Illustration: Luciano Lozano/ Getty Images

1. You have a gas-station bathroom moment.

Somehow, it happens. It's dark out (or sunny). You're traveling (or on the way to work or a first date or an interview). You pull frantically into the gas station, run into the bathroom and try to slap on 35 minutes of makeup in five minutes, with an evil, yellow, single-watt bulb as the only light. Or you try to scrub away the impossible stain on your blouse. Or you rip off that blouse and try to breast-pump over the tiny sink, which may or may not have an outlet nearby. True, gas-station bathrooms don't usually have mirrors. But they do have chrome paper-towel dispensers (with no paper towels). On that scratched, dull service, a version of yourself is reflected and that version is saying, "This pace is not sustainable."

2. Both clerks at the wine store know your name.

3. You spend longer hours at work—but don't get more done.

How's that possible? Uh, look at your office environment. When co-workers are rude, unkind and disrespectful in a workplace, women tend harder, found a recent study at the University of New England. It might be time to act like a man—or at least like the men in this particular study—and just leave.

4. You know how to turn the lights on in every hotel room.

Including the one with a master switch in the hall which controls the bedroom light and/or the bathroom light and/or the two bedside table lights. Except when it doesn't—which you can tell in one glance, while still holding the handle of your roller bag. Perhaps initially, you saw this as a triumph. You had mastered a skill. The next 7,892 trips for work, you thought, were going to be so much easier. Then you thought...wait a minute...7,892 more trips?

5. People frequently ask you, "How do you do it all—all the time?"

If somebody asks you this, I'm going to assume you look happy and well-adjusted. (If you looked tired and frantic, nobody would ask you; they'd be afraid to add to your duress, and assume that you have not found a life balance to imitate). Maybe you are, in fact, rocking it all. Or maybe you are like me, and have a face that has been frozen in the "rocking it" expression since 1989. So I'm going to take a risk and just say it: If you are doing it all, you are not rocking it all, all of the time. You may rock it all some of the time. Or you may rock some of it all of the time. But you can't be superstartastic at everything at every moment. If people perceive you in this manner—they have not seen those other moments when you crack at the seams and, say, run around the house with filthy lint off the dryer filter accusing small children and—why the heck not, stuffed animals—of trying to set the house on fire. In other words—and I speak from mortifying experience—there is probably a disconnect between your outside self and your inside self; the more people think the outside one is running the show, the more you need to end this particular show. (Feel free to curtsy on your way off the stage.)

6. You have a touch moment.

You're at the end of a yoga class, lying on a mat, doing your corpse relaxation position (breathe, breathe) when your teacher approaches. Very gently she adjusts your arm and legs, then places a hand on your forehead, and you burst into tears. Because, all of a sudden, you remember how wonderful it is to be touched. And how long it's been.

7. You get weepy about Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel.

Or any other celebrity breakup or divorce. Because yes, Taye and Idina were together for 10 years and starred in a Broadway show. She sang on Frozen; he shone on Private Practice and they made an insanely beautiful baby.

From the pictures, they look like kind people. Real. In Love. Until...gulp...they, all of a sudden, weren't and split up, which still upsets you, right? I mean, what is going on in the world these days? Sobsniffleblownose. Which is right when you need to ask yourself: Honey, what's going on with your world?

Still Points North

Leigh Newman is the deputy editor at and the author of Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown Up World, One Long Journey Home.


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