It’s his resume that’s putting me off. It’s short, of course, but very accomplished. Lots of national recognition. Lots of high profile endorsement.

If we were in the same field I’d congratulate him for his good fortune. But instead I’m shrinking. I can’t compare myself. While he seems to be at the height of mid-life success I show a trail, 20 years of getting my shit together and not quite making it.

If I don’t look at how he’s doing, at how others my own age are doing, I feel pretty good about myself. But then I do look. It makes my shoulders shrink up and together. This is the guy I had to drag through the class notes? I wonder.

I actually don’t want to blame it on the gender divide or on my weight. I want to blame myself, because then at least I’d feel like I had some control over the final outcome. But these are factors, small attitudes and occurrences chipping away at my whole, making my determinism ever less, less than it is, less than I could be, less than what could be.

I know better. I do. I coach people not to do this stuff to themselves all the time. With other women I don’t feel this way. The professionals, I admire; the ones that choose something in between motherhood and work, I fight for; the full time mothers, I listen to and encourage, always urging them to find a way to fill that creative urge in ways separate from their children, and I cheer when they build an identity that is much more complex than “mommy.” Because Mommy, no matter how much you love your children, is always a temp position and you will need something more when all that’s done.

How did it get like this? I had twenty years to get my own shit straight. Instead I’m married – failure #1 and I am in some ways a high profile accessory to my husband, with all the conventions and graces of a society dame but with a modern, nerd-friendly veneer – failure #2.

It doesn’t help that I still picture myself alone and in my mind, the roots of success are taproots, down in depths and distance, disconnected from other living, thinking beings. I can choose to not be alone – and to  not have the independence I define as success, or I can choose to be alone and not have the support I need to sustain that success.

Do men have this problem? Is it just me? Is it my PTSD giving me these ridiculous ideas about blissful aloneness that don’t really work?

This is almost, but not quite as ridiculous as staying away from a favorite uncle because I had gotten fat and I did not want to bear the brunt of his disapproval over my body. In any other situation I knew that my worth as a human being was the same as it had ever been, but I just didn’t want to face the probability that his affection for me was contingent on my being aesthetically pleasing.

I know better. I even have the excuse that I’m an artist and our trail is supposed to look weird.

And I abandoned having a plan very early in life. Where I am isn’t bad… it’s just not MINE to be proud of.



  1. jillithd

    I hear ya. I think a chunk of my anxiety about being a mother to my baby is me comparing myself or my baby to others. At home with him for 12 weeks, I would feel pretty good about us and my parenting decisions. And then I’d go see my niece and her daughter who was calmer and was ok with being put down and wouldn’t squirm or scream after a feeding and my entire self confidence would evaporate into pure shame.

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