For most of the country, yesterday was just another Tuesday, but in New Orleans and surrounding areas, it was Mardi Gras. I should know because my facebook feed is currently filled with pictures of my New Orleans friends whooping it up on the parade route.
A lot of people don’t realize this, but Carnival season officially begins on Twelfth Night (The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6) and lasts until the day before Ash Wednesday.
I lived in New Orleans for six years, and Mardi Gras parades there begin several weekends before Fat Tuesday. Parades roll the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights before the big day, and both daytime and nighttime parades abound on Saturday and Sunday. There are more parades Monday evening (Lundi Gras), followed by a full schedule on Mardi Gras Day, starting with Zulu, which rolls bright and early at 8 a.m.
I remember one year trying to rally for Zulu even though I was running on two hours of sleep and had either a hangover (and a sore throat from shouting), or what was the beginning of a terrible cold. I concocted myself a drink I called my “Mardi Gras Magical Mixture,” which consisted of Emergen-C, Diet Mountain Dew (for the caffeine), and vodka. Then I put on my costume and headed to the Quarter.
After living in New Orleans for a few years, I realized that I didn’t need to go to every single parade. The smart thing to do was to save energy for my favorites (Muses, Thoth, Bacchus), and make sure I had enough stamina to make it through Mardi Gras Day.
But that’s easier said than done, especially because, for the last three years of my New Orleans life, I lived one block off the parade route. I would be in my apartment, trying to read or write or organize my closet, when I’d hear the sounds of high school marching bands and jubilant cheering. Anxiety would strike: people were having fun without me! I was missing out on potentially cool floats! Half the time, I couldn’t stand the thought of missing out, so I’d pull on a coat, pour a cocktail in a to-go cup, and head out to Saint Charles Avenue to whoop it up with everyone else.
This is probably the reason why I, without fail, came down with terrible post-Mardi-Gras illnesses every single year. You can’t do it all, and when you try, your body tends to rebel.
Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m much more okay with missing out on fun. In fact, I usually prefer staying at home reading to whooping it up out on the town. But I sometimes still suffer from the desire to want to do it all.
Currently, my baby is five weeks old and requires a lot of attention (and rightly so!), which means the amount of time I have to do other things is quite limited. I have a stack of books I want to read. I have stories I want to write. I have projects I want to complete. I have all these postnatal yoga classes and crybaby movies I want to attend. And sometimes I feel frustrated when a day goes by and all I’ve managed to accomplish is feeding and bathing myself and the baby.
But the thing is, you can’t do it all, nor should you even try. I’ll never read all the books I want to read. I’ll probably only attend a fraction of the baby-and-me yoga classes the DC area has to offer. And that’s okay.
You can’t pursue every idea either, which can be hard for us creative-types to understand. New ideas are exciting (so bright and shiny!), but chances are high that I won’t be able to write every book or story I’ve ever thought about writing. Better to focus my energy on the strongest ideas (or the ones I feel strongest about) than to chase every single thought that goes marching through my brain.
Just because you can’t do it all, doesn’t mean you can’t do something worthwhile. For now, I’m going to stay home with my baby and enjoy the small parade of miracles she performs for me every day. And if I get to sneak in a few minutes of reading or writing or whooping it up every now and then — well, all the better!