Nobody Has it “All Together!” Okay?

Tonight’s 10 p.m. wish: that people would stop pretending they have it all together.
Because I know I never will. None of us ever will. And that’s okay!
Photos, and Facebook, and Instagram make us all look so pulled together. And sometimes that makes me want to laugh hysterically.
Yes, my work-life balance is radically better than it was four years ago, when I was being crushed by the weight of three young kids and an impossible work schedule. But even with a much more manageable work situation, there are plenty of days when I am on the CRAZY TRAIN. I can’t keep up. So I surrender. I do what I can, and let go of what I can’t.
It’s not always pretty.
Tonight, for example, as I was at the library checking out the book “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time,” the check-out computer told me I had a fine of $21.50 for books that we forgot to return in May. Oops. (I tried to make a joke about it. Why did the librarian not seem to find this nearly as amusing as I did?) My 5-year-old, Daisy, climbed all over me as I paid the fine, knocking down our stack of books, one of which fell apart when it hit the floor. I realized, as I scrambled to pick up the books, that I had thrown on a once-favorite shirt that got stained by a pen in the washer. “This librarian thinks I am a TOTAL LOSER, or high as a kite, or escaped from prison. Get your sh*& together!” I warned myself.
So, for the record, for anyone who thinks that this former “news lady” who just wrote a book about finding better balance and escaping chaos has it all together – You. Are. Wrong.
Nobody does.
Kids are hard. Work is hard. Marriage is hard. Taking care of a house is hard. And awesome. And overwhelming. And joyful. And crazy.
I am no expert on finding the “perfect balance” in life because I think it’s a pretty cruel joke to keep searching for perfection.
But the one area where I do think I have gained a bit of expertise is knowing when your craziness is so off the charts that it is toxic; that it warrants an escape route; that you need to RUN toward a better life.
Here’s an excerpt from my diary-style memoir, “Know When to Run: Lessons from the diary of a Gen X mom,” that shares the single best lesson I’ve ever learned about knowing “when to say when.”
The book will be out on Amazon on August 1 –  such an exciting and unbelievable milestone. Thanks for your support!
A Midwife’s Best Lesson 

October 1

                I feel like a spoiled brat today after speaking on a panel to eager journalism students at Ball State University. From their perspectives, I have about the coolest job they can imagine. Most of them would be thrilled to get the chance to pick up some camera gear and one-man band their way around a tiny town, changing the world one story at a time.  

               And here I am in a major news market, on the anchor desk, in no danger (yet) of being forced to schlep my own camera gear around as a few of my colleagues are beginning to do. How dare I have the nerve to whine about the unfulfilling and overtaxing aspects of my job?

                Except that I am living my life. They are not. Those wide-eyed students have no clue what it means to raise three children while managing a career as intense as this.

               I’m remembering something that my certified nurse midwife (what a godsend!) Dana told me when I was in labor with Clara. Our home in Des Moines was only a few miles from the hospital where I planned to give birth. Dana lived nearby, and visited me at home while I was in the earlier stages of labor. “When should I go in to the hospital?” I wanted to know. I was waiting for some formula: how many minutes between contractions, or how far I was dilated.

               Her advice was much less specific, but much more useful: “Stay here as long as it feels okay,” she advised. “Go when you feel like you need to be somewhere else.”

               My first birth experience, with Calvin, had left me upset and disappointed. A very late epidural after a very long, exhausting attempt at natural labor left me too numb to push effectively. The doctor, who was filling in for the obstetrician I had grown to like and trust, was harsh and cold. Calvin’s birth (via vacuum extraction that left a huge purple lump on his head) and my recovery were somewhat traumatic.

               This time around, with nurturing, empowering Dana by my side for the entire labor process, things were night-and-day different.

               I listened. I trusted. And indeed, I knew exactly when I hit that point where I needed to be somewhere else.

               We went to the hospital at 8:30 p.m. Less than three hours later I lifted a calm and serene Clara Corinne out of the birthing pool with my own hands, smiling as I realized with awe that I had given birth completely naturally, just the way I wanted to. I had climbed my own Everest.

               “Go when you feel like you need be somewhere else.” 

               I am having that feeling once again. I can’t ignore it any more than I could ignore a baby’s impending birth. It’s time.

               It is time.

Lesson: There is no scientific formula that will tell you when change is necessary. Your instinct is the only accurate compass.

Know When to Run: Lessons from the diary of a Gen X mom, will be available on August 1, 2015. A portion of the royalties will benefit Riley Children’s Foundation.

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