“Your OCD is showing!” a neighbor yelled to me on her daily stroll past my home. She’d caught me looking a little neurotic I’m sure, painting the freshly patched windowsills no one will ever notice. She couldn’t have known that this was just one task of many I had been ticking off in anticipation of selling the house that has been slowly wearing me down since I moved in. I was painting with purpose, damn it. But she called it. So this is how people see me, I thought. Determined, frenzied and maybe, just a little crazy. As if on cue, things I’d heard and held came to mind:
“Brooke, you only have one speed.” – Mom
“Your body has been in survival mode, and it shows.” – Doctor
“My counselor and I were talking about how I can’t sit still, and I thought of you!” – Friend
The things that people say, stick with us. And because we operate differently and see the world through our own unique lens, they can be very different from what we tell ourselves. I don’t like how I feel when I hear these things. And while these same words contain some good, it is my nature to focus instead on the negative aspects. Either way, these observations are not how I want to be seen, how I wish to be remembered or how I really want to live. On the other hand – these comments also stick:
“You may be on your own, but you are enough.” – Friend
“Be careful what you ask for. You usually get it.” – Family/Architect
“Man. When you decide to do something, you really go for it.” – Contractor who is now like family
Those words are positive and empowering, but the attributes they implicate can have a negative side. A day spent at the local ER with massive chest pains was an eye-opener and even more confirmation that life needed to be less stressful…immediately. As I sat next to an overdose patient waiting for my EKG results, I wondered if my attempt to embody Wonder Woman would end tragically in the crowded waiting room while my children sat at home expecting my return. Certainly, I didn’t intentionally wind up here anymore than my new friend Drunk Tank Tammy. Had I been completely ignoring my health, as I do with all my other needs? I knew I wasn’t blameless (cue voices again). Looking at Tammy, I realized she probably had a lot more fun getting here than I, and yet here we both were. Annoying.
Fortunately, my screens came back clean as a whistle, but it didn’t make the symptoms or experience any less real or less frightening. I had been forced to wonder if my kids would know how much I loved them. If I’d spent enough quality time with them, and I worried that they may have doubts about how important they were to me. Sadness, fear and insecurities flooded in and I was left thinking that they’d grow up questioning if I’d put them first.
That was my “aha moment” sitting right there in a row of nasty vinyl seats under horrible fluorescent lighting, I diagnosed my own illness and solidified my resolution to be DONE with the insane pace of my overachieving ass. It’s time for me to find purpose not in the pace, but in some peace. I realized I have been not only distracted, but exhausted by all the to-dos, bills and project management swirling around in my head.
Time for a simpler lifestyle so I can Namastayathome. I needed a home for my boys that is less project and more playtime, where living life is the focus and I could envision waving off the boys out the kitchen window as they hopped on their school buses.
I am done with trying to be all, have it all, do it all. Despite what “modern wisdom” tells us or whatever pop culture is pushing now, you cannot “do it all”. Something nearly always suffers. Something else has to give way and you never feel like you’re measuring up in all departments of life. Killing it at work, are you? P.S. Your family wants you home more. Celebrities succeed – but only with a team of nannies, housekeepers and chefs assisting them. Overly ambitious single moms just end up in ERs with episodes of angina. Take it from me, the dream of “doing it all” usually ends up more like a nightmare, if you’re doing it right.
Our lives don’t always end up looking like we envisioned them. Relationships fail, people come in and out of your life and plans go to shit sometimes. The home I loved and invested so much time, effort and money in, ended up not serving our family’s needs so well, but it will be perfect for another family. I was struggling to make it all work, suffering as a result and so did all the people around me, by default. Dreams can be as big as a house or as small as a gesture. I bought a dress for a special occasion that never came. That’s the trouble. I was trying to make life do what I wanted, and life had other plans.
So on my 43rd birthday, I celebrated the victory of being done. Done with our home renovation, done with chasing dreams that don’t want to be caught and done with the daily marathon I’ve been running. I had pictures taken to list our home for sale as a gift to myself. It ended up being a very happy birthday, surrounded by friends I can lean on. I’m very content with all of it. I’m 43 and happy to live another day. I find myself wondering…how’s Tammy doing?
P.S. I wore the dress that hung in my closet for two years for no reason at all except to mark the occasion and new beginnings. Seems like reason enough.