Reading & Life Slump

November 20, 2019

Thus far, I have read 32 books in 2019.

sneak peak at the first half of my list

However, since the end of September, I have only read two (and one was out of obligation, for the Residency Book Club).

I am not sure what I’ve been doing with my time that isnt reading books, but it isn’t:

  • watching TV
  • spending time with my husband
  • sleep

I honestly don’t even think it’s Instagram (!), so it’s a bit mysterious. It could be my half marathon training program, but I’m not really running or exercising that much more than I was before. Or journaling/writing in my planner. Or work projects (grand rounds, residency interviews, leading meetings, patient care). Or writing 30 blog posts (except that was September, and I managed to read 5 books that month).

I started All The Fun I Ever Had and . . . I couldn’t get into it. But I’m not sure if it’s the book. It might be me. It may be fairly evident already, but I have been really kind of blah lately, and not looking forward to much. My ‘low’ phase of previously noted hormonal mood swings seems to have expanded to fill up most of the month. I have been fully functional, but not very happy. My daily job responsibilities require a display of enthusiasm and energy (real or fake, seriously, it might as well be in the job description) and it’s been exhausting putting up that front. The myriad holiday events looming in my planner are filling me with a sense of dread rather than pleasant anticipation. I have not been able to keep up my fake-sunny disposition after arriving home, which is probably frustrating to Josh. Hopefully the kids have not noticed too much.

All that to explain why I am going to an appointment tonight to try to be proactive about this. (Or at least more proactive than I have been). This is usually one of my favorite times of year, and I do not want to let the days slip by in this mode.

I may also just need a vacation, but quite honestly I think it’s more than that. Also, we don’t have one on the horizon for quite some time. Josh is working most of the kids’ winter break this year (he is off on the day of Christmas/Christmas eve + Thanksgiving though). We will likely go to NC as a family in March but . . . that is March! I do have couple of random days off in early December with childcare so maybe I will try to make those as relaxing and rejuvenating as possible.

Note on childcare: Thus far, our shift in G’s hours has been great. Nights have been calmer and I have been able to give A&C the homework attention they need (and got to help them practice piano, too). We are scheduling things out on a week to week basis, and are very lucky that for the most part, she is flexible so if a child is sick or both Josh and I have early work meetings, she can just come earlier on that particular day.

I was remarking to Laura (we were pod recording last night!) that we should have made that shift earlier, but really we couldn’t have until moving here and getting G settled in school. It’s a good reminder to remember to reassess your childcare needs from time to time — things change a lot as kids grow!


  • Reply Kaye November 20, 2019 at 7:11 am

    I feel like Laura might suggest tracking your time for a week to help solve the mystery of the disappearing reading time! ๐Ÿ™‚

    This is such an overwhelming time of year. I always feel the same- stressed about how I will fit everything in that needs to happen before now and the end of the year, but also feeling guilty/sad because like you, I love this time of year, the music, the decorations, the traditions… I WANT to be enjoying it, not stressing! I almost feel a sense of pressure to make sure I do truly enjoy it, somehow, as well as making sure my whole family enjoys it! But, it’s a lot to fit in on top of our normal daily activities. I wish work just closed down for the month of December. Haha!

  • Reply Sarah November 20, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Sarah, I am hoping that your appointment tonight might be a counselor or something to help w your life slump. To an outsider you seem to have lost your zest for life. I am a NP and I realize how difficult it is to put on your peppy, happy face for patients when you are struggling. Also, maybe you need to plan some time away or a trip to look forward too? A few days off alone at home or trip w Josh or a friend? Something to fill your reserves until March time off.

  • Reply Rebecca November 20, 2019 at 9:02 am

    I have a book recommendation. The book is Fleishman Is in Trouble and it’s about themes that you often cover on the podcasts–modern motherhood and female ambition. The protagonist is also a doctor. I hope things get better for you soon.

  • Reply Alyssa November 20, 2019 at 9:12 am

    I’m really grateful for your online honesty because I think that people facing jobs are so tough, and it’s even harder when you have to have constant empathy. So glad to hear you’re planning to dig into it tonight and hoping your tank feels full soon!
    Re- time and reading. Just my 2 cents but maybe it’s OK? Maybe in December you could choose to shift focus to be a little less on “I read x books” (or whatever the stressful metric is) and more on “I’m not totally sure what I accomplished but I was generally happy”. But, if reading is a metric that reflects overall happiness, I totally get why you’d want to pay attention to it. Just food for thought, I’m aware that’s unsolicited advice ๐Ÿ™‚
    If you just need a book rec, I tore through “The Huntress” and “The Alice Network” both by Kate Quinn (historic fiction).

  • Reply Erica S November 20, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Great job being proactive and seeing a therapist. The two times I’ve gone to therapy have been in Nov – Dec. This has gone from my most favorite time of year to my least, actually. My husband and I both have Dec birthdays, I always have to travel to a clinical conference the first weekend of Dec (that often interferes with said birthdays, and makes me miss a whole weekend of holiday events with my kids). I also feel like November is particularly hard – 3 teacher workdays, lots of day and evening events for school, the time change, and the cold sets in. I also have a lot on my plate at work (2 paper revisions due, waiting to hear back on 2 grants, and writing my first R01) so I feel like I can’t really lean into the holiday fun without a tremendous amount of (self-imposed) guilt.

    Make sure you’re reading something you want to read and let yourself quit! I’m really enjoying The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (same author as Daisy Jones and the Six, which i know you liked!). It’s a fun read without feeling like I’m wasting my mind/time on drivel.

  • Reply Marthe November 20, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Iโ€™m so with you! PMDD โ€”> extended slump โ€”> therapist. Right in the middle of it now and itโ€™s hard. But doable, I suppose. It must be. Because Iโ€™m a mom, right? (Thatโ€™s what I mean by hard.) Good luck!!!!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns November 20, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Hang in there. It’s good that you recognized that you are in more than just a temporary funk and need to talk to someone about it. That’s natural and healthy and you are modeling healthy behavior for your readers! I’ve gone through slumps like yours and find it really helps to talk to an impartial third party. You are more apt to take their suggestions and feedback because they have no agenda besides getting you in a better place.

    I think there are times and seasons where we just read less. Especially if you aren’t feeling great. I read less than usual in October as sadly had a miscarriage. ๐Ÿ™ Usually reading provided comfort but I just didn’t have the motivation or attention span. Plus we were preparing for a move/preparing to sell our house so there was just a lot going on and a lot on my mind. Things have picked up in November. I also find that reading really good books helps with the slump so I am trying to be better about giving up things that aren’t a good fit. Maybe you need to read something lighter right now, like “The Girl He Used to Know” or “Evvie Drake Starts Over” (I can’t remember if you read that from the MMD SRG).

    • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) November 20, 2019 at 1:43 pm

      I’m so sorry to read about your miscarriage, Lisa! Big hugs from South Africa xx

      • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns November 21, 2019 at 10:24 am

        Thank you, I appreciate the virtual hugs! Miscarriages are so hard emotionally and physically! ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) November 20, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Sarah! I’m so proud of you for organising your appointment so quickly.

    It sounds like you’re doing what you can with childcare, etc. to support you. May I suggest a few books? I was also in a reading slump in Sept/ October and my trick now (this was year 2 of reading slump at the same time) is to read a mystery to get me wanting to read fast. I read The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth (you enjoyed the Mother-in-Law, as did I) but I also want to recommend a novella by Taylor Jenkins Read called Evidence of the affair (you’ll read in one sitting, but is so satisfying).

    Hugs to you too!

    • Reply Alyssa November 21, 2019 at 12:00 am

      ooh seconding Evidence of the Affair!!

  • Reply Allison November 20, 2019 at 4:56 pm

    I got a lot from this book despite lots of experience with therapy etc. Maybe worth picking up?

  • Reply omdg November 20, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    I really don’t have anything useful to add other than, yes — putting on a fake happy face is exhausting. I find talking to people all day exhausting too (although I also often find my job as an anesthesiologist isolating and lonely as well). I am sorry you’re having a tough time these days. *Virtual hug*

  • Reply Sharon November 20, 2019 at 6:52 pm

    Thank you for your honesty- it is so helpful to all of us out there who are also struggling. I had postpartum depression with both of my kids, and it was life changing to start therapy and medication. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing when you are a parent.

  • Reply Kersti November 20, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    Just a quick thought–Have you tried to lower your goals/expectations for yourself and others? I am working on this right now, and it is suprisingly effective. I’m not throwing my goals out the window completely–just reducing them to a more easily achievable level. I think Laura has written about this before.

    • Reply Kaye November 21, 2019 at 7:16 am

      I love this. I’m a total “over goal setter.” I get so frustrated with myself then when I don’t meet the goals I set for myself. For example. I have been trying to incorporate meditation into my daily life for a long time and it seems it always slips away, even if I try to set goals of just 5-10 minutes. I wonder if I literally just committed to doing something like ONE MINUTE of meditation and deep breathing a day for a month or something super easy- maybe it would at least get it established and I could feel good about it!

      • Reply Kersti November 21, 2019 at 1:02 pm

        Glad it was helpful! James Clear recommends starting a new habit with 2 minutes of time. Other ways I’ve read or thought of to deal with inability to achieve a goal:
        1. Determine if you actually want or have to do the thing you are trying to do.
        2. Determine if you want to do it now, or at a later time in life. (Life is long and unless you are elderly or have a terminal illness, you really don’t need to “carpe diem.” Sometimes its actually more satisfying to put things off for later. For example, I wish I hadn’t pursued my goal of having a great wardrobe in college. If I had been patient and saved that goal for later, I would have had a good chunk of money in my savings.)
        3. Is there something you can do to make it more enjoyable or easier?

        (The Apple Watch also has a Breathe app for one minute of meditation…it buzzes rhythmically as a signal to inhale.)

      • Reply omdg November 21, 2019 at 2:24 pm

        This has been helpful for me as well! With my work, I always get frustrated with minor setbacks because I know that it will take days to weeks to iron things out, but… I think maybe if I come to terms with the idea that setbacks are just part of the process, and fundamentally I just need to keep plugging away a bit at a time, I will feel less anxious and frustrated when they occur. Similar sentiments with exercise and eating better. I think sometimes I just need to be more patient with myself and others.

  • Reply Marie November 20, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Proud of you for setting up an appointment, and thank you for sharing with us so bravely and matter-of-factly.

    A small thing, but on the book front — when I get in a slump, I pull out an old favorite and re-read that. For you maybe you need a re-read of Crazy Rich Asians? For me, I’d grab Harry Potter, or something similarly light and familiar. I think the act of reading and remembering how enjoyable it can be is more important than always reading new things… even though that isn’t always my default as a list-loving person!

  • Reply LEE A HILLHOUSE November 20, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    I hope you get to feeling much better soon, Sarah.

  • Reply Jessica November 20, 2019 at 11:56 pm

    I have been feeling similarly, and I realized for me it is paying too much attention to the news. I think it is good to be informed, but it is taking an emotional toll on me. Every day there is something new.

    I also am done having babies and comfortable with that decision, but my baby isnโ€™t a baby anymore and that has been an adjustment.

  • Reply Amanda November 21, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Thanks for sharing so honestly. I had a busy fall work season, and used a couple of vacation days recently (w/ childcare!) for some self care. Mostly catching up on appointments, but included a haircut! I had lunch with one of my kids at preschool since I had missed his b-day + Halloween, trick or treating, etc. and planned a date with my spouse.

    That helped me and I think it is important to step back from the grind, not rush for a few days, and rejuvenate when you have a chance. My two days really gave me some perspective.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.