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Does anyone have a panic attack I can borrow?

By Liz Flaherty

 

“I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”

No, these aren’t my words, but ones spoken by nearly every retired person I know.  Understand, I want them to be my words, but I’m still a few years and many minor panic attacks away.

Why panic attacks? you ask.  (Please ask — this essay’s pretty pointless if you don’t.) 

Well, it’s like this.  When my children were in school, I loved working concession stands, sitting on bleachers, and assisting with things like Pioneer Day and field trips — I went to the children’s zoo so often I was on a first-name basis with the mynah bird.  Being able to do things like that make up for maternal moments like assembling a Halloween costume out of a pillowcase and a magic marker when you know your creativity starts and stops at the door of Wal-Mart.

But there was this one minor problem.  My employer thought that since I was being paid, I should come to work.  Oh, my bosses were always pretty understanding of the first emergency room visit, class trip, and make-up game played during work hours.  But by the time the third journey to the zoo came along,  they were saying, “How many kids do you have, anyway?”

The kids, my employers, and I all survived, and although I didn’t make as many field trips as I wanted to, I made some.  But I didn’t attend too many class parties, and I was always the mother skidding around the corner at the last minute with her bakery-bought cookies.  I fancied that the stay at home moms looked at me with disdain as they flaunted their cupcakes made from scratch and their unbroken fingernails.

Thirteen years after my youngest son’s high school graduation, I’m still feeling guilty because I didn’t do enough.  This isn’t unusual, I don’t think, because motherhood’s all about guilt, right?  What might be just a tad unusual is that I’m still trying to catch up — and hurtling headlong into panic because I can’t do it.  There are still only 24 hours in every day, and those hours go by a heck of a lot faster than they used to.  Or maybe it’s just that I move slower these days.  Whatever the cause, I’m still way behind.

The sad part of the situation is that I’m one of those who likes ringing bells and making blankets for babies in hospitals.  I enjoy helping with church dinners and going to lunch with friends and spending time with grandchildren and shopping with their mothers.  I don’t mind buying stuff for kids’ fundraisers that I could live perfectly well without.  (Popcorn, anyone? — I have not one but two Cub Scouts on my growing list of grandchildren.)

It’s easy, says my friend Jane, not to get overwhelmed; you just learn the magic word.

No.

Repeat it slowly after me.

Nooooo

It’s not working, is it?

You can soften it some — you can say “maybe next year” or “gosh, I’m already committed at least through March” or “I’d really love to, but —”  But No is still No, and I can’t seem to master its use.

It’s 4:23 AM as I type this.  I’m leaving for work in 20 minutes.  When I get off I need to go to the grocery to get more food for the Christmas party I’m hosting tomorrow and buy a gift for the exchange.  Then I need to bake the ham, clean, conjure enough forks out of thin air, and tell myself over and over that the sky won’t fall if I use paper plates and napkins.

Several days later

Hmmm … I was right; the sky didn’t fall!  And we had a good time even though I didn’t get the place clean enough to pass even a gray glove test and a couple of us were eating off salad forks.

I just can’t believe how easy it is to relax and go with the flow.  Isn’t this what we were chanting about back in the sixties?  So how did I lose it between then and now?

Beats me, but I don’t have time today to think about it, either.  We’re going to visit my mother-in-law today, and some of my kids are visiting from Vermont.  I have laundry to do, gifts to wrap, and meals to cook.  At some point in time, I’ll probably need some sleep.  Oh, and work … I’ll have to do that, too.

Oh, boy.  Does anyone have a panic attack I can borrow?


Married for thirty-some years to Duane, her own personal hero, and mother of three and grandmother of six, Liz Flaherty has written a column from her Window Over the Sink off and on for over ten years.  She hopes you enjoy her essays.  You can email her at lflaherty@comteck.com

Married for thirty-some years to Duane, her own personal hero, and mother of three and grandmother of six, Liz Flaherty has written a column from her Window Over the Sink off and on for over ten years.  She hopes you enjoy her essays.  You can email her at lflaherty@comteck.com

©Liz Flaherty for SeniorWomenWeb
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