In my twenties, I attended a company Holiday party hosted by my husband’s then-employer. It was held in a dimly lit ballroom with a dance floor and wandering balloon artists creating phallic symbols to be worn as hats. I was nervous about meeting his colleagues for the first time because of my small-talk allergy, so I tried to make myself as pretty as possible, to offer at least the appearance of being put together.
Had I known about the pen*s-shaped balloons, I wouldn’t have worried so much. I wore an ankle length, velvet dress in a deep shade of burgundy, and around my waist I wrapped a rhinestone belt that circled once, then dropped into a long line of faux jewels hanging down like a string of glittering diamonds. The first co-worker I shook hands with looked at the trailing rhinestones, and asked if I was wearing a Lasso of Truth that evening.
Obviously I wasn’t, otherwise when I asked him if he was insulting me, his reply wouldn’t have been a hasty “No” and a fast exit. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what a Lasso of Truth was at the time. I didn’t read comic books as a girl, and so my knowledge of Wonder Woman and her Lasso of Truth was rudimentary at best. I knew she was a superhero, but I didn’t understand why.
Before I left for my MFA residency in England last month, I quit my day job. You aren’t surprised, and neither was anyone related to me. The twenty-five hours a week I spent working as an admin assistant for five (yes, FIVE) campus pastors, became unsustainable with my husband’s new work schedule and my desire for sleep, sanity, and seeing my kids (and grad school, and running a busy household, and writing projects…). I have entered retirement, effective immediately.
I also discovered administrative work makes me feel as if I’m wearing restrictive undergarments at all times. Is this what Spanx feel like? If so, no thank you. I found myself expending an enormous amount of mental energy trying to hold everything in–the schedules, the expense reports, the emails, the to-dos, along with my own internal crazy. I’m far too relaxed about the details of life (and especially the administrative tasks related to life) to sustain that kind of work long-term. Being “organized” is a totally different animal than being administratively gifted. Lesson learned, and as usual, I learned it the hard way. Thanks, office job, for teaching me I have no future in, well, anything but the creative.
For six months, I pretended I was Wonder Woman, managing tasks at the office and managing life at home. But, one can only ask their family to eat so many take-out dinners and wear the same pair of dirty jeans on repeat so many times, before the illusion begins to wear off. In my case, it wore off pretty quickly. I wish I had it all together. I wish I could work outside the home and take care of a family and finish grad school and write in my spare time, but I can’t do it all and do it well. I just can’t. It’s very hard to admit this to one’s self, let alone admit it to the internet. But here I am, bleeding a little from my wounded imperfections onto this page, because I suspect some of you feel the same way too.
You don’t feel like Wonder Woman. You feel as if there isn’t enough of you to satisfy all the needs and expectations and desires placed on you daily. Sure, you could squeeze more into your schedule to assume something akin to “productivity”, but you don’t want to. You want breathing room. You want space. Like you, I am tired of this insane frenetic pace we’re all expected to keep, in order to do more. Trying to do more, makes me feel like I am less. Less capable, less competent, and less connected to my inner self.
A friend once said to me, on becoming an adult, “You reach a point in life where you don’t need anyone or anything to tell you who you are. You already know.” This is a lesson I’m learning in reverse. I’ve become more and more undone as an adult. Life experience has unraveled me, but I’m beginning to see myself more clearly with each success and failure. The puzzle pieces are snapping into place, and they tell the story of who I am and who I will become. I will not be Wonder Woman, and even though many of my friends manage to pull this off, this is not me.
Working outside the home wasn’t the problem, but sacrificing the hours I need to write and study, to pursue something I find incredibly life-giving, became too much of a tension for me. Through trial and error, I’m discovering who I am. I have zero employable skills apart from writing. I may not be Wonder Woman, and I may not be able to force others into the truth, but I can tell the truth about myself. Rhinestone lasso or not.