Monday, August 25, 2014

Goodbye, Superwoman

At the end of last month, after a particularly stressful day, I sat in the armchair in my living room and had a little chat with myself. This retired life that was supposed to be a change of pace from what I'd done all my adult life was quickly turning into a new rat race, with me as the head rat. Once again, as in every decade of my adult life, I loved everything I was doing. The problem was, there were still only 24 hours in a day, and no matter how many decades I live, that is unlikely to change.

So I needed to initiate a change, and it needed to be more pervasive than simply eliminating something from my schedule. It needed to be something that would impact our daily lives. After a few moments of wallowing in stress and self-pity, the answer became very clear.
I needed to learn how to delegate. The only person who actually expected me to be Superwoman was
me, and so I needed to give myself permission to relinquish the role.

It was surprisingly easy, this decision to take off my Superwoman cape. I folded it neatly and set it aside, secure in the notion that I am not the only person in my house who can find things, cook things and launder things…or order them, schedule them and pick them up….you get the idea.

Sounds simple enough, this removal of an invisible cape, but the decision was momentous enough that my visual memory of sitting in that chair making that decision is every bit as clear as the truly momentous occasions in my life. I was making an adjustment that ran counter to both my personality and the way I've done things for as long as I can remember.

My husband and daughter are pretty self-sufficient, but in the two years since I retired, we've all gotten used to my being available to do things, and so the myth has intensified. Of the three of us, I have the most flexible schedule, so it only made sense for me to take on things that need to be accomplished during regular business hours. Add to that the myriad "oh, I can do that for you" things I took on -- sometimes unbidden, sometimes not -- and  my to-do list grew rather quickly.

That's all well and good when a person is really retired, but at the same time that my in-home to-do list was lengthening, so was my out-of-home list. Adult and community education classes that still left me with lots of time to tackle the in-home stuff quickly gave way to an adjunct position that looked great on paper but required large chunks of off-paper time. Then my book came out and I had to figure out how to factor book promotion into a schedule that included writing and planning and teaching (oh, my!), all of which had become part of my new and exciting second career.

Suddenly, my schedule had about as many openings as a doctor's office during flu season. And I was keeping about the same hours.

As I've said in so many posts like this, I'm not complaining. I'm extremely happy with the direction my life is taking. But if there's been a common thread in the past two years, it has been change. Every time I got used to my new position, someone yelled, "Rotate!" And with this last rotation (agreeing to take on a second class at the college), it became apparent that the phrase "my cup runneth over" can be both a good thing and a bad one.

It was time to make some changes. Again.

I didn't ask. I simply called a family meeting (funny how much of my parenting has been influenced by 70s sitcoms) after dinner one night and laid out the fall schedule. I told my family that things were going to look a little different (again) and that their help was required.

As I said, my family is pretty self-sufficient. In addition, both of them are good at pitching in. I'm just terrible at asking for help.

Now that I'm paying attention, I see that there have been openings all along. Like, for example, when my husband offers to help. For more than twenty years, I've been saying, "it's okay, I've got this." Um….why? Now I tell him what he can do -- at least some of the time.

And my daughter has been raised to be self-sufficient -- not that it always happens, mind you -- and so the "do for yourself" mindset is not a new one for her either. But if I don't ask her to do things, she's not likely to come up with the idea on her own.

A funny thing has happened between that day in the armchair and now. Once I got past the guilt of, ahem, "sharing the wealth," I discovered that I kinda liked delegating.

Actually, there was no "kinda" about it.

I definitely like delegating.

But I also know exactly where I put that Superwoman cape. Y'know -- just in case.

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