Waging war against the people I love

Every now and again, someone will state admiration at what I “have achieved”, at “how I juggle career and family life”, at how “I’m still so young but so succesful”.

I can only assume that there’s a strong need for someone to live the perfect life. Why else would anyone project that image onto me, of all people?

The truth is: My juggling skills are pretty much non-existent. Most certainly, they are not better than anyone else’s. While it is true that I do a lot of things, “managing” them in the sense of “having everything under control” is not one of them. On the contrary: Every time things don’t go my way, every time I feel disempowered, every time things feel out of control, every time I’m afraid that just being me won’t be enough, the tide rushes in and drowns out the tiny voice of love and belief that sometimes manages to mutter in my ear “You are enough”. In consequence, I treat the people I love unkindly.

We are talking about almost every day here, because I share my life with a family and don’t want to settle for less, I want to actually take part in my life and do the things I love with the people I love, so overwhelm is a daily staple.

So I fail a lot at being a good mother, a good wife, a good friend. I make a lot of mistakes. And then I feel ashamed that my loved ones still love me, regardless. A part of me still can’t believe they do. (Do you see the irony in this for a peace and conflict researcher?)

A priest once told me that embracing our dependency on others is embracing our humanity on a whole new level. Of course, if I acknowledged that I cannot do everything on my own, that I need the people around me as much as they need me, I could no longer pretend to live a self-sufficient life. I could no longer pretend that losing my family and friends wouldn’t devastate me. That I am so tough, in fact, that there is nothing to be afraid of.

I know this is the next step for me. Deep down, however, I am terrified.

*Full disclosure: This post has been waiting to be published for a month and feels very, very vulnerable. So be kind in the comments, please.*


7 thoughts on “Waging war against the people I love

  1. This is beautiful and true for every working mother on the planet earth. But you know what I think you need? A super cute, super efficient German au pair. Oh…that’s right…you’ve got one already…and he is madly in love with you!

    Hang in there Chris. I’ll be over just as soon as I can to share that bottle of wine, while laughing and crying with you about this crazy, modern life we lead.


  2. Oh, yes: the self-sufficiency game. And the routine unkindnesses. I feel as if I were reading about myself, if only I were brave enough to write such true things.

    I’ve always thought, ‘I stay for them. I would never explode their lives by leaving.’ I never, ever dared ask if the reverse might be true.

    A beautiful and stirring post. Thank you.

  3. I’m moved by what you’ve written. I think you are showing your family how to be human, which is about imperfection and authenticity.

    This idea that you wrote it a month ago and waited to publish it resonates, too.Last fall I wrote a post reflecting on this feeling of failing as a mother. I hesitated – a lot – what will people think? Ultimately, I got so many beautiful responses saying that others, too, have this feeling. The vulnerability builds rapport – especially because it is simple and thoughtful, not needy and attention-seeking.

    I’m glad you posted.

  4. When I was a child, I thought my parents had it all figured out. Now that I am a parent myself, I realize that they must have been winging it all the time. I never noticed, it never bothered me and I never loved them any less.

    I make mistakes at work. I am late in grading papers, preparing classes, submitting that paper etc. Yet my boss, my co-workers and my students never seem all that irritated.

    Sometimes I am inconsiderate towards my wife. I can get impatient, sometimes even angry, yet she still says she is happy she met me.

    What I’ve sort-of-learned, I guess, is that not being perfect is quite alright and that pretty much everyone is willing to forgive – and to love.

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