Day 135: Analysis Paralysis

July 28, 2020
among other things

Guilt about privilege.

Guilt about working.

Guilt about not working hard enough.

Guilt about sending the kids to school.

Guilt about having in home care.

Guilt about finding it all painful anyway.

Guilt about not “having to work” but working anyway.

Guilt about having guilt.

Guilt that I am not directly caring for COVID patients.

Guilt that I just want a break.

Guilt because many people never get a break.

Guilt about time wasted reading comment sections.

Sadness about all of the guilt.

Anxiety about what other have to say about my guilt.

Guilt and shame for ranting about the guilt.

I may need to take a break from this series.


  • Reply Theresa July 28, 2020 at 10:34 am

    I am not feeling a ton of guilt. I look for help and try and be great full. I also look for ways to help others. If I am saying thank you and how can I help than guilt is not needed.

    • Reply Katie Gregory July 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm

      We are all doing out best. If you need a break, take it! I admit, checking your blog is part of my routine but I will deal if you take a break 😉
      I feel guilty for complaining. The pandemic has been a big inconvenience but the health of my immediate family (even the high risk, knock on wood) and our income has not been negatively impacted.
      We live in a moderately impacted state and have been doing our best to be safe.

  • Reply Sam@Eye to Wonder July 28, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Analysis paralysis is the worst. I’m sorry that today guilt feels heavy, and I hope that you find a way to get a break.

  • Reply Jen July 28, 2020 at 10:39 am

    Definitely take a break if you need it.

    Also, if you need to hear – you are doing great. This is all a part of this time. It’s okay not to have it figured out and to have competing and opposite thoughts and feeling at the exact same time.

    So hard right now.

  • Reply Taryn July 28, 2020 at 10:42 am

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been struggling with guilt. As much as I love your daily blog posts, 135 is an impressive streak and I don’t think anyone would blame you for taking a break. Thanks for always being open and authentic!

  • Reply Connie C July 28, 2020 at 10:55 am


  • Reply Natka July 28, 2020 at 10:56 am

    Reading your blog is a highlight of my morning. It’s become part of my COVID-19 routine. Breakfast, work, then reward (ie, reading your daily post). Sometimes, on rough mornings, reward first, then everything else.

    Thank you for posting. Thank you for being open, honest, and vulnerable.

    Hang in there.

  • Reply gwinne July 28, 2020 at 10:56 am

    FWIW, I’d hate for you to leave this series, because it’s honest and I appreciate your take on things. But I do understand that impulse.

    I mean this entirely without judgment: I don’t understand what you have to feel “guilty” about. Ambivalence, yes. But guilt implies that you think you’ve done something wrong….

  • Reply Kathy July 28, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Thanks for your post. There is no “right answer” in this situation. I wonder if this is a particularly big change in mindset for high-achieving women. We got to where we are by knowing “the right answer.” But when there is no right answer, it gives me the freedom to let go of “right” or “perfect.” Instead, we can try to use the information we have to make loving, thoughtful decisions that work for our lives and our families. Remember – we have never worked through a pandemic. We’ve never raised kids in a pandemic with school closures. Many caregivers have never gone this long without a break. We’re learning as we go, and learning necessarily involves mistakes and course corrections. Take good care.

    • Reply Lori C July 28, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Well said!

  • Reply Kate July 28, 2020 at 11:38 am

    This reader thinks you are doing great in circumstances that unequivocally suck. Your work is valuable and important. Do what you need to do. There is no single “right” way to live and work right now, and anyone who says so is suffering from an acute failure of imagination.

  • Reply Melanie July 28, 2020 at 12:00 pm

    I want you to know I feel like this is only blog I read that is keeping it real during these unusual times. Thank you for that!!

    • Reply Michele July 28, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      I absolutely agree. Thank you, Sarah!

    • Reply Nicole July 29, 2020 at 6:22 pm

      I agree with Melanie! Your blog is so authentic and I love it, but I also totally understand taking a break when needed. Sending you lots of grace and self-compassion!!

    • Reply LEE July 29, 2020 at 11:20 pm

      I completely agree with Melanie.

  • Reply jjiraffe July 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    I’m just a Random Internet Stranger, but I wanted to send you a virtual hug. This is a terrible time. We’re in a pandemic! It’s OK to feel big emotions.

    I understand why you might want to suspend this series, although it’s been a highlight for me and many. Stating anything publicly about our lives feels risky and scary right now. The issues of the day threaten to divide us all, and there is so much anger, fear, guilt and defensiveness being felt and expressed from pretty much every level of society. So, if a public-facing individual says or does the wrong thing, it is possible they could be “cancelled” and their career and/or reputation could suffer.

    I wish we could all be a bit more forgiving, both with ourselves but also others. No one is perfect, but right now it doesn’t seem like anything but perfect judgements, in actions and statements, will be tolerated. Yet, all of us regular people are making decisions on the fly with sketchy imperfect information that can change at a moment’s notice.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this series, for however long you choose to write it. It’s been a bright light in a dark world.

  • Reply A. July 28, 2020 at 12:09 pm

    Probably having a blog and being in the public eye puts a lot of additional pressure. Especially if you’re a person who’s initially setting the bar very high. Lets’s say, just by sharing your lists here, for example, it puts a pressure on the accomplishments/objectives. Maybe indeed you should take a break, just to see how you feel without that public eye, to see if the guilt or the demands on yourself decrease. In my opinion, you deserve this pause, this silence, this absence of incessant echoes on your life choices (I would be unable to blog personally, I wouldn’t want this look on me and I wouldn’t want to know what others think about my life, my views/attitude, my children’s education, etc.). Take care!

  • Reply Jenn July 28, 2020 at 12:23 pm

    I think everyone is feeling the need for a break right about now and it would probably feel good to take it! (I know you read lagliv as you are how I found her and she just wrote a post about needing a break too!) We’ll miss you but you gotta take care of yourself! 🙂

  • Reply Anna H. July 28, 2020 at 12:26 pm

    All of the above. Take a break if you need it. You are allowed. Thanks for writing the 135 posts and take care of yourself and by doing so, of your loved ones. Big hug.

  • Reply omdg July 28, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    I love your daily posts, but I hear you on the guilt with the time spent on comments (both the emotional energy, and also engaging with and replying to people). You don’t want to know what my screen time numbers were yesterday. It’s easy to say to cut yourself some slack, but honestly, I think that’s what you need to do. We ALL need to embrace the idea that striving for social justice is an inherently imperfect science, nobody can imagine what it’s like to be another person — though we should all try — and it is super easy to throw stones.

    Just keeping putting one foot in front of the other. In the words of Amber Calabrese, YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. 😉

    (You don’t want to know my screen time numbers lately….)

  • Reply CNM July 28, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    I, also, love reading your posts but I understand the need for a break.
    I have also been grappling with guilt around … well… everything. All decisions seem wrong on some level and there is no clearly “correct” answer (particularly around schooling and taking care of children with two full time working parents). I think I need to step away from the news and think-pieces for a while and continuing doing what I have been, volunteering/social justice-wise.

  • Reply Natalie July 28, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    Sarah you are amazing and I’m sorry you are feeling guilty. Your posts have been incredibly helpful as another working mom– this isn’t to pressure you to continue if you want to step back, but to let you know I so appreciate all you have put out there during the pandemic. This is such a hard time with so many uncertainties, please know that what you are doing both as a physician and a mom is important and you are inspiring to so many others out there.

  • Reply Nikki July 28, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    I saw this posted on Maria Shriver’s IG today and saved it, here’s to having a day!: “I know you’re sad, so I won’t tell you to have a good day. Instead I advise you to simply have a day. Stay alive, feed yourself well, wear comfortable clothes and don’t give up on yourself just yet. It’ll get better. Until then, have a day. -Unknown”

  • Reply rose July 28, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for all the blogs. You help lots of people this way through this time. Thank you for going to work and allowing medical care to continue even for non-covid problems. Thank you for doing your best for your children as our children are the future of this country and this world. You are doing a really good job and are so grounding in reality and the present moment.

  • Reply Irene July 28, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    I hate that you are feeling any of those things. I don’t blame you at all because the world sucks sometimes but for goodness sake how have we gotten to a place that a doctor feels guilt for her life saving work and trying to do her best to help her family at the same time. But I do get it because I feel many of the same things and while I am not a doctor I believe my kid worthwhile and helps people.

    You do whatever you need to do. I would not be brave enough to put up with comments on my life choices under the best of circumstances let alone as fragile as I feel right now.

    My mantra (when I am able to remember) is that guilt doesn’t help any one. It’s good to be aware of your privilege but ruminating on how you are ungrateful does nothing. I don’t have much to give right now in terms of time or energy but the best I have felt was after giving a large donation to UNICEF. We give regularly to several causes but giving extra is the best way I’ve found to deal with guilt in a productive way. I have been meaning to donate to my local food bank and promise I will do it today after this semi self righteous comment. 😀

    Best of luck to you and your beautiful family. Thanks for all you do.

  • Reply Rinna July 28, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    Dear Sarah – I want to say a few things: (a) it is normal and okay to have all the feels right now (actually, it’s okay to have feelings whenever, but it’s a particularly difficult and confusing time right now); (b)my feelings (and life experience) mirror yours in a lot of ways, so I feel like I can very much relate to much of what you are describing…you are not alone in this; (c) if you need a break, take one. I, for one will miss your posts a lot, but I’ll be here waiting for when you return; (d) I love your authenticity and openness. In a world full of some much “fakeness” (is that a word?), it’s nice to find some people on the internet who are willing to be real. And having spoken to you on the phone once (back in the day when you were debating baby #3), I can say that you come across as just as open and authentic in real life. Although we don’t really know each other, I hope you know I’m rooting for you and feel that you are also rooting for us, your readers. Sending virtual hugs!

  • Reply Ali July 28, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Do you ever read Swistle’s blog? Your blog and hers are the only two I read daily. Anyhow, she says (I believe it’s her tag line) “I acknowledge my luckiness without giving up claim to the suckiness”—I think about that sometimes when I’m in a funk (yet overall have a great life). It’s okay to think that this season of life is hard and there are no good choices —because it IS hard and all the choices stink.

    All that to say—I don’t think you should feel guilty at all…but it can be hard to see that when you’re living it. Good luck getting it all sorted out and to a happier place.

  • Reply Alyce July 28, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    Have you considered journaling privately? When I’m feeling emotional overwhelm, journaling is the best tool I have to help me process my emotions, which are often complex and painful and contradictory and really fucking hard to acknowledge openly. But in having a place to be honest about how I’m feeling, it helps me to work through the emotional congestion and release the emotions from weighing on/crushing me. Some of your pandemic posts strike me as trying to process the emotions you’re experiencing, but that’s really hard (impossible?) to do in public with everyone watching. It’s not fair for you to expect that you can figure out all of this unfigureoutable shit in a public forum where you have to also present it in a socially palatable way.

    My journaling is super basic – just me and my favorite pen and a few sheets of loose leaf paper (no pretty notebooks or journals, which feel permanent and are intimidating when you know your emotions are an incoherent jumble and your writing will suck and not be something you want to hold onto, or would be too embarrassed to come back and re-read). I write until I’m tired of writing or I run out of time. And if there’s more than I want to say, I start again the next day. I just know when I’ve written everything that needed writing. If I’m especially backlogged emotionally, it can take me a couple of weeks of daily writing to work through and release all of the emotions weighing me down, but making it through the other side is priceless.

    Anyways, it’s just my unsolicited advice because I’m the sort of asshole who can’t help but weigh in. I’m really sorry to hear how distressed you are right now. I hope that it’s not an emotional state that you linger in for too long.

  • Reply Sarah K July 28, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Hugs from another doctor here, in Norway! I love reading your blog. I get the guilt feeling sometimes too. Like, I could stay home with my kids, and just live off my husband’s salary. The kids and the husband would love that. But I would be bored. So right now I compromise and work half-time but my career is very stagnated. Hang in there, do what feels right for you!

  • Reply Noemi July 28, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I’m glad you’re getting so much support in the comments. You deserve it. I really respect that you show up here every day, and write under your real name, about real things and real feelings. That is REALLY hard to do, harder than I think most people who just read and comment realize. I tried to write under my real name for a while and it didn’t last. I wasn’t brave enough. It takes a much bigger emotional toll to put yourself out there like that when the whole world knows who you are. I hope you recognize the very real courage it takes to do that, especially in a time like this.

    Do what you need to do. You don’t own anybody anything, least of all a continuation of this series.

  • Reply Kelsey July 28, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    Wise advice from my mom to me (an avid worrier) years ago: don’t feel guilty if you’ve done nothing wrong. And you’ve done nothing wrong! You acknowledge your privilege and you are making the best decisions for your family during a really hard, uncertain time. Ultimately guilt is not a productive feeling (which is not to invalidate your feelings at all but to offer another perspective) so perhaps channel those feelings into a recurring charitable donation and know that you are doing the best you can.

  • Reply Arden July 28, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    Hugs SHU. Didn’t read the comments but just hugs.

  • Reply Lori C July 28, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    We love you!!! Everyone seems respectful in the comments (which is a miracle these days) and I think we (meaning me and other readers) are all sharing the same emotions you feel. We can do this. We will do this. And we are blessed to have the schooling and medical resources we have in this country. We will be ok. Please don’t stop posting!

  • Reply Coco July 28, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    feel you! do what you makes you feel good. hugs

  • Reply Shelly July 28, 2020 at 5:41 pm

    I have really appreciated your openness, willingness to discuss hard things and sometimes the lighter things. I agree with comments above that rationally you should not feel guilty. During pandemic times anxiety and guilt are surfacing a lot and you should do whatever self care you need – a break included.
    Your job is important. You help kids everyday with the work you do.

  • Reply Danielle July 28, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    I understand the guilt. In March my employment temporarily shut down. But they made the decision that they could continue paying all of us for the time being. Some positions were given telework but for my position my telework just consisted of a few hours a week of online career development education and to keep in touch through my work email. All I had to do was stay home and my employer gave me my full paychecks, full benefits, and I even earned PTO while sitting around my house.

    I got that from mid March to late June. Been back to work in person for a month now. I am eternally grateful and practically no one would turn that situation down….. But the guilt was pretty bad.

  • Reply Katie July 28, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Sarah, I just want to thank you for sharing so much with all of us. Yours is one of only a few blogs I read anymore. Your writing makes me feel like I’m checking in with a friend each morning. And, I can’t wait for the debut of your planner podcast!

  • Reply Kjo82 July 28, 2020 at 7:26 pm

    I enjoy this daily blogging and totally understand the guilt. While other people are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table, I’m just struggling to manage my Covid anxieties together with my husband and I working our normal jobs (from home), nearly normal pay, slightly reduced nanny care (by our choice because of cost because we were previously part of a share). Always wondering if we’re making the right decisions (should we have our friend’s kid watched with ours, is it safe for us to use our parents for additional childcare, are they being as careful as us? The list goes on… and I live in a place where there were a whopping 23 cases in a province of over 5M today… but the worry is still there, because if we’re not careful the pandemic can still explode!)

  • Reply Jamie July 28, 2020 at 10:30 pm

    I love your blog and wanted to say thank you for doing this series! It’s so brave and I would imagine so hard right now. FWIW, I think a lot of us are desperately seeking normalcy and childhood magic for our kids. Unfortunately, whether you work or not won’t be determinative in that way. School challenges will school exist, the absence of a meaningful social life will still be painful, and many of the things that we all enjoyed before won’t return any sooner.

  • Reply Elizabeth July 29, 2020 at 12:17 am

    I wanted to also post a note of support to you during such a difficult time. I echo other commenters that you should absolutely do what’s best for you (and your mental health) w/r/t your daily posts. Two thoughts I had that I don’t think others have mentioned yet are both ideas I think I heard from Gretchen Rubin on her Happier Podcast:

    1. Wondering if you are in the midst of what I think she calls “tightening” which is when an Upholder increasingly imposes stricter and stricter parameters for herself. Often this can happen with a streak. I think it’s when the idea (maybe daily posting, in this case) overtakes you and becomes master of you rather than you of it. Like you are m:ade to feel powerless (eg, I don’t feel like posting but I said I would and now I HAVE TO no matter what–when, in fact, you can just decide not to post.)

    2. W/R/T guilt: like others, I am so sorry you are feeling it. But, I wonder if you can partially look at feelings of guilt like Gretchen suggests we do for feelings of jealousy: that is, use them to really examine their root cause and see if they could be useful to enact changes in your life. She shares that she used to be so jealous of friends who were professional writers, which helped her realize that SHE wanted to be a writer. I have heard guilt described as our emotions flagging that there is a disconnect between what is right/what we should be doing and what we are actually doing. This may be wildly off-base in your case, but an exercise I found useful in the past when feeling guilty was to write at the top of the page “I feel guilty because ___” (list just one thing), and then ask yourself “why?” and write the answer. Then ask “why?” again, and write the answer. And keep going until you can’t write any more. Usually something that I had no idea I was harboring inside revealed itself this way. It was really helpful to write it out by hand rather than typing, for some reason. Just an idea. I see so many of your recent musings over guilt about working and maybe it would help you to free yourself of that to try to uncover WHY you have this persistent nagging/guilt about it.

    Third thought, unrelated to GR:

    3. From your recent posts…you seem exhausted. 2.5 hour nap the other day. Disciplined 80 day fitness program. Feeling guilty about basically your entire life. It all kind of seems like you have been taking on a ton and maybe you just need a break. Are there any projects (could be your blog streak, or maybe hosting soon-to-be 2 (TWO!!!) podcasts, or something else entirely) that you don’t feel like doing? If so, maybe table them–FOR NOW–and try to use your mandatory one PTO day/week to actually rest? It’s the oxygen mask theory: you can’t assist others if you aren’t first taking care of yourself. There is NOTHING WRONG with taking some time off to rest and recover.

    Take care and be well. Know your readers respect you and care about you! Sending such a big, socially distant hug.

  • Reply Michelle Boggs July 29, 2020 at 11:40 am

    Guilt about reading comments section – could not agree more. Man, that is most soul sucking activity and I don’t know why I do it. Have you had difficulty sleeping after reading those? I know I have. I also have felt guilt about not working enough hours because I’m home alone with two toddlers while trying to work remotely. This is temporary until daycare reopens (I do not feel guilty for this) but working 35 hours per week instead of 45+ hours like my childless or male breadwinning coworkers makes me feel like an underachiever. I understand the ridiculousness of that last statement but we’re all just trying to get through this.

  • Reply Gervy August 2, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Hello, have been meaning to comment here for ages just to let you know that your blog is basically the only one I feel like reading since covid started. I subscribe to about 200 on Feedly and most of them sit there ignored. I love the fact that you keep things real around here. Also love anything planning related, so super-excited about your new podcast! Thanks for everything!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger August 2, 2020 at 7:32 am

      Thank you so much <3

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