I've been feeling a little rattled of late. OK, a lot. Part of writing here, for me, is making sure that i stay honest and don't write happy flowery when actually there is more going on. Not trying to make it all look perfect or like my life is running exactly as it should. Because we all have ups and downs and it's part of the journey to figure our way through all of that and to let it shape our choices and the way we go.
One of the reasons we wanted to move to Texas earlier in the year was partly because we needed a new adventure, a change of scene. But for me it was also to leave New York. There's something about being here that makes me feel like there's an invisible weight on my shoulders. I might feel it somewhere else too, but for me, here, it's at its heaviest ever. I have been trying to figure out what it's all about for me and i am realizing that it's because this place is so driven and huge - it's New York for goodness sake. It's not a small beach town or a place not on the map. It's New York. And it's reputation is there for a reason. It is the place of ambition and drive and being your best. Always pushing for more, wanting more. It's not just about the size of your house or the kind of job you do, which is pressure enough and most of us come across that sometimes. Here it's also about being your best all the time. Which in itself is not a bad thing - striving to better ourselves, wanting more for ourselves in the sense of more experience, more living fully, more of the good stuff. More balance. A way to contribute and also grow ourselves.
But i am feeling like here, it's all about competition and the focus can so easily go wrong. Parents wanting to out do each other. In the birthday parties they throw, in showing how well they parent. It's silently running in the background the whole time. If you are working and a parent, you should also be able to fit in some charity work or be sitting on a board, and juggling school commitments and helping here and there with a million other causes. You should be busy all the time, never stopping to rest. If you're a stay-at-home mom you should also be proving what a good citizen you are. You should have a full resume of activities and causes and things to make you look successful and important. It's all about being busy, being recognized, fighting your cause of choice and being visible for the work you are doing. I feel like it's one gigantic competition to succeed and achieve and to be able to list those achievements for everyone to see. I have finally figured out that this stuff is sitting on me like a ton of lead. Because i can never be enough here, do enough here. No matter what i am doing, it's never enough - this competitive drive runs through so many social interactions and friendships here, it's part of life. The always having to prove one's worth. Having to list a successful career (not), a good college attended, a business one started (not), a beautiful house (not), good connections (not), people one knows (not) ... the list is endless. And then on top of that we should put in the time and effort to look beautiful and groomed and smiley and friendly and the kind of person everyone gravitates toward (not). I was a fool to think it would be any different - a place attracts a certain kind of person and this place stands for success and ambition so of course, even in the suburbs, I am going to encounter the same things. But i don't fit in and i haven't so far. And i have finally realized that i probably never will, no matter how long i live here for.
There's a beautiful book called Hope for the Flowers which i read years and years ago and just remembered recently because it's simple and very relevant for me. At some point it should be enough - all that we have. It should be enough to pursue our own happiness and what that means for each of us, and that it means different things to each of us should be ok too. It should be ok to make different choices. To not live in a mansion or have a swanky career. To not be going to gala events or sit on a board. To not be constantly having to prove how successful, competent, grown up, responsible, multi tasking, thoughtful, caring and socially aware we are. To just be ourselves. For me right now it's being able to be at home with my kids, doing a few little things on the side. Not yet a home owner. Not yet sorted and rooted and all grown up. Not possessing a suit or liking high heels. I gave up work and a career i was growing, to be at home with my kids. It was one of the hardest choices i ever made but since I did, and since we moved countries in order for me to be able to be at home, can that not be enough sometimes ? Maybe for a little bit ? Do i also have to be studying and furthering myself and feeling guilty for not giving back and contributing to a million causes ? For not being famous or well recognized or for having a huge following on my blog or publishing a book, having work good enough to sell. Whatever it is, I am always falling short. Sometimes we are doing quiet inside stuff that no one else can see, sometimes we have our own little battles we are fighting. Sometimes raising a family is enough work for me and I am all tired out by the end of the day. I am so exhausted inside right now, always feeling inadequate like this. Quietly in the corner. There is something wrong with this picture.
It's a painful realization for me, that this has been going on the whole time we have lived here, for me, and that for others it might feel totally different but for me, this is not good. But it is good to recognize it for what it is, and to be able to write it out. I'm not sure what to do about it just yet, but one step at a time.
Last night i was thinking about all of this. I was baking cookies for a tag sale tomorrow and I was thinking about the beautiful home of a friend i fetched Lexi from, after a playdate, and about everyone else's successful careers and how much they are doing. I was tearing myself to pieces in my head as i was rolling out the dough and lifting out the shapes. Thinking about all of this and how i constantly fall into this trap of comparing myself (i know, insert the broken record sound here!) ... but that's what we do when we are grappling with something, we wrestle it to the ground and we try to get on top of it all. At least i do.
As i rolled and cut shapes in the dining room my son rushed past me playing football down the passage beside me. I could hear my mother's voice reading to Lexi on the couch. Outside it was dark and the lamps cast warm circles in the room where they snuggled on the couch together. Dido was playing and reminded me of England. Pizza had been ordered and i did not need to be cooking. And i realized that this is all i need, right here around me. And tomorrow my mom has to fly back to South Africa and I will be grieving all over again at the hole she will leave when she goes, but for now, for today, everything I need is right here.