I haven’t felt compelled to create anything in a while. This both saddens me and relieves me; in my past the pull to write or make music was so strong sometimes that I would find myself endlessly frustrated when I didn’t have the time to devote to crafting something. Lately, time is not on my side. I find myself so busy with work and family that I can hardly close my eyes fully at night for fear that I have forgotten just one more thing. When I do find those glimpses of free time between conference calls, getting deliverables done and running to the next meeting, I find myself sucked into nothing worthwhile. Mostly I troll Facebook. I refresh my feed a lot because I don’t have much time to spare and I want only the “newest” news.
Yes, I use the term news loosely.
The reality is that my schedule has caught up with me. I bring work to bed. I wake up early to jump on early transcontinental calls. I go to parent-teacher conferences and feel like a bad parent, because no, I missed the email about the age appropriate books the teacher is recommending the class reads. What email about the system where I can check up on her Science progress? Darn, I must have missed that one too.
No matter how much I run, whenever I feel like I catch up, I am still far off the mark. Because.
There is always one more thing.
These one more things add up quickly to become a whole shit load of things that I need to conquer in my life. When you are sitting with all of the one more things, they weigh on you and it’s hard to be creative. Your creativity feels like a luxury that you can no longer afford. The one more things cross your mind again and again. This things that are due tomorrow at one end of your brain and the unsettling call you had with your client occupying the other end. It’s damn near impossible to find the creative energy to then shift gears when the weight of one more things is weighing you down.
To take it a step further, it’s hard not to feel guilt when you do something that’s just for you. Sure, once the kids are in bed, go for it. If you aren’t already ready to crumble in a heap on the sofa or fall lifeless on your bed.
Where once there were ideas, there is now silence. Where once I could push myself creatively at a much more aggressive pace, I can no longer do that. I already feel like a wobbly and sloppily placed string of dominoes. I feel like adding more pressure to produce creatively right now will send those dominoes tumbling.
How do you pull yourself out of situations like this so that you can still create, write and find joy in the things you love that selfishly, are really only for you? How do you get beyond feeling suffocated by all the one more things without drugging yourself heavily and find the time to work on your craft?
I am not sure. My questions are not rhetorical. I genuinely want to feed my soul by writing and songwriting more and I truly don’t know how to work myself out of this space where I feel so confined and creatively ensnared.
How do you find the time around your responsibilities to still find time for creativity? What do you sacrifice as a result? If you’ve given up on your creative pursuits because of the weight of one more things, how do you feel about it?
There are times in life where I feel like it’s easier to be hard on ourselves than forgiving; when it’s easier to point out all our shortcomings than to accept that we are truly exceptional at some things. Lately, I have been finding myself going through this and I am having a hard time coming out on the other side of it.
A few years ago, I went through something that caused a great deal of emotional turmoil for me. It seems like it was so long ago in some ways, like yesterday in others, but let’s just say that I have never fully recovered from the emotional roller coaster ride I experienced over the next few years.
I found myself doubting myself in ways that I had never doubted myself before. I lost my voice. Instead of the loud, commanding one I used to confidently wield, I found myself retreating, uncomfortable with the sound of my voice or my words. I had become a timid shell of myself. In an effort to anesthetize, I drank too much and made bad hair decisions, none of which helped elevate my confidence.
That doubt made its way into the many corners of my life, working its way into all of the areas I felt encompassed me as a person. It permeated through what I thought I knew about myself and made me question everything.
Where was I in my life? What had I really accomplished? Was I successful? Was I doing something that I thought was valuable? Hell, was I valuable?
The thing with doubt is that it’s a powerful thing. It worms its way into your head and can make you think the darnedest things about yourself. You start to stumble in areas where you once sailed by. People who once thought your capabilities were limitless start to doubt you too, for doubt can be contagious. After all, if it’s obvious you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?
A few weeks ago, I had my twentieth High School Reunion. I think that having this coincide with a time in my life where I didn’t feel like my feet were grounded firmly in the ground was not the easiest thing, but life is not perfect and I understand that most of my fellow classmates must have their own crap that they have to navigate. I felt like I was really, really hard on myself on the weeks leading up to the event.
Nothing was right.
I didn’t feel or look my best.
I was not altogether satisfied with where I am in my career.
I questioned whether I was a good mother.
Everything was under a microscope – not by anybody else, but by me.
I used to be in Project Management and one of the things you always have to manage towards on projects is scope creep. Making sure that the client doesn’t try to expand the breadth of the project beyond what is committed in the contract. Scope creep always happens. It’s human nature to want to push the boundaries to see how much more you can get out of something. But I was starting to realize that the expectations I placed against myself were seriously verging on a different kind of scope creep, because nobody had ever defined the scope of what I was supposed to be.
I think the standards that I started to set for myself were unrealistic and overwhelming. I was setting myself up for failure and disappointment. Making mental comparisons with others where it was inevitable that I would fall short, forever focusing on what I lacked versus what I had.
When I take a step back and regain perspective, I always come back with the same conclusion.
You’re so goddamn hard on yourself.
And it’s not doing anybody any favors. Particularly myself.
I think that it comes down to this. It’s one thing to set a bar for yourself on standards you wish to maintain in your life, but it’s another to set the bar so high that you can never enjoy what you have. The journey to getting what we want in life can be a rich one, but it starts to lose it’s luster when all you see is the ever changing destination and you don’t allow yourself to enjoy the fact that you may have already arrived.
So I’m working on that. Working on cutting myself the same slack that I cut for others who touch my life. Perfection is overrated and the quest to achieve it is exhausting, frustrating and ultimately, unattainable.
Sometimes, the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is acknowledge, that we are, in fact, enough. So much more than enough.
Photography by Tell Chronicles – http://www.tellchronicles.com/caption
I don’t really like reading parenting books. Hate ‘em. I do. As a matter of fact, I would say I still have parenting book “burn out” several years after I tried unsuccessfully to do any of the following:
a. Have a panic free pregnancy after reading enough pregnancy books to know how large my unborn child was relative to fruit on any day of my pregnancy (i.e. your child is now the size of a baby kumquat).
b. Breast feed any of my children for more than four weeks after reading every single book I could find on stress-free breastfeeding. All of which stressed me out more and inversely reduced my milk supply.
c. Get my kids to sleep. I tried every strategy that The Baby Whisperer had to offer me and I tried so hard to have The Happiest Baby on the Block but the results were temporary at best and the ever present circles underneath my eyes indicated just how successful I was at employing the tactics. Although I was an awesome swaddler. I could swaddle a baby like nobody’s business.
Unfortunately, my kids are seven and five now and while I would love to still swaddle them, I think that this might be considered child abuse. Though I think that would be really cute. And handy, too, especially when they are out of line.
The thing is, if you have a friend who is an award winning parenting expert, chances are, another parenting book is going to find its way into your hands. Even if those hands are a little scared. And not ready to clutch another book full of parenting wisdom close to your already bruised parenting ego.
When Deborah’s book, “Get the Behavior You Want, Without Being the Parent You Hate” came in the mail, I admired the cover and thought to myself, “Wow, look at how great her arms look on the cover!” I smiled back at her beautiful face and oohed and aahed over the reviews on the back cover.
But it took me a few days to open it. Not because I don’t need it. I do. In our household we very consistently don’t get the behavior we want and we totally loathe ourselves as parents on some days. No, we most certainly needed it.
I wasn’t ready to take on another failure. I wasn’t ready to read another book which I would get so excited about, only to learn that while these strategies could work, they would just not work for me.
Here’s why parenting books generally don’t work for me:
a. I have no follow through.
b. No matter what I do or how I say it, the recommended advice does not get the results I want with my kids and I just end up yelling and screaming like a banshee. (Don’t do that, it never works).
c. They don’t have the same evocative plot twists as say Breaking Bad on Netflix. Because Breaking Bad will win. (Even re-runs).
So, here’s the good news about Deborah’s book. Unlike so many other parenting books, it is not overwhelming and it’s not some insurmountable tome that is painful to get through. The best way to describe reading this book? It’s like your practical older sister looking you in the eye and giving you advice about all the daunting things we face as parents. While having tea. Or maybe a glass of wine.
She’s funny and pragmatic. I think being a family physician for many years has given her a great perspective on understanding the challenges of parenting. Of course, having four boys of her own might help a little bit with her credibility too.
The book also doesn’t have to be read in one long sitting. It’s meant to be more of a roadmap for when you are navigating some difficult situations. Which is helpful, because who has time for that, yo?
I especially love the emphasis on respect throughout the book. Having respect for your children, but also teaching children self-respect by being someone who walks the walk and talks the talk. Without developing that core balance of respect between children and parents, it becomes really hard to move forward and see progress in correcting behaviors if the fundamental core of respect is not stable.
I ultimately want to raise socially conscious, respectful, smart, self-motivated children. I think this book is one of the few that touches on how to do this in a practical and attainable manner.
I now keep this book by my bedside table every night and I read a chapter or two, that pertains to what we are going through as a family and I usually glean some great advice and insight every time I do that. And by reading in small sections, I am more likely to put the lessons into action.
I wholeheartedly agree with Jill Smokler, aka Scary Mommy, who said, “Thank you, Dr. G, for giving me the only book on parenting that I don’t want to chuck out the window!”
I totally agree with Jill. Despite my parenting book burn out, this book is here to stay and I will be buying several copies for friends too. Who will probably give me dirty looks because they will assume I think they are a bad parent. But then they will read the book and forget they were ever upset with me, so it will all work out in the end.
Read more about Deborah Gilboa, MD, aka Dr. G at AskDoctorG.
My daughter lost her first tooth the other day. It was a really momentous occasion, because you only lose your first tooth once and you’ll always remember the day you got your first memento from the Tooth Fairy.
Seeing her lose her tooth made me nostalgic for my own first lost tooth. I remember that the Tooth Fairy gave me four dollars. That was a lot of freaking money for a tooth when I was 7 years old. But then after that, she really didn’t deliver, often forgetting my next few lost teeth or sometimes downgrading me to a quarter or two.
Bitch set me up for disappointment.
John wasn’t home yesterday to see Shaila’s excitement over losing her teeth and I felt sad for him because if you don’t know already, John loves teeth. His own glimmery, pearly white teeth always stand out in his smiles. He smiles all the freaking time, which I think is directly related to the fact that he is a show off and he wants people to see his teeth.
It is no coincidence that John is a model for our Dentist’s office. His face lines the walls of the office, the brochures and even the website. I guess my teeth didn’t make the grade, because I don’t remember them asking me to join John on this modeling venture.
That’s ok, when I go to the Dentist’s office, I try to do inappropriate things in front of or to his picture. In the picture below, I appear to be mounting the shot of him in the reception hall. The Doctor’s staff understands because they know he travels a lot.
It’s nice to look into the eyes of your partner and know that you have found a safe haven, a person who accepts you for just yourself. That you have found someone who will never play a game of tit for tat with you and horror of horrors, start keeping score on your relationship.
Well, I hate to say it. I don’t know when it all happened during my marriage, but at some point, I became an avid score keeper. Relentless.
At first, it wasn’t like that at all. There didn’t seem to be too many things to keep score over. Early on we found our cadence over things both simple and hard. We easily figured out how we would split holidays amongst our families and how we could support each other at work. Work travel schedules were tightly coordinated and in the absence of children and any really big problems, we could afford to be generous with the leeway we gave each other.
Who was keeping score? It certainly wasn’t me.
Until, well… Something shifted. If John went out for a few drinks with some of his friends, or played soccer in his indoor and outdoor leagues at night or went away for a guys’ weekend, I would slowly start to build these resentments. Over time these resentments were full on earthquakes of fury. We weren’t in a position where both of us could do these things at the same time. Someone had to be responsible and hold down the fort. So I started to simmer. And when he came home from work to tell me that he couldn’t hang out because it was his fantasy football draft night, you might understand why I wanted to throw the lasagna I had raced home from work to cook in his utterly confused face.
His confusion could have been caused by why I seemed so angry. Or it could have been about why I was yelling like a crazy woman over the lasagne instead of just eating it like a normal person would do. Regardless, he was rightfully confused.
I could start to feel my foundations shift a little and the nuggets of resentment I harbored made way for the beginnings of some basic score keeping. But like a faultless martyr, I held on to these toxic resentments. When I communicated about my feelings, I came off as irrational because allthesefeelings were just so hard to explain to my happy go lucky husband who seemed to be able to do it all.
And then the babies came. Well, first one. Then another. And you should have just bought be a scoreboard right there because I was no longer living a life in which points weren’t being wracked up against me. Though we both worked, I often felt that when something happened with the kids, it was my duty to drop everything and run, even if it compromised my position at the office. With the limited time we now had, girls nights out with my friends became a rarity as did a lot of my extra-curricular activities. I’m not saying, he didn’t give up things along the way to make things work for our family, but in my mind, it felt like he was making less sacrifice and I was carrying the burden of his now frenetic travel schedule, increased demands on his time with coaching both our kids’ soccer teams and all the things I feel like he signs us up for.
He doesn’t get why I don’t want to run from a flag football game to a soccer game to another soccer game throughout my Saturday. He doesn’t understand why he has lost major points in volunteering to coach both our kids’ teams which also involves mid-week practices, something which I feel we barely have time to acknowledge, much less help run.
So that’s where I am. I am in a place in my life where I alternate between being reasonable, simmering, deducting points off a non-existent scoreboard for all the ways in which I feel like I have been wronged.
Healthy, isn’t it?
It would be alright if it all stopped there and I was just tallying score someone innocuously, with a running tally to show my true martyrdom. But the reality is far different. I keep score and I get angry. I snap. I snarl. I sometimes say really ridiculous things that make no sense even to me. But the truth is that I do find myself angry. Snapping and snarling is not where I wanted to be with my husband.
I’m coming to realize that my marriage is not a Weight Watchers diet and all this point counting and taking is doing nothing productive for John and me, because we are ultimately on the same team. My points are his points and his points are mine. Until we recognize that, I’m probably going to continue to take score. We need to realize how to balance things so we both feel like we can be individuals without having to take score every time we feel a little bit of our individuality slip away from us.
So for now, I am granting John amnesty from all the points he has accumulated over the years against him. I am sure he is ecstatic. Maybe happy enough to go out for some drinks with his friends.
But that’s ok, this time, I won’t be counting.
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