Sometimes life is just too full for time to stop and think. To contemplate your place in it. To rebuild broken connections. You hurtle from place to place, commitment to commitment. There’s no thought of ‘where is this taking me?’ Only ‘how do I get there, then there, and finally there, on time and in one piece?’
You don’t mean to. You really intend to say no more, take care of yourself occasionally, and… there’s things you can’t deny. Pulls on your time energy and emotions that feed from the core of your purpose in life and so you do them without hesitation. Only later do you wonder if there will be time to eat. Or pee. Much less sleep.
The demands on a parent are myriad. This is no time to think about your wants and desires: put all that nonsense off until the children are grown and gone and with them the last vestiges of your own youth and sanity. Collapse into the chair, arms akimbo, and stare at the wall wondering if you screwed up the next generation singlehandedly. Was it all worth it? Yes. Maybe. I don’t know yet. Ask me again in a decade at least.
But just because your whole goal in life is to raise them doesn’t mean you can neglect the means to do so. So you add another taskmaster and get yourself to work daily, do the job, strive to exceed expectations and take ‘meets expectations’ as a slap in the face and wonder how to do better.
You come home to an empty bedroom and stand there for a moment wondering if your partner has given up on you. Has decided this chaotic life is too much, so long, slip into the night vanishing without a trace. Then they walk in with a cheerful greeting and you stuff your insecurities into that compartment that doesn’t fit them too well any longer, and apologize for your fatigue. You try harder. You really do. But somehow it’s never enough for your harshest critic, that relentless internal voice hammering on and on about how bad you are at anything you try to do. But doing gives you some small measure of pleasure. Just enough to make it worth fighting off the critic who lives in your head. At least this time.
It’s never enough. You gotta know that, from the outset. You’ll never be enough parent, enough lover, enough friend. You can’t fill someone else up. You can only do your best. Give of yourself until there’s nothing left to give, in the process discovering that you’re stronger than you thought. We all have limits. The well runs dry, but if we learn where the limits are we can tap the brakes when the fuel gets low, find a refueling station (food, water, Art, exercise, so many ways to stoke your internal soul-engine) and get back on the road to the next thing a kid wants you to do for them. There’s no end to this race. But the only competition is you.