the “get your shit together” deadline

It seemed like a harmless and soothing thought: “by the time I’m thirty, I’m gonna have my shit together…”

When I was 20, I went to a baby shower hosted by the sister of the mom-to-be. At the time, I was unsettled and angry. My career goal of greenhouse management had been ripped out from under me by severe allergies to all the chemicals used in greenhouses back then. I was working in a lamp shop, holding lampshades over lamps for hours every day, saying “what about this one?” My marriage was not what I’d expected. Adult life was one big parade of unhappy surprises. I felt thwarted.

I decided (as most women do) that this was a temporary state and I would get my shit together and I would end up calm and grounded like the hostess of that shower. I have no idea why I picked her. It was eons ago. The important thing is that she was the genesis of my self-made myth that there was a fixed point on my horizon where my life would be wrapped up in a tidy bow and handed to me with a note that said “here you go, sweetie, your work is done.”

Barreling toward 30…

I left the lamp store, started a business, moved around a lot within a very small radius, bought a house, became a Realtor  went to a lot of weddings and funerals, raised three dogs, planted a vegetable garden, landscaped my yard (repeatedly) and stayed unhappily married. Next thing I knew, I was 30 and my shit was not together – nowhere near together. Reset the timer to 40. I wasn’t done. No problem, cooking times will vary. By the time I’m forty, I’m gonna have my shit together.

Careening toward 40…

Figured if I couldn’t run a greenhouse, I would do landscaping. Woke up one morning with crippling arthritis at age 31. No more landscaping. Assorted jobs and volunteer work. Three of my dogs died. Got two more dogs. Became an aunt. Gained a lot of weight.  Started doing website design for my husband’s company. Loved it, met great people, had a blast. Ignored the bad marriage. By the time I’m 50, I’m gonna have my shit together.

Hobbling toward 50…

Gave up on the marriage, got divorced, began a 10-year long distance romance, lost two jobs I loved and a series of jobs I hated.  Had my first (hopefully last) major surgery. Lost a few teeth. Two dogs died, one after a year of chemo which I will be paying off till the end of time. Got two more dogs. Lost, and gained back 75 pounds. Refinanced and updated my house.  Watched the real estate bubble burst and take all the equity in my house with it.  Worked my ass off and got nowhere.

By the time I’m 60…

I plan to be smart enough to realize that no one ever really gets their shit together on schedule.

Life is not an event you can plan out – or plan for. You can’t set the table the way you want it, invite guests, relax and enjoy the ambiance  It’s a crazy, noisy, improbably circus with clowns and freaks and elephant dung. Acts come and go. You work the high wire without a net. Every now and then you have to pack up and move the whole crazy mess to another town.

Wait. Metaphor switch.  It’s a carnival (clowns again) and some of the rides make you laugh, some make you scream, and some make you throw up.   There’s stuff that tastes fantastic at the time but will haunt you later.  The games are rigged and you hardly ever get the prize you want.

Wait. Metaphor switch again. It’s also a rodeo (still, there are clowns). You ride the bull till it throws you off. Up…down…up…down…smash. Anticipation…exhilaration…elation…defeat. Rinse. Repeat. When you can’t, or won’t, get back on and ride again, show’s over.  When I’m 60 I hope I finally embrace the fact that it’s not just about the ride – it’s about getting back on the bull after you’ve been thrown.  Maybe then, I’ll finally have my shit together.

One comment

  1. Bethany /

    Great bit of advise. But don’t you worry if you get your shit together people will start asking you how it’s done? Jk, you always seem to keep all the balls in the air no matter what’s going on! New metaphor, and there still could with the clowns.

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