After I began writing this, I clicked away from the page to read a text. When I clicked back to the word doc, it was blank. My well-thought-out opening paragraphs were not there. Why? Because I hadn’t actually written them. I’d composed them only in my head, though I kind of remembered writing them… Now, as a mature (hah!) woman of 49, I find myself increasingly concerned with what it means to be a grownup, and I wonder if spending so much time living life in my head proves I’ve never achieved adulthood. Have you? Cause I think I’m missing some adult section of my brain that most of you possess.
Proof I’m actually a child
I lose track of things because in my head, I’m busy imagining car crashes or the speech I’ll give when I accept my Pulitzer.
—Go to garage to get dog food. See mud on my car. Imagine father-in-law frowning at dirty car. Tell him a Jeep is meant to get dirty, so don’t judge. Caught up in argument, wander back inside. Realize hours later: never fed dogs.
—Make doctor’s appointment. Pull out phone to put appointment on calendar. Notice princess sticker daughter stuck on my arm. Have dialogue in head with receptionist about how fun my daughter is. Forget to put appointment in phone. Miss appointment. Pay fee for no-show.
—Plan snowboard trip to Canada four months in advance – plenty of time to get passport. Weeks pass, my sis reminds me weekly to get my passport. Weekly, I forget to get passport. Reality strikes three weeks before trip. Panic ensues in final week. Finally hunt down nearest passport office for emergency passport – TWO DAYS BEFORE TRIP. Pay fee for expedited process.
Sigh. I bet you responsible adults out there don’t even know what I’m talking about.
I work at home, my schedule is flexible and I have a bed in my office – a dangerous combination. I love to snuggle up in the blankets and dream. But life is passing by. And I find myself thinking of my oldest brother and sister-in-law: I’m pretty sure Paul and Kathy don’t nap. They have races to run. Fencing competitions to attend. Cookies to bake (and probably bring to the new neighbors – which I have never done). Thank you notes to write. Industry-wide respect to earn. They do all this while I’m napping. My parents never said this to me, but I’m saying it now: Jennifer, why can’t you be more like your big brother?
My house may be an actual hazard. This winter, my family has had: six flus, two minor bugs, one three-week cold, one case of pneumonia, and one double ear infection. Bear in mind that there are only four of us.
So it’s possible that not cleaning the bathroom or kitchen counters may have caused a germ-fest of epic proportions.
4. Returning phone calls
It’s a fucking mental block, guys. I can’t do it. Someone calls and I think, “I don’t have much time to talk right now. I really want to talk to this person. So I’ll call back when I have more time.”
Later, though, I forget. The next day I remember, but my phone isn’t charged. The next day I forget. The next day I remember as I’m falling asleep and vow to call in the morning. In the morning, I forget. The next day I remember but get distracted. The next day? Guilt. Guilt becomes unbearable so I still don’t call. Finally, I decide to become a hermit in the woods, severing all relationships with all people everywhere so I don’t have to feel this awful for not returning the calls of my loved ones.
So I just… It’s like… How do you…?
I mean, and then the kids get hungry. Don’t even get me started on fresh vegetables because that takes… Well. Fuck. Never mind. And people like my sis Carmen have alphabetized spice racks! I can’t even… Oh God, let’s change the subject.
Enough of that
I know that’s only part of the story. I have a few gifts (I guess) that I’m told I should acknowledge:
Writing (sometimes humorously)
I get great satisfaction from using just the right word with the right connotation for any situation. I know what makes a good article and what to avoid – and I actually get paid to write them (but not here – this is just for fun and inspiration, guys…).
And though this blog post isn’t necessarily very funny, some of mine are (I’m not being braggy! It’s just what people tell me. Like, my mom…). Try this one, which may make you laugh. Or may not.
I superstitiously believe that if I judge someone, I’ll end up having the same shortcoming that I’m judging them for. So I’m actually afraid to be judgemental.
I also tend to be overly empathetic. I see a mom smack her toddler’s bottom too harshly and shout at her in a restaurant? Well, maybe the mom lost her job. Maybe the mom gave in to the child’s whining to go out to eat because it was the last time they’d be going out in the foreseeable future, and then the kid decided she wasn’t hungry and threw her macaroni and cheese on the floor. Maybe I would react similarly in a similar situation.
Also, I have a hard time believing that people lie, including known criminals and presidents. Even when they’ve been proven to be big fat liars (not naming names), I believe someone when they say something. So I’m gullible, but also open-minded.
Anyway, when friends talk to me, I listen, and even when I don’t agree, I don’t feel judge-y. I’m interested in their point of view, and I learn from them.
I’m pretty sure this is where I excel. I love having fun and want people around me to have fun. I get enthusiastic about insignificant things (like my dog’s new ability to catch a treat in his mouth) and my enthusiasm can be contagious.
I am learning to do aerial silks, which is super fun and not a sport most women my age to jump into.
In summer, I seek out hidden coves in the reservoir, practice doing headstands on my paddle board (an activity at which I am notably unsuccessful), then string my hammock between trees and spend the day goofing off like a child with books and snacks. I’ve learned to snowboard by going way beyond my skill level because sometimes scary is fun – and when I have a close call with a tree, I laugh until I literally pee my pants (right, Angel?). I create contests within the family – today I asked Paul to judge whether Michael or I was chewing our ice the loudest; I won. I plan a campfire at the lake with my kids and their friends, just because I want to make s’mores. Oh, and this is the best! I just received in the mail my Ninja Obstacle Course slackline kit (except today it’s snowing. Not. Fair.).
Because I’m always trying new things, I’ve occasionally been told I’m an inspiration to other women. It’s hard to believe (disorganized, irresponsible me?) but who knows. Maybe the women who wipe down their kitchen counters on a daily basis are looking for a little more fun in their lives…in fact, that’s why I started writing this blog.
How do you measure strengths vs. weakness?
So if my antics have been inspirational to even a small handful of people (two?), why do I easily dismiss the fact that I make people laugh and instead focus on my dirty bathrooms?
My therapist says people like me are “creative geniuses” and the world can’t do without us. I argue that if I had a real job instead of working for myself, I’d be a major failure. But she said no, creative geniuses get more leeway than others. My friends don’t buy it. When I say I shouldn’t be held to the same standards as them because I’m a creative genius, they say that if I had a “real” job, I would totally be fired and though I may be creative, I’m definitely not an actual genius. This is why I want to fire my friends and become best friends with my therapist.
I have two questions for you. First, what does it take to be a grown-up? And second, do you value your strengths as much as your weaknesses? Does anyone ever find true self-acceptance?
Wait, that was three questions; feel free to disregard the one of your choice.
OK, have fun ‘til next time.
PS: Shit! I was just browsing my blog to find a semi-humorous essay to link to above, and found another one I wrote on this exact topic – my inability to be a grown-up. Apparently I think about this a lot, and apparently I still haven’t accepted myself for it. So I probably bored the hell out of you because you already heard all of this, but as I’ve spent about 47 hours writing and rewriting this one, I’m not ditching it just because it’s redundant. I guess I thought it bears repeating…