Friday, February 17, 2012

Can we have it all?

When it comes to making lists, I’m a complete nut job; I’ve been known to leave a note to remind myself to “make a list”. There’s something slightly sadistic and deranged about that. Mock me. My husband does. But seriously, I'm of the age now where I need to leave myself a sticky note on the washing machine if I've tossed something in there that can't be thrown in the dryer. This is usually a shirt I've thieved from my sister's closet; I have a propensity for ruining things that aren't mine. If I don't leave myself a note, I'll wander in there a mere forty-five minutes later, completely oblivious to the fact that I've put that shirt in the washing machine, and into the dryer the entire load goes. It's like I've dropped down from another planet. Forty five minutes...that's all it takes for certain parts of my brain to be wiped.

Furthermore, in my quest to do it all, I’m delusional in believing that writing out a detailed list of what I have to accomplish each week, and ticking the items off, will make me a better person which will magically equate to a more fulfilling life. At the start of each week, I wake with magnificent resolutions which include (but are not limited to) the following: start that blasted 30-day shred to eliminate post-babies paunch (formerly known as waist); morph into saucy minx and rock my husband’s world (my excuse du jour is that he hasn't visited Dr. Quick Snip yet, rendering the entire act far too dangerous...), figure out what I want to be when I grow up, have the guts to follow my dreams, spend more quality time with my children, return phone calls in a timely manner (translation: before a full year expires), find out how to keep a houseplant alive for more than three weeks (not including cacti) get all photos into digital albums, update baby journals, clean out cupboards to avoid massive trauma to the head, finish organizing the basement, paint bathroom, eat more vegetables, take vitamins, and be a better person in general, particularly to that one person who makes me want to coil into a ball and play dead whenever we’re in the same vicinity.

Let’s get right to the burning question, shall we? The one I ask myself while sorting dirty laundry, visualizing my husband’s castration as it’s apparent he’s physically unable to turn his filthy, mangy socks inside out before tossing them towards, not in, the hamper basket. The question is this – can we actually have it all? Or is it considered unforgivable to want more when we’ve already been blessed with plenty? While wiping the snot and spaghetti sauce from my child's beaming, “I-just-pooped-my-diaper-too” face, I often find myself drenched in melancholy while lamenting the loss of dreams yet to be fulfilled. And I wonder - when your dreams turn to dust, when they’ve successfully been snuffed out by years of going to work every day, monotonous chores, mountains of bills...what becomes of them? If I stopped long enough to have an intimate chat with my inner child, to ask her what it was she wanted again, I’m not even certain I would know which questions to ask anymore. And quite frankly, I’m scared of her. That little girl I remember all too well, would lay me out flat, outraged by how far I’ve strayed from what I wanted to be when I grew up.

For the record, let it be said that I wanted to be a criminal psychologist. (And I believed I had a huge head-start growing up with my five brothers.) I ended up being an agricultural economist. Hell, at least they rhyme. That’s a start. I ended up pursuing the latter because I knew it would make my parents proud. I grew up on a farm and my love for agriculture courses through my veins; perhaps not enough to foster a burning desire to farm with five brothers, though. In some cases, the high risk of insanity trumps preference. But I likely ended up being one of the very few Aggie students that used all course electives to pursue my love for psychology. While my friends were learning how to weld and inseminate a sow, two skills for which I have no idea how I’ve gotten this far in life without, I was in the throes of passion over psychology. My transcript reads like a woman on a mission to systematically destroy her brain: linear economic modelling, child psychology, price analysis, microeconomics, genetic analysis, macroeconomics, abnormal psychology, econometrics, financial accounting, social psychology, applied statistics...I need to stop now. My brain hurts. (from trying to remember what's currently in the washing machine...) 

For what it’s worth, I think we can have it all – just maybe not all at once. This is an important point to remember and one that often paralyzes me...I get an idea stuck in my head that I have to do this, followed immediately by I have to do this, right f*cking now, without for a moment considering it may be wise to perhaps drop something off the already generous to-do list. Hell, no. I'm not that smart; I just add it to the pile. Then, just to add to the already momentous amounts of fun, I call myself a big loser if I don't finish everything that week. (Which quite frankly, would often require breaking the time-space continuum but hey, quit whining you loooooooooooser.) Where does that voice come from? I would love to meet the little gremlin and strangle it.

My husband is completely baffled by my ongoing list of things to do. When when find ourselves with some spare time on our hands, the discussion inevitably goes something like this:

Him: Let's watch a movie.
Me: How about we knock a few things off our list, then watch a movie.
Him: What's there to do? The house is relatively clean.
Me: What's there to do? Why don't you start by going through your boxes of shit under the bed?
Him: Why? They're under the bed. No one can see it.
Me: Yeah, but I know they're there. It bugs me.
Him: You're a freak.
Me: Yes. But you said "I do"
Him: So this is the "for worse and in sickness" part?
Me: Hmmmm...yes.
Him: Out of pure curiosity, because that head of yours sometimes frightens me, who exactly is performing the audit on your list of things to do?

Ouch. Must be that gremlin, who I suspect will never be happy. Even if I collapse from exhaustion, there will always be more. I guess that's the beauty of life, right? There's more to do than can ever be done...and I'm slowly starting to accept that. And once in a while I stop and wonder, "What would it feel like to have everything done that I ever wanted to get done?" Friends, I'd be bored out of my mind. Not to mention, I'd have missed precious moments with my children that I'll never get back. Real-life application of economics degree: work is a fixed component. It ain't going nowhere. Time with children? Variable. They're only with us for a short while. For the time being, I need to adjust the equation. I'm learning I may need to put a few dreams on hold while my kids are young, while they need me. Cause one day they won't.

In the meantime, I'm going to attempt to make amendments to how I approach life in general. I need to slow down a little, sniff some cacti. I'll start by merging my own perspective on how I approach work, with my husband's perspective. He gets stuff done in his own time, and is usually much more content in the process. To illustrate our different approaches, here's a summary:

His motto: Eat, drink and be merry, for today may be your last.
My motto: Procrastination is like masturbation. It may feel great at the time, but in the end, you're really only f*cking yourself.
Combined motto: Eat, do a chore, drink, do a chore, be merry while doing anything, and fix that leaking faucet or today will be your last, and enjoy every day as if it were your last.

As for those dreams of mine? I've tucked some away in an imaginary box, to be opened again and examined more closely at a later date. I believe that dreams are often all that remains of our childhood, so they should be treated like precious jewels. Every once and a while, I'm going to pull out that box and have a look. I'm going to hold one of those dreams in my hand, and decide if now is the time to go after it. If yes? I'm going to go out there and do my best to make it happen. I'm going to adjust the equation to make it work. Supply of energy, and demand for it. Ebb and flow. Finding that optimum point. (Upon reflection, perhaps I needed that economics degree after all.)

The worst thing that can happen is someone will tell me they think my dream is silly...that it's just not possible. I'll nod and smile, and I'll be sure to thank them for their profound feedback. But I'm still going to go for it. I need to, so that one day I can look my children in the eye and boldly say that I lived my life with no excuses or apologies.

In my quest to have it all, though, I've learned one tiny secret...the secret to having it all is being fully aware that, in comparison to most of the world, you already do.


Rosemary Mulrooney, B.Sc., R.D. said...

Wonderfully said! We (mothers) eventually realize we do have to cherish every moments with our kids. Until someone yells "Mom, I have no clean underwear!" Then its back to the laundry. Cherish the moments...everything else can wait.

Fiona said...

Your writing is just so funny, I love it.
For what it's worth, I love lists so much I even write down things I've already done, just so I can have that satisfying feeling of ticking something else off.

Jo said...

Yay! Does this mean no more lists?! Or at least smaller ones! This will be way better for all of us :) And I am with Fiona, for the few times I do make a list, half of the items I put on are things I have already done.

Janita said...

Rosemary - you are indeed, correct! The call for clean laundry yanks us back to reality every time. ;) Fiona, thanks for the wonderful compliment! You made my day. My sister-in-law is named Fiona, and recently a new cousin, and now I know you! Three Fionas. Excellent. Thanks for stopping by my blog! And I like your idea for including items that have already been completed. I'm on it. Let the checking begin. And Fry, for some reason it doesn't surprise me at all that you already do this. xo

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