might not even be simple. But I’m going to simplify it for you by removing the ambiguity and turning this into math.
I don’t like math. Neither do you. But one positive aspect of math is its certainty. There are answers. Every problem has a solution, unless you’re talking about something like the Collatz Conjecture, which I just learned about via Google, and which is far above the Savvy Sister’s pay grade, which is zero.
The way we’re going to use math is that we’re going to make a list.
I love lists. Scratching an item off of a list can provoke feelings of euphoria in me. More importantly, lists can structure a day. The fact that I’m beyond a half-century old, which again is not actually old, means I have to be stingy with brain cells. I can’t be expected to remember everything. It’s hard enough to remember which child likes which kind of tortellini. So having a list can free up some cranium space.
Your list is going to be both the same and different every day. The different stuff will be specific chores and duties needing to be accomplished that day: clean bathroom, for example; take dog(s) to vet; grade student papers; organize the 13 pairs of leggings you insist you need. The second part will be a list of five activities important to you:
-cooking a heathy family dinner
-writing at least 500 words
-spending 60 minutes outside (activities of your choice)
-working in garden/yard for 1/2 hour
*I’ll be honest, I just threw that last one in. Everybody who meditates says it’s life-changing, so maybe you could try it and you’ll never need to write me again.
Make a commitment to accomplish at least two items from part two of your list every single day. EVERY DAY. On some lucky days, you’ll tick off all five, and your heart will be full.
My guess is that this systematic prioritization will turn into habit, and you’ll thereby begin living your very best life. The 500 words will sometimes be 1,000; a few healthy dinners will become a weekly shopping plan; being outdoors more often will lead to a visceral need for sunshine and tree breath.
This is math you can do! Five things! Pick two!
Before you start whining about how there aren’t enough hours in the day, blah, blah, blah, remember: I live with you. I know having three teenagers at home can suck the life out of you, even if they are the very best teenagers in the world who nonetheless seem to dirty up the kitchen when they’re not even home. I know you need to spend more time with your overworked husband. I know you have an actual job teaching college students how to write real news and spot fake news.
But if you can find time to do CrossFit workouts four times a week, you can find time to pick two things from your list on the daily.
I don’t know what you should do about your blog. Until you start working on some sort of project, you might as well post your writing there.
Remember the sage advice we gave ourselves 30 years ago when we started journalism graduate school: Any kind of writing improves your writing. The quality of your writing is actually pretty okay. It just needs more quantity. But the same theory applies: any kind of writing strengthens your writing muscles, which will lead to more words on the page.
Frankly, use your blog the way you want. It’s your fucking blog, and Oprah has never even offered to run it in her magazine, so if you want to post rants with zero illustrations, just do it.
Finally – and this is the super hard part – you’ve got to practice appreciating your life. Just this morning I read a quote by one of the YouTube influencers you mocked in your letter – Alison Faulkner – and it made me all Hmmm. She wrote: ENOUGH is a decision, not an amount. YASSSSS. And I’m not just referring to stuff and money and pairs of black leggings. I’m talking about the space you take up, your spiritual footprint, your citizen output. It is enough. You are enough. We are enough! You are changing the world just by existing. We all are. You just need to make sure you’re changing it for the better. And that’s a decision you make and remake every single day.
the Savvy Sister