For most people, self-improvement is a life-long journey. Personally, I find it to be an arduous road filled with many unfortunate twists and unexpected turns. It probably doesn't help that I sometimes have the attention span of a squirrel, so figuring out how to make major life changes is a bit more challenging for me (also, entertaining for the people in my life who sit back and watch my scattered attempts at growth).
After I had my second child, I told myself that this was the time to "get my life back on track," which is a phrase most commonly uttered by people who are constantly in the process of trying to do better and be better and conduct their lives more effectively. (Not that my life was ever "off track" but having two kids sort of throws a wrench in your plans to look like a runway model, a goal that I admittedly know is the product of deeply problematic conditioning ingrained in me by a society that puts too much pressure on women to look a certain way; but still, I like to achieve things, so I'm choosing not to judge myself for wanting a bangin' body.) I had given every piece of myself to my kids for so long that there was hardly any part of me left for, well, me.
So I told myself shortly after my second child's first birthday that it was the time to be the change I wanted to see in the world, err, my world. What sort of changes, you ask? Well, I wish the world would read more books by David Sedaris, I wish the world would normalize mass consumption of tacos, and I wish the world would develop a formula for burning calories that didn't evolve two mind-numbing hours on an elliptical machine. I also wish for a lot of much bigger, more important wishes that would benefit a great many more people than just myself, but in terms of "things I can possibly control," these are my dreams.
I want to read more and worry less; Write more and laugh more and jump in more puddles with my two rambunctious boys; I want my body to require fewer elastic waste bands, and my face to merit fewer remarks regarding the overall well-being of my health. (I do not look tired — this just how I look, sir.) I want to help others and make a difference in the world of those that truly need it. I want to go to all of the places and do all of the things.
How's that going, you ask? Well, let's just say I've encountered a few obstacles, and if you're the type of person who is perpetually trying to improve yourself, you'll very likely relate:
So Much Clothing Is Not Made Properly For Real Human Bodies
I want to take this moment to proclaim my deep, burning hatred for the most unforgiving fabric on the planet: denim. I mean, what is this stuff? Does NASA use it to protect their rockets from catching fire on their journey next to the sun? I am pretty darn content with my body, but I know for a fact that I don't actually look like a real life muffin. At least not until I squeeze my newly acquired backside (which I love, by the way) into a pair of denim jeans. You know what? I'm changing my mind: I don't blame denim. I blame the people who refuse to make jeans in shapes and sizes that fit a wide range of human bodies. For someone who is a chronic self-improver, nothing makes you feel less...improved than putting on clothes that cut you in weird ways.
(Also, whoever invented jeggings: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to feel human again, rather than like a breakfast pastry.)
I Am Definitely Way Too Hard On Myself
I understand that change takes time, but patience is unfortunately not one of my virtues. Why can't one Zumba class work off all those pregnancy brownies I consumed? I'm pretty sure I burned, like, 800 calories in the form of shame and humiliation as I tried to keep up with what appeared to be a flash mob. Why is it that I haven't written a book yet when I've already got an awesome title? Does everything not automatically fall into place after an epiphany? No? Dammit!
Yes, I am that person that thinks she can run one mile today, and somehow complete a marathon tomorrow. I also think that I can build an entire writing portfolio in under a week. Shut up, I know it's ridiculous. But that's the struggle: When you're someone who is never not trying to do better, you often want that "better" to happen, like, yesterday.
There's A Serious Time Shortage Involved
When you have kids there is never enough time for anything. It's rare to have enough hours in the day to even cover the basics of what need to happen, let alone pursue my endless list of things I want to be more awesome at. And in the event that I'm miraculously gifted with five spare minutes, there's a good chance I'm going to use it to sleep with my eyes open.
So how's a girl supposed to read a novel, write a novel, plant a garden full of delicious organic vegetables, and drink mimosas with her friends when she's got a full-time job and two kids running around? Oh, and a husband that she's pretty much obsessed with. When does time with him even come into the picture?
Constantly Feeling Inadequate
I'm a competitive person by nature, so I feel like not winning at everything makes me a total loser. And adult competitions are so much harder than the adolescent ones, so this hyper-competitive thing is not only more taxing, but it always makes me feel vague feminist guilt.
The truth is, I've made huge strides in my life this year: I've transitioned into a new career, paid off debts, kept in touch with loved ones, and successfully raised two boys who aren't complete a**holes (yet). But somehow, despite the many positive changes in my life, I still feel like they're not enough, a chronic condition of most moms who are hellbent on self-improvement. I am truly my own worst enemy (oh, I should add that to the list of pending improvements).
There's Never Enough Caffeine
I'm not a morning person. I'd love to pretend that I wake up at the crack of dawn bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but that's a massive fabrication. I need hard drugs to get me going in the morning. And by "hard drugs" I mean strong coffee. Like, keep the sugar and creamer to yourself and give me more espresso. I'm only human, you guys.
Ridiculous Societal Standards Set By Completely Delusional Jerks
Um, who decided that it was a woman's job to do everything, every day, for everyone? And who declared that if these life-juggling, multi-tasking champions somehow fell short of the expectations surrounding their daily achievements that they're some how deemed as less worthy of admiration? The steaming hot pile of NOPE needs to be over already. Unfortunately, many of us (read: me) have been trained by these messages so thoroughly throughout the course of our lives that feeling obligated to ~do it all~ is basically just our nature at this point.
That's not to say that we don't love the self-competition and are miserable about it, but we're not ignorant to the problematic roots of these tendencies we have.
Laundry, Because Missing Socks
You know, some days I'm perfectly on track with my many life changes. Some days I've got my whole ~situation~ completely together: I'm wearing pants, the kids are fully clothed, everyone is fed, and no one has had any serious meltdowns...until it's time to fold the effing laundry. That's usually the point at which I revert to a state of domestic psychosis while trying to locate the whereabouts of hundreds of tiny socks. And then my day spirals downward into a pit of never ending searching for the missing mates to my entire family's socks. I'm convinced that one day the companies that manufacture washers and dryers will come out and admit their guilt in aiding the sock industry's funding.
Focusing On A Million Things At Once Is, Um, Tricky
It's hard to focus on meeting work deadlines when there are two tiny human tornadoes in my peripheral vision. I'll continue to type as I wonder what exactly they're destroying, and before I know it, I've written "that sounded like a lamp shattering" in the middle of a very serious piece about Syrian refugees. Trying to always be better means always trying to do a lot of things at once (otherwise, where would any mom get the time to get better at anything?) and if you're me, that means getting distracted and getting wires crossed.
Example: I've got great intentions when I go to the gym, but the girl that runs the daycare there has such fascinating yoga pants that I get lost in a 40 minute conversation about elasticity, and before I know it, it's time to go home.
I've Got Priorities
As most humans who are parents can attest: It's hard to take care of ourselves when we're constantly taking care of other people. Even if taking care of those people is so rewarding; even if those same people take care of us in return. A lack of time to be totally, wonderfully selfish is exactly the downside to loving and committing to people that makes some people so scared to do it; this is a known problem.
Personally, I'm OK if my personal well-being suffers a little if it means that my family is taken care of, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to be and do so much more. My family will always come before bold ambitions, and that's fine, because those are humans whom I love tremendously and all the little "improvements" I want to make to myself and my life are largely things that I know don't matter in a big way.
And that's the ultimate truth about moms who are always trying to improve: We love the process of striving, and trying, and climbing. That is who we are, not sad people who believe we are not yet good enough. I love myself even without all the flashy things that I aspire to be. That doesn't mean that I don't still aspire to be better--of course I do. Every day I hope to go to bed better than I woke up. And though not everything I do will drastically change the way in which I live my life, I'm content with my effort alone.
Images: Hannah Westmoreland Murphy(2); Giphy(8)