what if we all quit being super woman

Women in War. Supercharger plant workers.
Library of Congress Collection.

Lately, I’ve been working on the uncomfortable habit of being real.

For a significant portion of my life, I’ve been busy. Not just busy, but over-committed, over-the-top, make other people’s contributions to the task look like poo kind of busy.

Being busy kept me distracted. Too much time on my hands gave me time to worry about Dave and his pain, his addiction and then his recovery.

Doing above and beyond rebuilt my self-esteem. Putting my nose to the grindstone earned me some badly needed kudos. I felt destroyed by the hand I’d been dealt in life. Work and volunteerism showed me again that I had value.

A full schedule kept me from being social. I lost the ability to entertain. At one time in my life, I felt like I had control. Over my home, my kids — even at times my husband. As that illusion wore away and was eventually shattered, I withdrew.

I was trying to make it up to the kids. I thought they’d been cheated out of an incredible life when we had to leave camp. Regular life seemed so dull without constant activity. In a quiet moment, they might miss it. And I couldn’t bear that.

And I was working toward a place where my own income would be enough in case Dave didn’t make it.

* * * * *

It’s been nearly two years since I realized I didn’t need to be like that anymore.

I was exhausted. So much so that I didn’t know it. So used to trying to keep up a frenetic pace that I had no idea what real peace looked like. So sure that because I could do something, I should do something.

Two years, but I’m just now beginning to act on it.

* * * * *

I’ve been learning to say no. Even to good things. Learning to not care what people think. Learning not to try and justify. No excuses. Just no.

Because I’ve tried the explaining. And someone always has more kids, more work, more responsibility. If you are a people pleaser or discontent with your life, it’s easy to get roped in.

And that’s the key. I’m less of a pleaser. I’m not as discontent. And though I have a long way to go, I’m on that path. And it looks different and acts different and says things people who are looking to please don’t say.

* * * * *

But I’ve been struggling lately with my inability to multi-task a million mom things. And feeling guilt about ministry and church. And I’d reached that overload point at work, yet again. Because I’m a pleaser.

And then, in lieu of narcotics for the pain in my jaw, the endodontist prescribed a steroid. Just four days of it. To get me through to the root canal.

For four days, I had a tremendous amount of energy and combined with regular pain relievers that finally helped alleviate the pain in my jaw, I felt good. I worked 53 hours in four days, flying to California and driving hours and hours each day through LA traffic without even a moment of panic.

As I was driving across the Southland to the airport to go home, I thought, I wonder if there’s something I can take all the time. 

Performance enhancing drugs for moms.

I know there are. I know plenty of moms who take them. For depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, pain . . .

An extremely (in my eyes) social friend of mine — someone to whom I’m always comparing my feeble hospitality — admitted to me recently that she had to have a glass of wine at certain events to get through the evening. And when she realized it had become a habit and decided to break it, the events suddenly became stressful and she dreaded them.

And I recall a conversation with a friend some years ago in which I confessed to her  my guilt that I didn’t think I could deal with a mutual friend who had made me miserable without going on anti-anxiety drugs. That I didn’t understand how she could be such good friends with her and what was her secret. Well . . . she said.

I’m not saying these things to judge anyone taking medications or who have a glass of wine at a party.

I’m saying them because I had been comparing myself to a false standard. Berating myself needlessly.

* * * * *

It hit me hard on Saturday. When I came home.

All my pleasing doesn’t please. It only makes me miserable.

And if Super Woman on steroids working overtime doesn’t make everyone happy and pleased with my work, I’m not going to feel guilty about what I really have to give anymore.

I wrestled all last weekend with this whole persona I’ve attempted in my own feeble way. Wrestled with my pride. Because I know I can do a lot of things. Just not all of them. I have to choose.

So I’m reclaiming my priorities of wife and mom and I’m choosing to make time for people who are going through hell because of addictions and to write about our experience for their encouragement. And that means means I have to give up a whole lot of other things. Or at least being amazing at them.

The truth is, there’s no reason for this relentless pace.

All of my former excuses — distraction, self-esteem, guilt, pleasing, fear of sudden poverty — just don’t cut it anymore. That’s not who I am now.

* * * * *

It’s a process. And I’ve had a lot of help. A lot of exposure of my flaws. A lot of learning to be okay with who I am, where I am. That I’m not anywhere near a perfect mom. Or wife. Or anything.

And I pretty much don’t care who knows it now.

Because what I’ve discovered, now that I’m not trying so hard to be amazing, is that the people in my life need me to be real more than they need me to be awesome.

And, I need me to be real. 

Being real this week has given me a totally unexpected but long-sought for answer to prayer.

What about you?  We’re not in a competition. There is no real prize.

And please read this article: Moms on Drugs: The Prescription Pill Epidemic

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to have problems. And we need to make it okay for people to ask for help without making them feel like a failure.

Maybe it would be easier all quit being Super Woman at once.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

5 thoughts on “what if we all quit being super woman

  1. My two favorite lines in this post:

    “All my pleasing doesn’t please. It only makes me miserable.” I know a thing or two about that and have so much more to learn.

    “…the people in my life need me to be real more than they need me to be awesome.” Nothing more needs to be said.

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  2. Wonderfully said! I want to be awesome, but I need to settle for being a good listener, available for a snuggle and a some reading time, and a game of Candyland. Thank you for letting us all off the hook! Love it!

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  3. You couldn’t have described some of the issues your father faces any more accurately. Thankfully, I have never taken any form of steroids or drugs for such things. In the current stresses of being an aging teacher in the classroom (memory issues), chairman of the elders during a church crisis (huge demands on time involving severe stress), and the need to be husband, father, and grandfather–roles that are becoming more and more important to me as I realize how quickly opportunities disappear, I look in the mirror, but do not see a red and blue suit with a cape–I see an aging and tiring “older” man. After the all to frequent 18-hour days, I can obsess over what did not get done more than rejoice over all that did get done. That old German work ethic is hard to transform. Your confession of being a pleaser and possessing a propensity for trying to be awesome appear to be partially due to the family environment in which you (and I) were raised. My apologies, Deb. Keep writing and keep being real–and don’t repeat the sins of your father.

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    1. Dad, I definitely inherited a good deal of your work ethic — an innate feeling of responsibility along with a joy in accomplishment. It’s truly a good thing. However, what I didn’t get was the ability to do it all well. I need to stop over committing now so that when you are finally ready to retire, I will be free to come to your house to visit and make the boys work in the orchard while we learn to relax. 🙂

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