We Are Not Robots

Do you ever feel consumed by roles and responsibilities? After a week full of rushing, a Saturday arrives that you’ve looked forward to all week in hopes of sleeping in and binge watching some guilty pleasure Netflix original. By sun set, you’ve forgotten to eat lunch, you’ve ceaselessly completed hundreds of chores and tasks, and you’re going to have to skip the shower to meet up with your friends for dinner on time. This adulting thing can be heavy and overwhelming. It’s time to give ourselves permission to drop a role or task from time to time. I don’t mean to minimize the strength and resilience of the mediocre population. Most of us believe we can only manage a couple roles, responsibilities, or crisis at once, but as life tosses more balls of chaos into our orbiting burdens, we conjure up the skill and energy to continue moving, never dropping balls or losing momentum. Does having the capacity to cope with pain and stress mean we are required to power through? Is there a number of balls that we cannot manage at one time? Is it okay to drop a ball sometimes? I am working on accepting that adulting is about juggling, and sometimes we need to put one ball down to pick up another.

You know what makes being mediocre the hardest for me? I have this inability to quit. I cannot give up on responsibilities, relationships, tasks, occupations, or goals. I really struggle with letting people and things go. I am not certain if my issue stems more from a nature of competition in which I can’t let life beat me or from an idea that I’ve poured so much into the role or relationship that I would lose a crucial piece of self if I walked away. Whatever the reason, these things I do know: If I love you, I love you for life, if I say I’ll be there, I’ll be there even if no one else shows up, and If I say I’m going to do it, I will do it and do it well. I’m aware that I’m not alone in this battle against quitting. I belong to a club of doers. Doers have it so hard because along with life’s typical stressors pushing us forward, we push ourselves twice as hard and feel like failures no matter how productive we are. The concept of failure is so unfair whether we label ourselves or others. Taking a detour on the road to task completion does not make us failures. Furthermore, is failing such an awful fate? In competitive sports, we teach children that losing builds character. “It’s important to know how to lose gracefully because you can’t win at everything in life.” Yet as adults, we pressure ourselves to be consistently perfect and successful. Who needs character when you can be a winner, right? We keep picking up more roles and goals, never putting down the old, and if (when) we topple over or simply collapse from the pressure, we are plagued with self-hate because the problem must be that we’re too weak, rather than the reality that one person can only carry so much responsibility.

I have always placed a significant portion of my identity in my profession (even amid the climb as a student). As a mediocre achiever throughout my life, I finally “found myself” once I landed in a beautiful graduate school program surrounded by encouraging mentors, a priceless educational foundation, and genuine colleagues. I am a counselor with both the natural gifts and the work ethic necessary to aid me in pouring into the lives of thirty-plus individuals and families per week while they journey into better versions of self. Professional goals were the peak of my existence until November of 2016. I was blessed with professional leave time for the first six weeks of my transition into parenting when my three girls were initially placed in my home. During those six weeks, I was the perfect mother (I can hear you laughing already). I provided consistent safety and care. I gave constant attention. Once they were asleep securely in their own beds at night, I would complete every unaccomplished household chore before crashing for the night. The challenges (beyond simple exhaustion) began when I resumed my passion fueled, emotionally exhausting career while attempting to keep up this perfect parent performance.

There’s this funny thing about people. We’re not robots, yet we’re expected to operate as such. Approximately three months into my parenthood journey, I began feeling those hard parent feelings (it’s like when they named me “mommy,” I naturally adopted mommy self-hate). I had every aspect of our lives organized as best as humanly possible (or at least as best a mediocre, full-time working, adoptive mother of three can). One struggle at this time in our lives was piecing together childcare while my husband was basically absent (because he was a soccer coach, and soccer is a stupid long season), and I couldn’t be available between 8:00 AM and 5:30 PM Monday through Friday. One exhausted Friday morning (it should probably not go unmentioned how much of a non-morning person I am and that my toddler experienced a total meltdown the night before because “it was a really good day, and she didn’t want it to be over”), I crawled out of bed with only half an hour to prepare my household to conquer the day. It was one of those days where I sacrificed my appearance for sake of two extra snoozes (thank you, to the inventor of dry shampoo), and we each made our way out the door missing at least one essential for the day. Just as my toddler entered her typical toddler meltdown (because it’s not fair that she’s shorter than her older sisters), sitter number three sent me an urgent text explaining that she wouldn’t be available to pick up my 2nd grader from school. I quickly responded, “no problem,” with every intention of rearranging the afternoon schedule to accommodate the change. Have I mentioned that I’m a mediocre mother at best? Late in the afternoon (approximately 3:30 PM), my supervisor interrupted an intense trauma therapy session to urge me to call my child’s school. The walls came crashing down on me with the realization that I never made the “no problem” accommodations, and my 2nd grader’s school had dismissed at 2:30 PM. The solution existed in the form of calling on sitter number two to cram my three children into her Mini Cooper after my 2nd grader’s two hour wait convinced that I had abandoned her. I had officially failed to “do it all.” I thought I was artfully juggling this mediocre life with both old and new balls in circulation, and suddenly I realized, “I can’t do it all, and I shouldn’t have to.” While no one died, my refusal to accept that I was overwhelmed, led to dropping balls when I should have responsibly and proactively chosen to put some down. I slumped into my supervisor’s office and explained to her that I would be resigning from my position before the next school year. No thought or discussion was needed. I understood that my juggling act needed a major change, and the only adjustment that made sense was to spend more time with those in my household and less time with those in my office.

I toppled over from the stress of my chaotic life and dropped some balls. I confess that I’m a mediocre mother, wife, friend, and employee. When I gave myself permission to examine my priorities and thoughtfully choose which ball to put down, I allowed myself to pick up so many more balls that just so happen to be a better fit for me in my current place in life. I didn’t fret over money or being a “failure.” I simply focused on the good things. My kids were the good things that needed most of my energy. I was able to keep my career, social life, and family life in rotation while under a lot less stress by simply reducing my work hours and caseload. Friends, don’t be afraid to shift your priorities. Don’t be afraid to make the necessary changes to keep your juggling act in circuit. It’s okay to “fail.” You’re not the only one facing the fact that we are not robots. Just relax, and allow yourself to be human, and when the time comes, choose to put down a role or responsibility for your own sanity. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.

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