I had some time alone yesterday, which for a mom is a precious commodity. It was unplanned, this time alone, and most of it was spent in the car and scouring a variety of Targets (city and suburban, yo) for half price Reese Peanut Butter Trees. Mary Tyler Dad’s winter coat had been left at a relatives and said relatives were planning to ditch Chicagoland soon for a warmer climate. Chances are, despite global warming, that he might be needing his winter coat before March, so off I went, dutiful wife that I am.
I do some of my best thinking in the car, especially alone and on a quick moving expressway. Open roads get my mental juices flowing. Something about speed and music lets my thoughts wander. And so it was yesterday.
The holiday chaos was weighing heavy on me. Yet another year had passed without me sending Christmas cards, doing much baking, wrapping gifts before Christmas Eve, and on and on and on. Holiday fail. Again. I want better for myself and my family, but every year it is the same. The mailbox is full of beautiful shining children and families wishing us the best the season has to bring. Damn, our friends have some attractive kids. Our countertop has a small mountain of baked goods from close friends and neighbors.
I can’t help but notice that most of the moms who baked these treats and mailed their family cards are moms who work both inside and outside the home. How do they do it? is a question that plays on constant loop in my head. Seriously, ladies, how do you do it?
Once I was thoroughly ensconsed in my inadequacy, THE THOUGHT hit me: I feel like that tiny little metal ball in a pinball machine, getting whacked about here and there, willy nilly, utterly overwhelmed by bells, whistles, lights, and obstacles. I just bounce around, hitting walls and getting whacked,endlessly, until I fall into the black hole. Ugh. It is exhausting. Worse, there is a screaming, jolly child at the controls. Ugh.
The pinball analogy felt so right, so on target, that I knew I had stumbled onto my truth.
Years ago, before middle age and before kids and before cancer, I worked with a group of women, all of whom were 10-25 years older than me. Most were lovely, smart gals. One wasn’t. She bugged the hell out of me. She was mealy and frumpy and irritating and basically unqualified to do the work she was paid to do. She would endlessly complain about how “fractured” she felt. She had her home life, and her work life, and her daughter life, and her mother life and her wife life. To 30 year old me, she sounded crazy and lazy and a little unhinged. To 42 year old me, I shudder to say that I recognize what she was talking about. I identify. Yes, I surely do. Ugh.
There is one vital difference, though. I refuse to become a victim to my life’s circumstances. I refuse to whine about my middle-aged angst with colleagues 10 and 20 years my junior. I refuse to throw in the towel and continue to be that little metal ball getting whacked about by the levers of my life.
I am not a little metal ball. I am a strong ass woman who has done impossible things with grace and dignity. I am a strong ass woman who is capable of things I have not yet imagined. I am a strong ass woman who can do better.
And I will.