Credit to the wonderfully talented Maira Kalman.
Credit to the wonderfully talented Maira Kalman.

I’m hardwired to over commit.

My mom is the same way. So is my sister. We have a hard time saying no, and we each have a competitive streak. My Grandma was similar. This gene might explain why we all decided to run a half-marathon in Austin, TX last winter. We had our families to join us, and it was one big jamboree of four young kids, the race itself, rental everything, ample bar-b-q, and airport antics. Vacation is a misnomer; trip is more accurate.

The training, race, and trip were awesome, but I was happy when they were over. Now I could be a couch potato after dinner instead of slogging it on the treadmill/icy sidewalks of New England. I could breathe a sigh of relief. Two weeks post-Austin, my sister sent us a link to another half-marathon, this one in Brooklyn, NY.  My mom said she was in, so of course, I said yes too. My mom is my half-marathon training buddy after all. Just like that, I had another commitment on my plate.

The truth is, there’s a lot I want to do. I haven’t totally recalibrated with two little ones; I’ve brought them into the fold. Maybe I’m selfish, or maybe I’m showing them what a full life is.

In addition to my compulsive race behavior, I want to pursue a graduate degree in my field, very part-time. I’ve gotten by as a planner on my creativity, work ethic, design and writing skills. But I’ve always been self-conscious about my lack of technical chops. I’m not an expert on any planning-related principle or policy. I know a little about a lot, and there’s a lot I want to learn. Some days I wish I could nonchalantly put my career on autopilot while I have young kids. Other days, I feel lucky that I’m inspired.

A few months ago, my sister urged me to register for the lottery of the ultimate race, the New York City Marathon. (Okay, Boston Marathon may be the ultimate in the running world, but NYC is a 26.2-mile block party.) I’ve never done a marathon; I never had the burning desire. I was good with the training and commitment of my half-marathons. My sister is doing the race with her husband, and she claimed, “Just try it. You probably won’t get in.” I put my name in two hours before the lottery closed.

Ten days later, I found a charge on my credit card for the race. WHA!!!?? I got in. I got in?! Out of 77,000 lottery entrants, I was accepted, with 9,169 others. My sister and brother-in-law were elated; this is going to be the experience of a lifetime. I was thankful, and anxious. How the hell will I fit one more thing in?

Sometimes all these things weigh me down. Just the thought of what’s on the horizon gets to me. Other days I’m confident it’ll be do-able.

On a recent overwhelming day, I called my bestie to kvetch about the things on my plate. Our conversation was cut short due to a kiddie pool meltdown. The next day she called a couple times, leaving messages and texting. When we spoke, she said she went to bed and woke up thinking about my supposed problems and tendency to pre-worry. She gave me some tough love: despite my doomsday outlook, the truth is, my life is GOOD. I complain about being overwhelmed, but it’s all within my control. I’m goal-oriented, but it doesn’t mean I need to achieve everything at once. I have a supportive family, great kids, a job I like, my health and energy. Frankly, everything is working the way I want it to. Why don’t I see that?

She apologized for being harsh. But she’s right. I need to take a step back and appreciate the good in my life. There’s a lot of it, and I don’t want it to go unnoticed.

4 comments on “Wonder-Full”

  1. Well, congrats on getting in to the marathon! I hear you on this subject though. I can get really overwhelmed too and it’s really easy to lose perspective when you’re overwhelmed. Great post.

  2. I can totally relate to this. There are a million things that I want to do, a billion interests that I want to pursue. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the scheduling and chaos of it, coupled with the guilt of not fitting in time for my daughter, and then I just want to melt down. (Nevermind trying to fit in work, housekeeping, and laundry!) I’m constantly trying to remember to slow it down and soak up all the goodness in the present. Thanks for this post!

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