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Guest Post: One Less Thing

By Dr. Monica Coleman

So I kind of love cooking competition shows. And I do watch them while I’m cooking. Because … inspiration. I’ve even roped my kid into them, and we watch the ones with kids cooking or with really creative baking. And on the cooking shows with professional chefs (Top Chef, for example), there’s always one or two chefs who want to do everything. They put all the garnishes, herbs, foam, whatever it is on the plate. And then the judges invoke the Coco Chanel line: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” They say: You’re doing too much; take one thing off.

I found myself saying this to my daughter this year as she entered middle school, her homework amped up and her lessons and sports changed. My kid is one of those heavily-scheduled kids you hear about but she’s always wanted it this way. She has made her wishes known and chosen her activities. About three weeks into this school year, I declared it was too much: homework, chess, karate, Spanish, ninja warrior, football, piano, trumpet, Girl Scouts. So I told her: take one thing off your schedule. And she did. I made some calls and she got hours back into her weekday schedule. This was the breathing room she needed. (Although she could cut three of her activities and still be fine.)

In May, I hit the wall. My school year was ending; my kid’s school year was ending. And there were about 10 more things added to the schedule that normal for Commencements, concerts, end-of-the-year gatherings. And grading. Don’t forget grading. I tend not to have many extra things in my schedule. I plan my days with downtime, but everything that’s there pretty much has to be there. But I hit the wall. I ran out of energy. My babysitter graduated (good for her; bad for me). I forgot to check the kid’s homework assignments. Long-schedule work travel arose. And I just couldn’t do all the things I was supposed to do. And I knew that whatever I took off was going to cost me time, money or health and I don’t have a super abundance of any of those. Nevertheless, I chose one thing. I needed some breathing room. So my morning workouts got left on the cutting room floor.

To be clear, this wasn’t an easy decision. My workouts are as much for my mental health as they are for physical health. My general fitness enables me to do all the other things I have to do in a day or in a week. I was going to feel the impact of cutting them out fairly immediately and it hurts way more to get started again than it does to stop. But something had to go.

I’m now thinking that I should be more proactive. Every May takes me out. I just run out of parenting, teaching, grading, commencement steam. And it’s always like this. So I might try taking something out in April to ease the May sting. Or adding something. It will, of course, cost time, money and/or health. But I’ve got almost a year to figure it out. Because … June brought reprieve. Everyone is out of school!

Have you ever had to do one less thing? When everything seems absolutely necessary and the loss will be felt? I’d love to hear about it.


Dr. Coleman is an ordained minister and professor at the University of Delaware and has earned degrees from Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Coleman is the co-host (along with writer Tananarive Due) of the popular webinar series Octavia Tried to Tell Us: Parable for Today’s Pandemic, addressing today’s most pressing issues with insights from Afrofuturist literature, process theology and community values.

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