Recently I had the pleasure of talking to Allison Tate, a widely respected editor and writer who, at 40, seems wise beyond her years. Her writing has gone viral over and over again not only because it’s beautifully written, but also because she knows things.
I soak up everything she says like a big nerdy sponge.
We were talking about goals and being happy with where you are in life. She suggested thinking about how your 12-year-old self would feel about where you are right now. Would she be happy with what you’ve achieved? Would she be proud?
I have spent the past week reflecting on this. If someone threw out the question “Are you happy?” I would say yes without thinking. Of course I’m happy! I’ve always been happy. It would be weird to have a name like Harmony and be a sullen bitch.
But in the day-to-day grind, I’m not sure that I am happy, not really. I feel frustrated and dissatisfied for reasons I’m unable to pinpoint. I’m tired of being broke. I’m tired of cleaning up puddles of pee. I’m anxious to get all of my kids in school so I can devote more time to freelancing, which will hopefully translate into money. Or maybe I need to find a real job where I can do real things without little people following behind me, immediately undoing them.
One afternoon this week, my three-year-old accidentally peed all over the bathroom floor. Thankful he at least made it to the bathroom, I mopped it all up while he changed into clean clothes. Approximately 20 minutes later, he asked for some lemonade.
By this point in the day, I was desperate for peace and I didn’t care that the baby was playing with plastic sandwich bags in the kitchen; I stepped over them and poured him a cup full of lemonade.
I was just turning around to remind him to be careful when he stepped in the pile of bags and slipped, slinging lemonade into the air and landing on his arm, which I was sure was broken. Blood poured out of his mouth as he screamed. Lemonade dripped into my cabinets and drawers.
His little sister ignored it all and kept playing.
The arm was not broken, and the blood was coming from his tongue. He was fine. Approximately 20 minutes later, he had another accident in the bathroom. This time, he carefully covered the enormous puddle with thin layers of toilet paper.
“I trying to clean it up, Mommy,” he explained when I walked in. A valiant effort, which I thanked him for as I gathered wads of pee-soaked tissue off the floor.
Maybe the real issue is that I am done with childbearing and now I just want to move on to the next phase of my life, where afternoons like the one I just described don’t happen anymore. Don’t say it — I know these challenges will be replaced with bigger ones. I like to believe that I am better-equipped to cope with older kid problems than potty training problems. I am so over potty training problems.
So why can’t I just settle into to life as it is, right now, and be satisfied with it?
I did what Allison suggested, and thought about what my 12-year-old self would think. I can barely remember being 12, so I pulled out some pictures to jog my memory.
In all my 12-year-old glory.
I had a perm and glasses that covered my whole face. I was embarrassed of my changing body and wore the biggest clothes I could find to cover it up. I was awkward, smart, and a voracious reader. I still played with dolls and I didn’t want my friends to know. I loved music. I looked to be about 40 years old.
So basically, not a lot has changed.
Then I found this picture of me opening a typewriter. I had forgotten that my parents gave me a typewriter the Christmas that I was 12.
I was a writer then and I am a writer now. Also, try not to be jealous of my air-brushed sweatshirt.
My 12-year-old self would not only be happy with where I am, she would be in AWE OF IT. I am happily married with three beautiful children, I sometimes write things that get published, and I have discovered contact lenses.
My 12-year-old self would eye roll me for being dissatisfied with where I am. I deserve to be eye rolled.
Amy Poehler wrote in her memoir Yes Please, “Success is filled with MSG,” meaning that no matter how much of it you get, you’re left wanting more. This is the root of my dissatisfaction, in addition to the fact that no matter how many times I clean up pee, more seems to appear.
Maybe my 12-year-old self wouldn’t have minded cleaning up pee. Her knees certainly weren’t as creaky.
(If you liked this post, then you will LOVE I Still Just Want To Pee Alone! Click here to find out more!)