Lean on Me
On Sunday night I had dinner with some of my closest friends. They are the kind of friends I don’t talk to everyday or see all the time but when we do see each other, we can talk about anything and everything. I think for the most part, we do a really good job of being there for each other. Not being too “judgey.” And when you have been friends for as long as we have and know as much as we do about each other, it’s easy to be “judgey.” But to our credit, we work on focusing on each other, giving of ourselves what we can.
Minimal judgement. Refreshing, right?
And I love them a lot, not because of how amazing they each individually are, but also because of the way they love me, forgiving me for my many faults. One of which is that I am really, really bad about returning their calls.
We all have strengths and weaknesses in this world and luckily for me, they are not counting the latter. It’s always good to have a few friends like that in your corner.
We decided to meet up for our monthly get together, which we decided we were all in desperate need of. Or, let me take that back. Maybe I am the only one feeling that desperate about it, but I know that I definitely need it. That I need the solidarity of their strength in my life.
One of my friends offered to drive me to the restaurant where we were all meeting up, centrally located for all of us. Before she knocked on the door, my husband and kids looked at me as I was grabbing my purse.
“Are you changing?” John asked, not being mean, but probably to help me. My 3 year old seemed oddly unimpressed by my appearance and my 5 year old, who usually shouts out, “Oh, Mommy, you look sooooo adorable,” was also painfully quiet.
“No,” I thought, wondering what was wrong with the jeggings I had worn all day and my favorite top, a polyester-ish purple sweater I bought from Express in 1998. To finish off the look, I had thrown on shoes that would have made any of my friends who are nurses proud – a clunky pair of orthopedic support shoes.
My hair was not perfect but then, it wasn’t the worst it had ever been either. I wasn’t wearing make-up, but these days, that seems like a step I rarely bother to take.
Look, this is how I see it. My friends have seen me at my best and also at my worst. They have seen me with mascara running down my face and have held the Kleenex for me on more than a few occasions. I have been there for some of them through some of their least glamorous moments and have never stopped thinking of them as amazing and beautiful.
So I was banking on the fact that everybody might overlook the bags under my eyes and the less than stellar outfit, the lack of mascara and my comfy shoes.
And I think they did.
We all are at crazy junctures in our lives. Times that life seems impossible, not just hard, and we are just trying to get through it, with our sanity intact. Our conversations now are so different from the conversations the five of us would have had 10 years ago hanging out at a bar in Arlington or a club in DC. That world is long gone. It left when we all decided to grow up.
And we are adults, but some days I feel like a bad grown up. A very, very bad one. An imposter, even. Like I have totally lost sight of what it was that I was supposed to be at this stage in my life. Professionally. Personally.
I have to admit something to you. This is really something I don’t tell anybody. In fact, I rarely admit it to myself, but for some reason, I want to come clean on this. In High School, I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” I look back at the picture of me in my yearbook where I am smiling, believing with the utmost confidence that yes, I would have “success.” I don’t even think knew what success meant for me then. And lately I realize that I don’t know what it means to me now. I feel like there are dreams I have given up on, passions that have fallen out of my grasp.
And that hurts me. Sometimes, a lot.
I confided to my friends that night, feeling pretty ashamed, that there are times where I miss those carefree days when we lived in Arlington. The time before marriage, the time before the move to the suburbs.
The time before kids.
Let me be clear. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be single. I love my husband and my children. In fact, I felt like I was betraying my family in saying this. I feel like I am betraying my family in admitting this now. But the point isn’t that I don’t want to be a mother or a wife. Not at all.
I just wish that I had more time to live – and sometimes I want to be selfish and have life mean more than making the next work deadline, asking my kids for the twentieth time not to call each other poopy head at the table (which they both find enormously funny) and not rushing to get dinner ready. And realizing that some days the day has gone by and it’s now 10 PM, and there I have it. There’s my time to do what I want.
Which would be great if I wasn’t so freaking exhausted already.
And I know that there are only 24 hours in a day so that means something has to give, right? But from where? I struggle with it every day, feeling like I am on borrowed time anytime I do something for myself. And so for now, some of my dreams are sidelined. Maybe one day things will get easier and I will have time to see them through.
I expected my friends to look at me with some derision in their eyes, but their empathy for me was obvious. Like they got it. And it was ok. It was ok to miss a time when I could sleep peacefully at night without waking up to my three year old’s butt in my face. It was ok to miss a time when I didn’t have a 5 year old throwing her hands up in the air breaking my heart just a little when she says, “Mommy, you are so mean. You don’t give me anything.”
Because if her 5 year old self thinks I am giving her nothing, while I think I am giving her my everything, I kind of wonder where the disconnect is. And then of course I remember that she is only 5 and that makes me feel better till I think about what she will be saying when she is 15.
I notice a common theme when I talk to my friends about what I feel. I think guilt comes up a lot. Feeling guilty that I am not the parent of the year. The wife of the year. Employee of the year. This is hard for someone who used to rock whatever I did. I didn’t settle for mediocrity. I wanted to be exceptional.
And my friends pick up on my guilt and they assure me that I shouldn’t and that I am doing my damn hardest and that I am better than I give myself credit for. All the things I didn’t know I needed to hear, but so desperately did.
I hope one day that I find the balance that I need. That I find a way to pursue the things that I want for me, just me, while still being everything I need to be to everyone else.
And in the meantime, I am glad I have my friends to help me find my footing, even if it’s on orthopedic shoes, when I need it most. And for that I am grateful.