Whewwww lordy. We made it. It’s Friday. 

I live in Austin TX. You may be aware, there is this thing in Austin called SxSW. It’s a music/tech/film/food extravaganza. It’s an orgy of celebrities, artists, musicians, lanyard badges, wristbands, RSVP mania, and pop-ups. (Not literally an orgy, though I wouldn’t be surprised if by 2017 there is a SxSSex to add to the events.)

For someone like me, who tends to waffle between fomo (fear of missing out) and lomo (love of missing out), trying to figure out what I want to go to and want I want to skip is like trying to navigate a complicated emotional landscape. 

(If you’ve been reading these for a while, you know I have a talent for making anything, no matter how ultimately enjoyable or fun or meaningless or trivial or whatever, a complicated emotional landscape. That’s me, the Bob Ross of emotional landscape painting.)

I’m also having a very busy spring. Are you having a very busy spring? This is when things start to heat up, both climatically and calendarily (I just made up that word).

Truth is, I don’t really need to be going to anything, because I have a fat stack of juicy work I am in the middle of that requires a lot of focus, time, and attention.

So, naturally, this is when one of my virtue disguises rears its confusingly pretty head. 

What am I talking about?

What in the hell is a virtue disguise?

It’s something I made up (naturally), based on something Anais Nin said,

“I was always ashamed to take. So I gave. It was not a virtue. It was a disguise.”

A virtue disguise is something you do that looks good from the outside, but is doing not so great things to your insides. It’s what you hide behind, that looks all noble, or generous, or work ethic-y, but is actually obcuring how you really feel about things, what you know to be true about what need or want. 

Nin was hiding the shame of taking behind the act of giving.

I do that sometimes with giving. Do you?

So what’s my virtue disguise this week?

I call it One More Thing Syndrome.*

As in, “I’ll just do one more follow-up email/outline/presentation piece/ten minutes that turns into an hour of work, so I’m more prepared for tomorrow.”

As in “I’ll just try to squeeze in one more thing before I leave the house, or between appointments.”

As in,  “Sure, I want to do that, sign me up! it’s just one more thing, I can handle this.”

Um, except, quick question–can I handle this? Does handling it look like the house is a wreck, not exercising (unless you count moving from the bed to the couch to the desk), living off tacos and veggie hotdogs (food I would eat all the time if I could, honestly), and staying up waaay too late for my sleep-loving self? Does it?! 

My point here is I don’t have time to be squeezing in “one more thing.” I am not meeting my bare minimum habit needs–eating, sleeping, daydreaming, cleaning up after myself.

(Yes, daydreaming/mind unwinding is a baseline habit for me. It probably is for you, too, if you didn’t already know that.)

Point is, I don’t need to be adding more to what I’m doing, even if I really want to be doing it.

If I can’t fit it into my schedule without making myself crazy, I need to do some rearranging, not just adding. 

And yet, adding one more thing is so appealing to me. It does feel virtuous! 

Why do I do it? What am I hiding from?

Well part of what I’m hiding from is the reality that I’m human. That I can’t bend the rules of space and time. That I won’t be able to do everything on my list to its fullest capacity. That is hard for me as a perfectionist in perfectionism recovery. (Have you noticed us perfectionists like to say we are in perfectionism recovery but only we can tell the difference between before and after–everyone around us is like “you still seem pretty tightly wound over there….”?)

In other words, it’s usefully impossible to maximize everything when you are running breathlessly from thing to thing, email to email. 

It also means I don’t have to choose, to prioritize, to let myself or others down (in that moment).

So when I take on one more thing over and over again (whether it’s meeting someone for a weeknight hang when I really need that time to unwind, or it’s being so tired but just trying to eke out one more email before I go to bed), I force my own hand. Now things really can’t be perfect. Now I am packed to the gills with things I am doing and my attention and standards are even more scattered.

Perfectionism loves it when you show up half-distracted, half out the door–because then if your results aren’t great (which, they probably won’t be), you can blame it on your (self-created) circumstances and not on yourself. 

It’s a neat trick, in a way, to get around perfectionism by giving yourself so many things to do that you can’t possibly do them all perfectly.

It’s “neat” in the way that insomnia curing you of grinding your teeth while you sleep is “neat.”

Speaking of teeth, I don’t know why it’s hard for me to remember that when I bite off more than I can chew, “one more thing” is the last thing I need. 

But it’s true. I don’t need one more thing, I need one less thing. Or about five less things. Sometimes it means doing one more thing that is taking care of yourself instead of one more thing that pushes whatever project you’re working on forward. Sometimes it means giving up things that you really want to do because you committed yourself to doing something else. Sometimes it means lowering your expectations of what you can take on. 

How can you tell if the thing you’re doing is a “one more thing” virtue disguise? Mostly if it leaves you feel drained, exhausted, depleted, after you’re done. 

So, today, instead of spending the afternoon one more thinging myself at the end of a very long string of “one more things” week, I am going to rest. I am going to pick up my clothes that I’ve been flinging all over the furniture, do the dishes in the sink, and take a nap. I am going to wake up to a clean house, cook myself real food, and probably read something totally decadent, like an entire New Yorker article. 

Maybe you don’t suffer from One More Thing Syndrome. Maybe your virtue disguise is something completely different. Doesn’t matter, you can approach it in the same way–find out what you’re hiding from, lovingly bring that to light, take a nap, eat good food, treat yourself well. 


*Pro-tip: Did you know that one cause of chronic tardiness is One More Thing Syndrome? It’s where you think you can get more done in the time you have before you have to be somewhere, so you add one more thing–an email, an errand–and then make yourself late. It only took me about 28 years to figure that out and solve it. The solution for me, is that when I am tempted to squeeze something in between two other appointments on my calendar and I have less than an hour to do it, I probably can’t, so I don’t. That switch solved most of my chronic lateness problems, and now I tend to get places early and with enough time to relax like a boss.
PS–if you know someone who suffers from One More Thing Syndrome or has their very own Virtue Disguise, pleases share this to them–maybe we can throw a costume ball where we all wear our virtue disguises to the event and then throw them into a fire once we arrive. Burn it with fire!  

If you are said potential Virtue Disguise Costume Ball attendee, and you want to get my love notes in your inbox without having them forwarded to you, then subscribe here

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