I’m that woman who Has Too Much On My Plate, and is Too Hard On Myself. I’ve heard those two titles for me so many times that I feel like I should put them on my business card.
My overbearing need to Get Things Done was fine before I had children. I had only myself, my career, my home, and then my husband…okay and then our dog and cat…to manage.
But then came our kids.
And then came me losing my shit. Or so it seems inside my head. I don’t think anyone besides my therapist and my dog and cat, who had to be “re-homed,” knew the truth.
I’m not sure where I started to take on too much or when it started to be too much. I’m not going to go back to my childhood to find the nugget and psychotherapize myself here. The bottom line is that I’m exhausted, and I’m finally ready to admit it.
Over the past six months, as I started to heal from a staggering personal loss, I busied myself with taking things off My Plate. I’ve tackled this project several times over the years, only to find more room on the plate and pile it so high that it got crowded again with different things and the whole effort failed miserably.
But this time. This time I find that I don’t miss the things that were on My Plate. I don’t want them back, because I just don’t care.
And that’s what alarms me. In pushing things off my plate, am I being too extreme?
That’s where Too Hard On Myself comes in.
Last weekend, I sought permission from a great group of creative peers to be kinder to myself. There was a lot of recommending of Brene Brown, and approval of my recent penchant for too much television and escape into reading books. It’s like I’m filling an empty well, they said. I’m consuming instead of broadcasting, I said.
But when I am in my house directing my family and working on my work there are still so many balls in the air that when I let one fall I feel The End Is Nigh. If I don’t take care of this one thing or that other task, the world will surely end, right?
People often muse about the worst case scenario. They say “What’s the worst that can happen?” Well, the worst that can happen is that someone DIES. And someone died. And nobody did anything to make it happen. She was my dear friend, and she just died. There was no apparent reason. There was nobody at fault.
And so. Eleven months later I sit here going through the motions and keeping my family afloat and functioning even though right now I hear through the door the cacophonous sounds of children fighting and screaming and my husband giving them their 11th warning and them probably learning the wrong lesson and I’m just typing, typing, typing, indulging in my own navel-gazing and…
…they’re probably going to be okay. All three of them. And if I do nothing or everything, it will come out the same. It’s been that way for almost a year. I’ve held it together – sort of – but it’s time for that to stop. I can’t hold it together anymore. I need a break.
I asked you if we talk about depression here. We talk about body image, and self-confidence, and girl power, mostly. Those three things are enough to flatten some people, make them stay inside, make them depressed, so I suppose it’s relevant. For me, those things usually prop me up. “I am fabulous!” I yell to the world. “Make way!”
But not now.
At dinner time tonight I fed the children and put a kids’ music channel on the internet radio. Is it a sign that you’re suffering acute situational depression when “Party In the USA” by Miley Cyrus, of all artists, makes you start to cry?
She sang “I put my hands up, they’re playing my song, and the butterflies fly away…” That is how I love music. That is what it DOES to me. It puts a spring in my step, it makes the haters retreat to my periphery, it helps me be ME. But tonight, as I watched my boys, it made my eyes sting with tears.
I watched them, all 5 and 7 years of them, dance to the music as they ate their dinners and I chopped up the one I was making for me and my husband (this is only for a season, I tell myself, this 2-dinner phase). I envied their ages, how they are before all the shit that can happen in life. They can listen to “Party in the USA” and think it’s fun, and that a party would be awesome indeed. They don’t think like I do, knowing how at age 41 they would most likely dance around at a club and be seen as The Creepy Old Guy/Lady, and maybe never have again the sweaty drink-filled bass-pumping good times of my twenties, when I could lose it all in the music and dance my worries away.
But no. In my twenties I didn’t have them. I have them now. They light up my life like the sun. So why was I crying?
I cried for all of the 40 years behind me, and all the sweaty fun nights I had that I’ll never have again, and all the nights my dead friend will miss as I grow older, and how exhausted I am with all my balls in the air, and how scary it is that I don’t care when the balls fall down, that it just makes me want to take a nap, and that writing this will make everyone worry about me, but it makes me feel better to write it, so fuck it I’ll just write it. And because it’s all so complicated and exhausting, I cried. Fucking Miley Cyrus. Fucking Pandora and its happy songs. Fucking diced carrots.
It’s pretty obvious to me now. I’ve put off my grieving because I am the woman with So Much On Her Plate. And I don’t clear off the plate because I am Too Hard On Myself. I know it’s time for a break. Screw all those balls. Even jugglers put them back in a little muslin bag when they’re done performing.
We talk about depression here, don’t we? And dead friends, and missing things we lost, and letting the balls fall where they may? I don’t want to lose my shit again, friends. I’m gonna put the balls back in the bag. I’m gonna break that plate, and be kinder to myself. I’m going to cry when I need to, and crank up fucking Miley Cyrus. It might be alone in my kitchen, but I’m going to dance again, whether people are watching or not.
Photo credit: Aleš Čerin/sxc.hu