I love my new job. I’ve been working a few weeks now and I am very happy there. I like the people, I like the work, I like the atmosphere, I like the flexible part-time hours, I like the energy there. It’s a very good fit for me and I am so, so blessed to have this job. I also like the “get out of the house and get paid” part, but that’s a topic for a different day. Or not.
Last week we had a staff meeting, and at the end of it I had to hurry off to teach my flute lessons.
New colleague: “Wait, you’re a flutist?”
Me: “Yep, semi-professional-ish, and I teach lessons too. I need to dash to get to my students.”
NC: “Boy, you do a lot of things.” (I had mentioned in the meeting that I did some gifted advocacy)
Me: “Ohhhhhh….you have no idea.”
NC: “Well, it’s always good to have lots of different cloaks in the closet.”
Me: “Yeah, but my cloaks are falling off the hangers and pooling on the floor.”
Laughter all around.
Pretty sure they all thought I was kidding. Not so much. My interests, my passions, my responsibilities, my widely divergent areas of strengths, my multi-potentialities…all those cloaks are jammed into the closet of my day to day life. They’re getting wrinkled and stale from disuse, or worn from overuse, or pooling on the floor from neglect. Oh, the guilt.
I haven’t always been this way, and I’m not terribly thrilled with the stress that many cloaks bring to my life. I wasn’t like this through college and grad school, probably because I was so focused that I had a single cloak and wore that constantly; I’ve noticed this on the days I work, too. Everything else falls by the wayside, at least for the time being.
This being the year I have dedicated to changing my story I decided I had to figure this out once and for all. I’m sick to death of having so much on my plate, of feeling like I can never catch up or get ahead, of having to split my focus so finely that nothing really gets the attention it deserves. I’ve been blogging here for over eight years and a quick scan of old posts show me that I’ve struggled with this for at least that long. This is nothing new for me.
So I sat with it.
It took a few days, but it eventually came to me. And it was a painful and humbling realization.
In 2001 I became a mom for the first time, and began what has become a much longer stretch of being a stay at home (and now homeschooling) mom than I expected. Despite the fact that I wanted to be a stay at home mom, I’ve never been completely comfortable with it. I felt guilty that I wasn’t working for pay, and with my husband working from home the majority of our marriage, I always felt less than because I wasn’t working as hard as I saw him working. This is in no way a comment on him, he has never caused me to feel this way, feels bad that I feel that way, and always stresses that I work damned hard with the boys. It’s all me. So instead of having a job I gradually filled my closet with a variety of passion-driven cloaks, carefully chosen, all loved, all giving me some sense of self-worth and justification for staying home.
In retrospect that backfired.
I found myself as a complex-needs parent. Not high-needs, not special-needs, but an all new category. Complex-needs. A kid described in very few books, understood by almost no specialist, with needs scattershot all over the board. Name it, there are complex issues with that area of his life. I quickly found myself in over my head, a place where I seem to just live now. More cloaks were shoved into the closet, trying to figure out how to help him, help other kids and families, help me. I just never took out any of the original cloaks to make room.
With stress the closet gets smaller. I’m stressed a lot. The cloaks do not shrink.
Parenting a complex-needs kid has also given me Adult Onset Child Induced ADD. My brain has been trained over the last dozen years to not focus so deeply on something that it can’t also keep track of the chaos about to erupt. Even when I’m entirely undisturbed to wrap myself in a cloak and concentrate, I get smacked with the Squirrel! stick and it would be easier to herd wet cats than gather my thoughts. Doesn’t help that the complex kid I’m homeschooling feels the need to share every thought as it flits through his head. Yesterday I challenged him to go five minutes without talking; he made ninety seconds. It’d also be awesome if I didn’t have to hover over him/redirect him nonstop; scaffolding is a real pain in the ass. He’s a work in progress.
So as I work on changing my story and creating a life I want to live rather than one in which I’m just going through the motions, I’m going to start pawing through my collection of cloaks. Not all will survive the upcoming purge, but the ones that do will be the ones that fit me and my life best. I’m sure there will be hurt feelings all around about some of the cloaks being sent packing, but it’s time. There’s just no room left in the closet and I’d rather fully appreciate a few beloved cloaks than fret over the condition of so many.
That’s a plot point of my story I’d really enjoy.