Most people think I have my shit together. And on the surface, it certainly seems that way. I have a job that I enjoy that pays me a handsome wage, a happy and fulfilling relationship with Big D, two gorgeous and crazy little ones, a comfortable house, newish car, leather couch from IKEA that my dogs have not yet ripped apart, new Apple with a screen that goes on for miles. What else could a girl want?
Time to think, for one. I’m anal retentive and neurotic and a professional planner. That means I need to be organized and have a plan in place for everything – monthly bill-paying, home renovations, meal planning, you name it. And under the best of circumstances, I would take time out each week to update, manage, and assess the plans for efficiency. It’s a great system. Now if life would only let me use it.
Because even though I have my shit together, my spectral aura must be screaming out “Dump more stuff on her! She can take it! She’ll rise to the challenge!” So since I’ve become an adult, I’ve had to:
- move out of my parents’ house without their knowledge to maintain my sanity at age 17
- manage being the primary support for a suicidal relative
- see my father wither from Parkinson’s disease for over a decade
- marry someone I thought I knew, but didn’t – *really* didn’t
- care for a dying relative for three months while in graduate school
- put my then three-year-old son through a divorce (thankfully, an amicable one) and start out on my own all over again at age28
- deal with becoming unexpectedly pregnant five months into a new relationship
- manage my mother’s pitiful financial situation while my father lay dying
- integrate Big D into my household, which was interesting given our respective baggage
- pop out my second baby over nine pounds, without an epidural (or any wish to have one)
- have my mother spite me one more time by dying unexpectedly less than one year after my dad, on the day I was moving into my new house
- deal with three houses and three cars and two kids and two dogs for a solid six months
- and and and…
I haven’t had time to assess whether I’ve kept my shit together or not. Frankly, I’ve jumped from one crisis to the next, always reacting and trying to put out the next fire. 2008 was a particularly stressful year, because miss poopypants came along, I started an intensive leadership program, moved, lost my mother, and gained massive amounts of paper to push at work. I’m quick to cry when easily frustrated (though less now than six months ago), haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over a year, and am more or less caffeine-dependent after being off the stuff for a good six years. Hobbies? Don’t even remember what they were. Books? Good for the bathroom, and that’s about it. I can’t stop moving when I’m at home, for two reasons – 1) there’s always something to do, and 2) if I stop moving, I fall asleep. Thank goodness my biological clock is aching for more babies, otherwise I’d never have enough energy to get laid.
And yet I still expect more of myself. I expect that I can be a better partner, mother, employee, housekeeper, and do so while being thinner and eating healthier and cooking all meals at home and attempting to be frugal….. and I don’t know why. My expectations of myself and my abilities are still framed around my time in college, I think, when I took a tougher-than-average courseload, worked a part-time job and had an internship, and still had time to paint and go to flea markets on the weekends and plenty of time to navel-gaze. Why don’t I have any free time now? Why can’t I get the house cleaner? Why can’t I clean out the garage and finally park my car inside?
My expectations are probably the most excessive – and destructive – part of me. So maybe I shouldn’t obsess over every expensive drink I consume, for the money or for the caffeine level. Because when I cut back there, I compensate with sneaking old Halloween candy and coveting little d’s Easter bunny. Or if I cut back there, I can’t stop thinking about guacamole. My rewards for dealing with stress aren’t awful – a latte here or there is certainly better for me in the long term than drinking alone – but I’ve come to the conclusion that my high stress levels need to be the first thing to go. They are truly excessive and in the end, the most harmful thing for me. I’m working hard not to obsess about the sink full of dishes because the kids that dirtied them won’t be kids forever. The laundry on the bedroom floor is truly less important than enjoying the reason why it was tossed there. My family keeps me grounded, keeps me sane, and deserves my best – not half of my attention while my eye is on the dirty floor.