Last week, I had a particularly full and rewarding day at work that started with an hours-long photoshoot and ended with a team outing to Highland Park. The day was intended to serve as an inspiring and motivating day to break up a week of primarily computer work and reinvigorate the team, and in many ways it achieved exactly that. But as soon as I got in the car, the rain started pouring and I got lost no less than three times (even my GPS was over it). By the time I got home, I was drained. To top things off, I still had a ton of work to get through, G was out of town, and Sloan was giving me a run for my money. And adding to my stress was the fact that my friend, Debbie, was en route to our place for a dinner I'd yet to plan. Though I'm not proud of it, at one point, I just kind of gave up. I sat slumped against the couch (after Sloan had thrown her dinner onto the ground) and put my head in my hands. G and I try not to show how frustrated we are in the midst of a toddler tantrum since we find it typically only incentivizes further bad behavior. But the opposite happened. Sloan immediately apologized, put her little arm around my shoulder and said, "It's okay, Mommy. You'll be fine." In that moment, I realized just how exhausted I was and it almost set the stage for what happened next.
Usually, if a friend is coming over for dinner, I like to have something special prepared (or at least good take-out on hand). Fortunately, Debbie intuited my frustration over text and simply responded, "Don't worry, I'm picking up take-out!" Not only was her reaction incredibly generous, but the statement—rather than a question ("What can I bring?")—was exactly what I needed at that moment. Rather than deciding what to cook or even eat, which at the time felt next to impossible, I felt taken care of.
Not a single day goes by when I don't feel incredibly fortunate for what I get to do every day. There are few jobs where you can take an afternoon off to explore a new-to-you part of your city, so I sometimes feel guilty when I have nothing left to give. When I shared this with my therapist, he pointed out that it wasn't the work that had drained me, but the sheer number of decisions I'd had to make throughout the day. From taking care of Sloan on my own, doing multiple shoots, and answering what felt like hundreds of business-related questions that day, each task drained a little bit of energy until I couldn't even decide what to eat. On top of that, I'd made the mistake of applying the same level of care that I do to my work to a casual dinner in. Because I spend most of my day laboring over the tiniest details, from the way a clasp fits together in my clothing line to the syntax of a sentence in a blog post, I'm naturally inclined to apply that same level of decision-making to other parts of my life, which is when it backfires.
As soon as Debbie arrived with pasta, I was overcome with appreciation. It was exactly what I needed, even though I hadn't been able to communicate that before. It served as a simple, poignant reminder to recognize when decision fatigue sets in and that it's okay to ask for help.