This morning while pondering my bloodshot right eye (infection? sign of the apocalypse? old age?), I realized what my problem is. My problem is that I have unrealistic expectations. Like, totally. (Suddenly, I am a Valley Girl, but that is not my Problem.)
Here is what I think a woman of my social class and slightly above-average intellect ought to be able to show for her time each day:
1) Sparkling clean house, including floors acceptable for picnicking upon and even licking should an errant drop of barbecue sauce splash near one’s toes;
2) All laundry washed, dried, folded, put away, ironed and mended every day.
3) Healthy dinner, complete with colorful vegetables and whole grains created by me and consumed by every member of my family, every day.
4) Children, fresh-faced and sweet-smelling, curled around the living room, enraptured by their novels. While three are reading one ought to be fingering Chopin on the piano. The cats should be purring at our feet.
5) Weed-free yard, flowerbeds abloom with perennials, lawn plush with emerald green grass and no dandelions.
6) Clutter-free surfaces, including the staircase landing, the kitchen counter (be gone, junk mail!), the end-table (where I keep the laundry baskets) and the dressers (hello, clothes, why aren’t you in the drawer?). Closets reflecting the well-ordered discipline of a woman who knows exactly where everything is, a woman who doesn’t keep clothes her kids outgrew and shoes she hates.
Now, in addition to these minimum standards (which I never, ever meet), I think a woman like me ought to also be able to:
1) Break into the world of magazine publishing;
2) Read a novel a week;
3) Write a novel within a year;
4) Organize an event without breaking a sweat or whining;
5) Teach all of the children to play the piano;
6) Create hand-crafted items with my grandmother’s sewing machine;
7) Lose the last twenty pounds in five months;
8) Organize all the drawers, cupboards, files, shelves and storage-room.
Here is reality. Here is what I manage:
1) Daily exercise, one hour.
2) Dinner of some sort, tonight quite possibly Hebrew National fat-free hotdogs for the kids (they’ll complain) and a bag of vegetables for me.
3) Wash, fold, put away three or four loads of laundry. (If by “put away” you mean stacking items on my dresser because my daughter’s drawers are full of clothes she has outgrown or doesn’t wear and so the clean clothes have no place to go. Alas.)
4) Fret about church event. (Vacation Bible School, coming July 9, SAVE ME!) Worry about volunteers. Consider deadline for t-shirt order. Wonder why sizes most preschoolers will wear. Think about going to Home Depot to scout out supplies and price PVC piping.
5) Drink 2 liters of Diet Coke.
6) Take kids to swimming pool for one hour.
7) Get hair cut. (First time since October.)
8) Read newspaper. Read Anne Tyler’s Earthly Possessions.
9) Beat up self for being unable to accomplish much of anything and lament inexcusable laziness.
10) Drag kids through two lessons of pre-algebra and a bunch of literature lessons.
* * *
My expectations for myself have always been unreasonable. I pass out slack as if were free to other people, but to myself, I offer no mercy, only judgment. I want to be normal, to live in a house free of crazed rules and impossible standards . . . but on the other hand, I want to achieve extraordinary things and I’m not just talking about getting the kids to eat vegetables. I want to be perfect, I want to be acclaimed, I want to have something to show for my life besides a stack of journals filled with the embarrassing record of a life lived with excessive angst. But I don’t want to give up anything . . . what can I give up, anyway? Cooking? Cleaning? Fretting?
Pardon me while I tuck my angst back under the bed where it belongs.
Do you have any unrealistic expectations for yourself? Or am I alone in my craziness?
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