“I’ve just been so terrible about keeping in touch. I just, I work, all the time, and I talk about work, I worry about work, I haven’t exercised in over a month, and I just, I have so much work.”
“Well, so does everybody else,”
And so went a totally non-hostile exchange with a really lovely friend from college that just blindsided me at a baby shower last weekend.
Even still, I maintain that most people don’t know the pressure of high expectations, delivery, standards, and deadlines like I do. What I take on. What I say yes to, and cower under, then overcome—because I care about it. A workload that frankly only grows the minute I turn my back—I call that job security. Doing anything other than working is, truth be told, like being in momentary denial that those very minutes aren’t going to be something I regret tomorrow, with hostility, and even shame—I call that dedication. But honestly, work itself is not what I’m here to discuss.
Being at a baby shower in a stunning home in Windsor Farms in Richmond, VA with women your age (and younger) who have outpaced you in the childbearing department two-fold, and still have better bodies than you—it just kind of throws me for a loop, especially when I’m at that party on borrowed time. There’s Saturday work waiting on my desk at home I can’t stop thinking about, and the people paying me don’t care that it’s harder to do after a mimosa or two.
It makes me wonder what I’ve been doing this whole time—if I have a narrower set of priorities based on some sort of survival method? Like the way your body shuts down digestion when someone’s trying to kill you? I gotta succeed so hard, everything else stops. Having a kid doesn’t even register with me—how am I supposed to do that, when I still have so much other shit to prove? And I may never even prove it—them’s the breaks. Make sense?
The ones with the legs, and the babies, and the posture that doesn’t scream “I need Xanax to sleep without writing about web APIs in my head,” who don’t work 9-5 and beyond—yes, I know, being a mom is a job—conversing with them is almost like a Twilight Zone episode. I can’t wrap my head around it. And I kinda always assumed that was who I was going to be. So I’m both marveling and resenting, all at once.
…until I have one of those kick ass days—the “how do you do it?” days. The “no idea how you pulled this off, but you killed it,” days. It’s my own personal brand of heroin, those days.
I Bust. My. Ass. And sometimes I forget why.
But that doesn’t change that I feel like a fraudulent, misplaced, Diane Keaton-circa-Baby Boom-version of myself I don’t recognize—Bosshogg blazers aside.
Lately I’ve found a warm, safe little place in the Marc Maron WTF podcast on my drives to and from work. Especially when he interviews a sort of cerebral, neurotic, anxiety-ridden type of person who uses really big words super casually, like I flick then dole out packets of Splenda. And today, I dug into the archives to listen to the Adam Goldberg interview—another anxious Jewish Los Angeles guy I didn’t know I was maybe kinda in love with. And a part stood out to me:
Marc: What did you learn from this horrible event, with the stillbirth, and with, you know, the losing of the friend, and, I imagine… this relationship was the beginning of the dominoes falling? The breakup, and what have you?
Adam: I think what I learned was that I’m an incredibly resilient person. And not just that I am—that people are incredibly resilient. They’re just incredibly fucking resilient.
Marc: They are; they’re built to handle…
Adam’s dog died. Then the movie he worked on for two years came out, and stayed out for a only a week. The show he was on was cancelled after two episodes. His girlfriend dumped him. His friend died.
So I lost a couple of months of free time to be a part of something I was honored to be included in, that pushed me to the edge of my intellectual abilities. So what? Seriously… so what? I need a trophy? My name in lights? I can’t even register my own accomplishments; someone outside of me is going to make me feel better about how hard I’ve worked for them? A mother of two at a baby shower is going to stop, set her glass down, and go, “You do! You work harder than anyone I know. You’re the winner. I’d rather be you than me.” Absurdity, man.
So this isn’t about me and my babylessness, or my blazers and my resume. Or how hard I work. Or how my particular set of challenges make me better than, or inferior to, anyone else. It’s that every single day I wake up and I keep trying, no matter how hard my own set of tasks are—those are wins. I’m saddled with being a perfectionist—it’s honestly the most tiring job I’ve ever had, keeping up with my own expectations of myself.
I guess, if I’m not around, and then I am, now you know. I’m testing my resilience—but I don’t mean to test yours for putting up with me.