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Lately I’ve been doing a lot of adult thinking. Like thinking about… stuff. Stuff that is not “do my kids have clean underwear?” and “what am I making for dinner?” and “did I remember to put money on my kids’ lunch accounts?” Things like “what is the meaning of life?” or at the very least “why don’t I have my trash together like so and so?”
Recently, my husband transitioned into a different area in his career, an area that will be demanding many more transitions in an extremely short amount of time in the immediate future. Some of these transitions affect us as a family directly, some of them indirectly. All of them force us to consider who we are as people and parents and spouses and how these changes will affect that.
The realization that being an officer’s wife wasn’t any different than being an enlisted wife was an awesome one. But there was just one problem. How was I supposed to be a good officer’s wife if I couldn’t even be bothered to brush my hair daily? Let’s just be honest, I rock a pony tail 6 days out of 7. Because they do not require a brush. How was I supposed to handle this most recent change to who I was if I couldn’t be bothered to have a spotless kitchen and a Better Homes and Gardens worthy living room? I have no idea what I’m making for dinner tonight (it’s quarter to 6pm), I’m not sure if I have any clean pants in my closet, and I’ve taken to wearing slippers because I forgot to wash the load of socks last night. My life is so not put together that if by some miracle it randomly put itself together, I wouldn’t know left from right and I’d think I suffered from a mental breakdown and was hallucinating all of it.
I found myself standing in front of the mirror a few nights ago, pulling curlers out of my hair and wondering where my seldom used brush was as I prepared for my going away dinner, and I was suddenly hit with this overwhelming feeling that I was not measuring up to the other officer spouses. I wasn’t measuring up to ANY spouses. Or mothers. Or women in general. I stood there staring at my half curler filled head and pushed back tears. I felt like a loser; a loser who’s put on 20 pounds in the last 3 years and isn’t any further progressed in her life than she was 20 pounds ago.
That’s when I felt… I don’t know. A whisper. Like a barely there thought that floated by on the spring breeze coming through my window. A feeling of a memory. The giddiness of a pounding heart as I made my first sale on my first novel. Then another. The pride of making my first $100 off commissions from that novel, signaling over 200 copies sold. Then a louder whisper… the way my husband randomly told me to stop looking for a job and pursue writing full time. The pride I saw in his face as he smiled at the shock on mine.
Then I thought about the anticipation I felt when I flew to DC to attend a political summit, the thrill of writing an article about it, the glee at meeting men and women who are shaping our military policy. I thought about the volunteer work I’ve been doing and the initiatives I’ve been participating in that will affect our military society. I contemplated the three novels I’ve written and the two magazines I’ve managed and the company I’ve helped develop- from the ground up. I thought about the brand I’ve been putting together and the articles I’ve edited and the writers I’ve worked with to develop. I thought about the radio show I hosted and the theatre production I acted in and the campaign I volunteered for. I thought about the three magazines I’ve written for and the online magazine I was a regular contributor for and articles I’ve researched. I smiled at myself in the mirror as I reminisced about helping my daughter Bethany memorize her first campaign speech for student council and the hours we spent making her a glittery American flag for her campaign poster and the hour it took us to get her hair just perfect for her campaign video. I thought of the hours in the car driving my son to and from doctor’s appointments and the way he will remember those scary days as the time he got to have Mommy and Zach time with Starbucks Frappuccino’s and Taco Bell and just talking for the entire 3 hour drive about Legos and Star Wars and his best friend Xavier. I remembered the time I sat with my youngest in the hospital for three days when I was scared to death and he thought I took him on a Momma and Chris vacation where he was confident that we were in a hotel with the coolest bed that went up and down and it was so special that nobody else got to come with us.
As I stood there staring at myself in the mirror, hair half up in rollers, feeling fat and worthless, I realized that in the last three years and 20 pounds, I’ve actually done a lot. None of it has been housework or laundry, but I’ve done a lot! So much, in fact, that I was no longer surprised that I couldn’t find my brush.
That evening, I made a discovery that I think women in general need to make. When you sit and look at all of the things you are not accomplishing that the girl next to you does on a daily basis, you are going to fail. Miserably. You’re never going to have it all together. But none of us really do.
Let me repeat that.
NONE of us have our crap together. Sure, we may look like it. If you look solely at my accomplishments and my activities over the last year and a half, it might look exactly like I’ve got it together. I have accomplished a great deal that I’m very proud of. But if you were to walk into my living room? You’d wonder if you should call Merry Maids or my pastor first. (Call Merry Maids, please). That’s not for lack of trying. Though I do joke that I don’t do housework, what I actually don’t do is maid work. I’m no one’s maid, and my family accepts that. I’m far too busy to pick up after everyone in my family, and my family loves me far too much to be offended by that. It works for them.
So if it works for them, why wasn’t it working for me? I’ll tell you why: I was too focused on my expectations for what “having it together” looked like. I can’t tell you the burden that I felt lifted right off me as I stood there and realized that none of us really has it together. It was freeing. Liberating, even. Almost like the feeling I got when I came home from DC last time and finally ripped my bra off.
I’m sure I’ll stress over this again in the future. After all, I did eventually have to put my bra back on. Just like I did have to come home from my going away dinner and get the kids clothes ready for school the next day. But it was with a much lighter heart. And curled hair. Although I never found my brush.