Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mayble I'll have less time to fret if I get a full time job

I think I have regressed. The closer I get to age 43 – the more like a young, college girl I feel.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I sit and wait for an interview for a position as a full time counselor, but deep down I’d rather write for an interior design blog, sell houses or take pictures professionally. As much as I know intellectually that these other careers are possible, I know that staying home for the summer is the best option for my kids. Oh, and having a secure salary is good, too. I dream of starting over with a world of possibility and opportunity at my fingertips, but shrivel up from the insecurity that is wrapped up in all of these other options. I can remember when I left college with dreams of a career in advertising. The nervousness I’d feel during interviews due to my lack of experience was immense. It swelled over me almost to the point that my body wouldn’t function properly. I think that’s what keeps me from starting a new career again. Interviews are a walk in the park for me now. In the last 15 years, there really hasn’t been any situation or task out there, in school counseling, that I haven’t tackled. I may not be satisfied with my work, but I do know how to work with kids and families.

Another area in my life that has made me feel “young” again is with my ability to be a friend. My happiness used to revolve around my social life. I was on the phone, or with other people, ALL the time. I never considered choosing to spend time by myself. If it happened, it was because other people were busy. As I progressed through life, men became my social life. I have had several long term relationships and soon learned that it was hard to keep strong female friendships when I kept moving away. After my divorce, I found a group of thirty-somethings at work. We did a lot together, but it was effortless. We had so much in common and our accessibility to each other was easy. Because we were all a bit older, the friendships were strong, but not nearly as intimate as when I was in college or high school. A few years in, I met Chris. Once again, I moved. Five hours away. I moved to a town that I didn’t like and it permeated through my being. Let’s just say that no one would label me as “perky” or “effervescent” during the Green Bay years. Throw in a colicky first baby, an old house in disrepair and a marriage that was given too many stressors in its infancy – and you have an unhappy person. Not exactly the type that attracted or fostered lasting friendships.

As I have adjusted to living in Salt Lake, the walls have slowly come down. I have become more open and willing to develop long lasting relationships. I quickly became friends with several of the neighborhood moms and thoroughly enjoyed my colleagues at work. Unfortunately – and I can’t decide when it began – I now feel like it’s a struggle again.

Maybe it’s because I work part time, that I have such a hard time talking to other moms about our respective children’s accomplishments, skills and/or activities. I quickly assess what they are doing and assume it’s better and more wonderful than anything I’m doing. Then I try to figure out how to duplicate what they are doing and realize that that would be dumb. Sometimes this process occurs quickly, most often it doesn’t.

I am also doing this “comparison” thing more and more with my athletic endeavors. I have trained for a marathon and a half marathon in my lifetime. I made huge strides, and kept a tremendous effort up, but ran neither event. I work out 4-5 days a week, but still don’t feel I’m doing enough. I can’t consider swimming laps at my club’s pool because “everyone” that does that is enrolled in the Master swimming program. And I don’t really want to do that. In my spinning class, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up lately. My heart rate will soar, and then during our “backing off” periods, it won’t come right back down. I’ll be in pain – true pain – and won’t allow myself to slow down because maybe the guy next to me will notice. It’s crazy, I know. I finally talked to one of the instructors (a competitive bike racer and triathlete) about my symptoms and she told me that I’m over training and I need to keep my heart rate lower for the next two weeks. So this morning, I rode the elliptical machine at a slower pace and actually wondered if the chick at the front desk was laughing under her breath at the old broad “trying” to work out. Writing it all down like this makes me see how crazy it is, but it’s my rational world at those moments!

This athletic stuff leads right into my age-old body image issues. However, lately they seem magnified. Because I’ve lost lots of weight in front of some of my neighbors and friends, I start to wonder what they must think of me now that I’ve gained it back.
Again – college crap. Only then it was all about the guys. Who will want to go out with me since I’m so fat? Now it’s – “Who will want to hang out with the chubby mom?” It’s not that I think of my weight as something that puts people off – it’s different here in the land of mountains, hiking and REI. It’s more about activity level. If I don’t look fit, then I must be a couch potato. That’s about as bad as it gets around here.

Most of these issues are repeats of things I’ve felt my whole life – only in a different form. The difference I’m feeling these days is that intellectually I know better. I know that a woman with a Masters degree, two beautiful children, and an accomplished career that revolves around helping people should be proud of these things. I am, but I don’t think about those things when I’m worrying about Harry. When I’m worrying that his misbehavior castes a negative light on my parenting skills. I’m not thinking about those things when the new shorts I’m wearing look hideous when I catch a glance of myself in the mirror at the store today. I’m not thinking of those things when I walk across the room at spinning class and wonder if people are looking at my large you-know-what in those stupid tight lycra bike shorts.

I just want to grow up. I want to have security. My mom used to harp on me about this stuff. She’d yell at me, “Just like yourself!” I think she was an amazing friend and parent to me, but in those moments I wouldn’t say she was at her best.
As I look at Ella, I daily worry that she will lose her self esteem some day. I desperately demand that she be assertive all the time. She doesn’t like to make her own decisions. I tell her she has to. When anyone comments on her beautiful eyes – I tell her how smart she is. I do not want her to be writing things like this four days before she turns 43.

14 comments:

mamalife said...

A lot of those things ring true for me also, at almost 41. A re-examining of where you have gone and what you have done with the first half of your life. Realizing you are no longer at the beginning of it all, and maybe wisy you'd done some things differently. But I say that it all gets us to where we are today, the good and the bad, and we learn from it all. I'd like to own a bed and breakfast somewhere on the coast of New England. Or own a little sandwich and pastry shop. When I retire I'd like to sell my house and buy an RV and spend at least a year travelling the country.

Unlike you, I've always tended to be a loner. The differences that come with age, and having a family and a child make it even harder to meet people or maintain friendships.

And I now weigh more than after I delivered. I used to always be thin. I wonder what people who knew me a few years ago think (negatively I assume) of the weight I've gained.

I too want my beautiful, beautiful daughter to know there are so many more important things than superficial beauty. And I don't want to teach her my hang-ups.

Dave said...

Your self-awareness is amazing and humbling all at once. I think you're miles ahead of most people in that regard.

And remember that children learn from what they observe. If you want your kids to grow up finding satisfaction in their life, then do you it yourself so they can see how it's done.

Charis said...

Dear Carol! As a long-time reader of your blog, I was often impressed by the amount of different things you do in your life. But I'm not awed by them. I weigh a LOT more than you do, but I know one thing for sure: Everybody is so wrapped up in their own lives that they don't have time to think all the things you fear they think about you. Heck, most of them are probably as self-conscious as you are and wondering what YOU are thinking about THEM! The "flaws" you're describing are just what being human is all about. Nobody's perfect. When I started jogging, I used a heart rate monitor and tried to stay in my target heart rate. This meant that I normal people on a walk passed me by... At first I felt a bit stupid, but then I kept grinning at them and they grinned right back... ;-) And you know what: The nice and good-hearted people, the ones that we want to befriend, tend to see our good qualities and don't notice the "bad things" all that much... And who cares what the bitches think and do anyway, right? Right! Hope you're doing okay and always remember: Nobody's really watching you, so you can just do whatever pleases YOU! All the best, Charis :-)) PS: Do you know how Beth and her family are doing? I sure miss her crazyus.com!

aka_Meritt said...

".......I moved to a town that I didn’t like and it permeated through my being. Let’s just say that no one would label me as “perky” or “effervescent” during the Green Bay years."


Let's change to "the Iowa years" and I bet you have me writing the same sentence 5 years from now.

Aimee said...

Can I just blatantly blame the changing of the seasons? It seems everyone's insecurities and anxieties and general feelings of ickiness have hit an all time high.

I'm in that boat. My worries at 30 are that I'll never have a marriage and family. That, while I'm losing weight now, I'm going to hit a plateau and just gain it all back. I went through most of my 20s as the chubby funny girl. I want to be the hot friend for once. It's a totally shallow way to put it, but I just want to feel worthy.

I'm sorry that I don't have anything positive to add, but sometimes it helps to know that everyone is struggling with something. And even if it seems silly to someone else, it can be totally real to the person who feels it and isn't any less important.

Anonymous said...

As a neighborhood mom who is always left out, or the "third wheel" as someone once said. I started focusing more on what I wanted for me, my husband, my children. I doubt other moms look at you and worry about your weight! They are already worried about their own. I bet they admire you for being a full time mother, a part time career woman, and a extremely talented photographer, not to mention a mom who would do anything for her kids. It has been hard, but I bet there is a mother in your own neighborhood wanting a friend too! Reach out you don't know what you might find!!

Meg said...

I believe I was one of the 30 something friends. Right? I feel extremely fortunate that our paths crossed back then. Think of all the highs and lows we went through together. Even though there are many miles between us, I still consider you a very close friend. I wish we could sit down and have another all night talk. I wish I had something uplifting to say, but I too am not happy with my big ol' gut and butt. J and M are, in my opinion, at yukky ages. I LOVE my job, but it frustrates me immensely.

I truly believe the elementary school-age child is the absolute easiest to parent. My oh-so intelligent teenagers are not excelling like I thought I had raised them to.

I put hours upon hours into the math lessons I teach each day. I get out of bed early so that I can be at school awake and eager to answer students' questions before school. I respond to all of my demanding parents' requests; I conference with them after school long after my contract hours are over and still there are students failing my Algebra class. Even though I am smart enough to know that the students are failing because THEY have failed to make an effort to learn the material, I know there are quite a few children I have left behind.

Life just isn't easy! However, each day there seems to be a bright spot or two that pulls me through.

Please check out
http://www.link4u.com/enough.htm

I Wish You Enough! Love, Meg :)

Anonymous said...

I remember reading once - "You'd worry a lot less about what other people think about you if you realized how seldom they do." Sumthin like that... It helps sometimes.

Trina said...

I just found your blog through Heather and I have to save I love your writing. I am sad though that you didn't like Green Bay. I'm born and raised here and I love it. Of course I'm prejudiced but I'm interested in hearing what you didn't like about it. I just think we are so "homey". Maybe that's the problem? We're pretty small town.

amy said...

Carol,

i found your blog through heather this am. wow. i read this post and i could have written it myself, except for the "43" part--i just turned 45. mom died 3 years ago, i have a masters in social work but have yet to get my licence (and i'm not quite sure i want to figure out "why not"), am working a scant 3 hours a week at the agency i interned at but otherwise am playing tennis and driving my kids places and i don't know what.

i have run a 1/2 marathon and just did my first triathalon, and instead of feeling great about the accomplishment, i think about all the women my age who did better than me and get down on myself for not being better, faster, stronger. and while i realize i am doing this number on myself, i continue to do it.

on a brighter side, my 16 year old daughter has more self-confidence than i ever had at her age and so i think maybe i am doing something right on the parenting front. the other two are works in progress, but she has seemed to survive me quite nicely.

it is hard, all this self-doubt and figuring out where it comes from and how to eradicate it or at least quiet the inner voice just a bit. is it cultural, familial, genetic--and why can't self-awareness make it go away?

i've added you to my blog list, really enjoyed reading back issues as well as this particular one. as i emailed it to a friend and commented, it hit many nerves and really resonated with much of how i feel.

Anonymous said...

my mom once said to me - how arrogant are you to believe that everyone else revolves around you?! Okay, OUCH, but still a good question. I still ask myself that at least once a day. Generally at the same time as wondering how many people have noticed not only am I not running as fast as them on the treadmill, I'm about to throw up. Stay sane. Take care of you and yours.

Marissa said...

I am in tears reading this. This is me. The older I get the more I feel like a child. I'm 30 and in my second year of law school, after leaving a job in DC I loved to find more stability and community in my hometown and to be around family with my 6 yr old son. His father and I got married less than a year ago. I feel like all my son's friends mothers are judging me for having a kid when I was young and unmarried; for being at the beginning of a new career. They're all older and have taken a break or cut back at their jobs to have kids.
I feel like other students look at me as the old fat Mom and think what the hell is she doing here. The "older" students look at me like a kid. I don't fit in either box. I don't fit with any group. I have friends in the mommy world and friends in the law student world--but I feel out of place in both and don't have any true deep intimate friendships anymore. It's hard when the people around you only understand half of your life.
I think my son's hard time at school sometimes is because I'm not there enough--I have to study. It's because I'm not like the other moms and haven't/ can't do play dates.

I keep hoping these feelings will go away. For right now I'm wallowing and your words helped me to know I'm not so alone in my displaced feelings.

Anonymous said...

I'm 47, the mother of a seven-year-old (also named Harrison and also not that-good-of-a-listener at times!) We live in Alaska.

Your words really hit home with me. The comparing myself to others, the issues about weight and exercise, feeling my parenting skills are judged....etc. You put it all very well.

I've never posted a comment before but felt I wanted to this time. I'm going back to read your post again now....

Iheartfashion said...

Wow! Well said. Can relate to a lot of your musings about not knowing what to be when I grow up.
Enjoying your blog.