Juggling Act (Where I Beat a Metaphor To Death)

Quite a few years back, my very wise grandmother told me the key to juggling everything is to know which balls bounce and which balls break. “As long as you’re keeping the important stuff moving, letting a few things drop isn’t going to be the end of the world.” Granted, my grandmother is the kind of woman who, at 80, was scrubbing her kitchen ceiling just a few weeks after open heart surgery. I’m pretty sure she could handle whatever you threw at her and ask for more.

I am not my grandmother.

And did I mention, I don’t know how to juggle?

It’s the end of September. I should be settling into the routine. I know library day is Thursday. I know the days they have gym. Violet needs to bring her flute on Mondays and Wednesdays and gym clothes Mondays and Thursdays. I know the checklist I have to rundown with each of them in the morning because their brains are full of thoughts that don’t include “jacket for recess”.

The problem is my brain is also full of thoughts and instead of my inner monologue saying, “It’s Monday, remind Violet to pack her flute and the gym clothes.” It says, “It’s Monday. Dear god, I need to take the dog to the vet and I need to get to the grocery store. And don’t forget to pick up Abram’s medicine. And make sure to wash his jersey so it’s ready for tomorrow. And Jesse has a meeting tonight so be sure to tell Violet she needs to hurry up after swim so Abram can get to bed at a decent time. And look at the time” and then I’m yelling, “GUYS, WE NEED TO GO!!! LOAD UP!” and the flute gets left at home.

Please don’t be one of those people who talk to me about packing everything up the night before, because our evening rituals of school work, dinner, sports activities, getting ready for bed, and trying to get to bed at a decent time are busy enough. Changing what time of day the monologue goes off in my head doesn’t solve the problem.

In the midst of all of this, I’m fighting a severe case of bitterness. I don’t know why it’s hitting so hard but it’s a constant drumbeat in my head. “I need more joy. I need something just for me. I need to feel smart and valuable and important and seen. I’m so tired of being everyone else’s. I want to be MINE.”

That ball filled with the dreams, ambitions, and goals that are *just for me* is waiting to be picked up but I’m scared. Scared to throw it into the mix because I’m scared of dropping it again. It’s dented and cracked and so much more fragile than it used to be. With so many other precious things to keep moving and a penchant for picking it up only to let it fall again, maybe it’s just easier to leave it on the ground?

I know this isn’t new. Our mothers and grandmothers had these same conversations and with fewer options. I know that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my concerns are somewhere toward the top which in and of itself is a blessing. But the drum is still beating and I’m still trying to keep all the balls in the air and staring at the one I’m too scared to pick up.

When is it safe? When is it unselfish? What can I let fall to pick *me* back up?

I don’t know if there is a good answer, but I’m looking for it.

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  • Oh Kate 🙁 .
    I have no answers, so I’m just going to ramble…
    My SIL (whose kids are now 25 and 26) was GREAT at carving out her own life. She exercised every day when her babies were tiny and ignored them crying in the playpen because she said they would simply LEARN that that was their mother’s time. (And they did!) She went back to school for a yearlong course and during that time her kids’ activities were curtailed, because her schooling was deemed more important. Are her kids damaged because they missed some activities? Nope. They seem to be perfectly well-adjusted people. As is she! Quite honestly, I envy my SIL. I would love to have something just for me right now. I have tried. And I have met all sorts of roadblocks. Some of those roadblocks were my own damn fault (and some were simply me veering off the road altogether), while others have been circumstantial and out of my control. My 21 years of motherhood took twists and turns my SIL’s didn’t, so logically I shouldn’t be comparing myself to her and beating myself up, but oh my I still do 🙁 . I wish fervently that I had something to call my own, that I had been successful at the attempts I made. I haven’t altogether given up, and I am still trying, but it’s really hard, at the age I am, to feel that I’ve still not figured things out. All that being said, I do think it’s really important to be there for your kids. For me, my dysfunctional upbringing and the fact that my parents were not there for me AT ALL probably made me err on the side of putting their needs first, above mine, a little too often. I don’t think I damaged them, or caused them to become helpless people (my older two are doing amazingly well at university, managing their schoolwork and activities and cooking (actual cooking, even my 18 yo son!) and cleaning and laundry, all without any help from me), but I do think I would have been in a better state with my mental health had I taken more time for myself. I think kids do best with enough: not too much parenting, and not too little parenting. I think the same goes for structured activities. Some is good. Too much or nothing and they’re over-scheduled or deprived. I also think kids need to learn things the hard way sometimes. Like the other day when my 12-year-old forgot his homework on the sideboard and texted me to ask me if I could bring it over, I debated saying no. I almost wished I could have told him that I was running errands, too bad! But I was home and it took me 15 minutes total to walk there and back and to NOT do so would have simply been a mean thing to do.
    /end rambling/
    I think, if you really truly 100% know for sure what it is that you want to become, Kate, that you should take your current bitterness as a sign and go for it. (Perhaps it would also help to ask yourself what your 50-year-old self would say to your current self…I am pretty damned ticked off at 40-year-old me (although my husband says that’s entirely unfair)).

    • Oh Marian! Thank you so much for your self-described ramble. Sometimes all you need to feel better is a good cry, some tea, and someone to just GET IT. I appreciate that you understand.

      I don’t know if we ever get it all figured out. I certainly doubt that I ever will. I’m just wired to be one of those people who are constantly working and reworking to be better and there will always be room for improvement. Sometimes that part of my personality makes me crazy because I’d like to just relax and enjoy, but other times I’m really glad that I’m the type to keep pushing myself to learn and grow and get better.

      I am sad to hear that you are ticked off at 40 year old you, but I understand what you are saying. Twenty-seven year old me needs a firm talking to about life.

      • Your middle paragraph is me, to a T, as well. “Relax and enjoy”?? Hell, no!
        I actually think I *should* cut 40-year-old me some slack; it’s really 18-year-old me who needs the talking-to —
        she’s the one who messed up so badly and so (seemingly) irretrievably 🙁 .

        • I think you should. And maybe even 18 year old you. I know for a FACT I wasn’t thinking clearly at 18. Sometimes I wonder if this happiness thing isn’t just accepting where we are now and moving toward wherever it is we want to end up – however slowly and jaggedly.

          Or maybe I’m wrong. I’m realizing there’s a lot I’ve been getting wrong lately! 🙂

          • I love you two. And I would SO SO SO love to kick 26-year-old me’s ass! (I was a late bloomer in the irretrievably bad life decisions game.)