Enough with always feeling rushed.
Enough with Sisyphean laundry.
Enough with fundraisers raising money for actual, bigger fundraisers.
Enough with people who don’t understand how turn lanes work.
Enough with Evites.
Enough with emails saying, “Did you see the Evite?”
Enough with 11 tabs open at the same time (in my browser, not at bars).
Enough with shaming.
Enough with shaming the shamers.
Enough with insane shipping prices.
Enough with Lykke Li’s overuse of cowbell.
God, I’m cranky. Everything, everywhere is go go go! There is no stop stop stop. Even when it’s a Sunday morning and the sun is shining and I’m on my porch with a new book, there is this crawling feeling that I have to be somewhere, doing something. It constantly feels like things are due or needed or late or lost. There is always something that needs to be done, that isn’t being done, and that I feel judged for either doing wrong or trying to momentarily ignore. But who is judging me? I mean, really. Who?
I think the answer is: “No one, you fool.” This constant feeling of not measuring up, of always being behind, of staggering guilt when I try to slow down, this feeling is born from my own damn self, isn’t it?
I could write a long thinkpiece about what makes a woman feel this way. I could delve into societal pressure and gender roles. I could write a five-paragraph essay on this self-actualized pressure we put upon ourselves. There could be a follow-up piece about who it is that we’re trying to be—who it is we’re measuring ourselves against. I could write extensively about how this culture of comparison has created a kind of psychological dystopia where every woman thinks every other woman is measuring her, sizing her up, judging her. I could write a series of self-important tweets about the truth that there is no such thing as the perfect mom, or the perfect wife, or the perfect cog in the perfect wheel of daily life. Yet…these things are written every day.
And even with a constant stream of permissive and intelligent treatises on women not needing to do it all or have it all or be it all, it still seems like somewhere, just out of reach, this impossible goal of perfection (or at least, satisfaction with one’s performance) might just be reachable. If the kids could just get in the car a little faster. If I could stop forgetting to buy laundry detergent. If the e-bill from the electric company could get filed in the right Gmail folder. If If If If.
I was out with the kids this weekend, walking home from a neighborhood Easter party (“Make sure the littler kids get the first pick of the eggs,” “Please don’t hit the piñata too hard,” “If you get out of line, there won’t be a piece of pizza for you”) and I felt frazzled. The kids had had fun, but I felt on display. My children were the oldest ones there, and I wasn’t chasing after them with a video camera, we weren’t cooing over bunnies, I wasn’t wiping chocolate off of their faces. I was so, so happy to realize we’ve reached a new point in our journey together, but also? I realized I was the Mom of Big Kids. The one who is scrutinized by the younger mothers. The one who has the giants in the bouncy house. The one who stares off into the distance instead of following every step her children take.
But what I wanted to shout to the new mothers is that I do follow my kids’ every step. I do worry about their giant-ness in the bouncy house. And then I wondered if what I perceived as the side-eye from those moms was maybe just a quick glimpse of envy. Or maybe it was nothing. Maybe they, too, were lost in their own reverie of, “Why is my baby the one crying the most?” “How can I get out of here before anyone pukes?” “Why is my husband on his fourth beer at 11 a.m.?” Our mutual glances in each others’ directions don’t mean immediate judgment. And it shames me that this is my first inclination.
The kids and I were walking back home from the party and my 6-year-old lagged behind as usual. My impatience grew as I looked back at him, dragging his feet, not paying attention, not keeping up. I marched up to him, with the everyday spiel of “Hurry up, let’s go” on the tip of my tongue, when he grinned and held up a tiny leaf. Precariously balanced on the leaf was a rollie pollie.
“I gotta keep him safe,” my son said. “He’s so little I might not be able to find him if he falls down.”
And in that brief moment I remembered something important that often eludes me: Every moment is not just a slice of time leading to another moment. Every moment is not on display. Every moment is not you on a JumboTron, poised for a taunting crowd.
Enough with not being enough.
Sometimes the most important part of the day is making sure you move slowly enough that you don’t lose the little things. They can be awfully hard to find again.