Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 3

Or: Whelmed and Overwhelmed and Force Majeure, Oh My!

My experiences are not the same as yours. The specific things I’ve dealt with in life are not the same. That said, I’ve learned some things the hard way and some of these things might be useful.


Learning how to leave space for force majeure has been the difference between “as whelmed as I want to be” and “constantly tipping into overwhelmed.”

I’m sure there’s a specialist in the Latin language somewhere who could (and would be welcome to) chime in with the precise definition and the evolution of the term, but force majeure in common use tends to mean “a huge destructive thing out of everyone’s control that might happen and totally derail someone’s ability to keep plans or fulfill commitments in a way that the-royal-we would understand.”

I mostly see the term in entertainment contracts. Probably because I actually read those, unlike most terms of service agreements.

My own personal force majeure-albatross is called a uterus and ovaries. Menstruation is so irregular for me that referring to it as a cycle feels kind of absurd, and from what I understand my periods are atypically vicious.

(If you’re thinking about suggesting I try _____ or _____ or _____, seriously thank you but I can almost guarantee I’ve already tried it. Since I’m only bringing my bloody angst up to use as an example, let’s skip all that and proceed to my point.)

After a certain amount of post-pubescent life experience, it became my responsibility to plan for the fact that my body will—with an unpredictable sort of regularity—do wacky stuff to my hormones (and therefore temperament) and sometimes make it impossible to, like, stand up.


Now for the “BUT HOW?”

I know that in two calendar months it is reasonable to expect between 2 and 6 “period events” of unpredictable duration and severity, and that I can expect to lose an average of three weeks to the total of those period events.

I keep a google calendar and a ribbon with a bunch of bits of paper pinned to it, both of which are visual representations of my schedule, and I make sure to leave three weeks worth of blank space in each set of two months. On my “good” days I make sure to do literally everything I can, so things are less likely to burst into metaphorical flames when I’m otherwise occupied.

(And when I say literally I mean Merriam-Webster’s #1 definition, not the exaggeration one.)


If you think I’m about to compare the Trump administration to an extra-awful case of PMS+cramps, you’re correct:

It has been 21 days since J20 (or, inauguration day) and a truly stunning amount of horrific executive orders have come down from the White House.

Whether you conceive of how much you can handle at once as a metaphorical plate, a bucket for containing bullshit, or a piece of ribbon with a bunch of bits of paper stuck to it, it might be useful to leave extra space for what can only be predicted as continued unpredictability.


This is posted under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Also published on Medium.

2 Replies to “Surviving the Spraytanpocalypse, Part 3”

  1. Force majeure, actually being french and not Latin, in a literal sense translates to “superior force”. Since it’s generally used to absolve parties of blame for hurricanes or earthquakes, I suppose it could be taken as something akin to “force of nature” or “act of nature”.

    French common law have 3 checks that must be passed for something to be considered Force Majeure:

    1. Externality
    The defendant must have nothing to do with the event’s happening.

    2. Unpredictability
    If the event could be foreseen, the defendant is obligated to have prepared for it. Being unprepared for a foreseeable event leaves the defendant culpable.

    3. Irresistibility
    The consequences of the event must have been unpreventable.

    The Latin translation would be “vis major” the legal term for “act of God”, even if force majeure and vis major both translates to “superior force”.

    There are some legal nuances between the two in most case law but I think that might be a bit outside what I originally intended this comment to be. 🙂

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