Choosing to stay in the shadows

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I have two children whom I adore. I also have a mentally ill mother who is at times a third child and takes quite a bit of our energy. We have no other nearby relatives to help us during crazy times, although do have local family-by-choice. My husband Orchid’s work sometimes involves traveling and many times provides more erratic excitement than we would like. Still, we are thoroughly grateful that I am able to work part-time and provide some balance for the kids, and for us. Orchid is also a deacon of our church and so has additional responsibilities and time commitments for that.

I’m unsure how our lives compare to others in terms of commitments, responsibilities and energy consumed, and maybe it doesn’t matter. We are all endowed with a certain ability to deal with life’s requirements and in the end the weight of the load one must carry is subjective.

In our case, the balls we have in the air have left me with the realization that in this phase of my life, my primary role is that of glue. I am the family glue. Or maybe I am the slime that fills in the cracks. None of this reflects on Orchid’s fathering and husbanding – both of which he does fabulously – but more the reality that with all of these balls in the air, one of us needs to remain flexible enough to dive in and catch the extra ball tossed in, or the new crack created by wear. These unexpected needs happen more often than you’d think, particularly now that Sunboy is in school which has brought a tidal wave of new tasks. This “glue-slime-treading water in the tidal wave” role is the reason I chose my twitter alias @BeingMama. My personal talents and goals are eclipsed for the moment, but like all eclipses, I know this is temporary.

The truth is, I don’t feel I’m terribly good at all of this gluing and sliming and treading. In fact, I feel a person better at motherhood and managing family life and work might not need to spend as much energy as I do to make it all work as well as it does. Which isn’t to say that all works wonderfully, but rather things are almost always functioning. Thank goodness for time to keep things moving forward even if we wonder if we are.

All of this to say that today when I was again asked to teach a Sunday School class at our church, my regretful declining stirred the cauldron of emotions in me. Guilt. Incompetency. Confusion. Insufficiency. Alienation.Unworthiness. General ick.

It made me wonder if something was wrong with me that I felt I couldn’t handle a once-weekly class teaching kids for a year. I thought of so many excuses, and then I wondered if the excuses were an excuse. I discussed it with Orchid and he agrees it’s just too much for us now.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is say no to others and to stay in the shadows. No one sees what happens in the shadows or what it takes to make our way in the dark. Yet, being in the light and burning oneself out in the brightness doesn’t help anyone. At times, saying no to others is saying yes to yourself. And since shadows are personal,  no one can judge when it’s time to step into the light, besides you.

cat silhouette shadow

9 thoughts on “Choosing to stay in the shadows

  1. Wow. Your posts really, really strike a deep chord everytime I read them. I know what it feels like just being in the shadows while the rest of the family takes over your entire being. I am also focusing on my family right now, quit work and am, like you said, being in the shadows. Offers came by that I couldn’t take up: but I tell myself that when the time comes, things will happen. I just think of it like this: right now, it isn’t my time but my family’s; and when my time does come, I won’t be in the shadows as much. Hope that made sense!

    1. Makes perfect sense! It takes much love to put oneself aside when the family needs it like when children are young. Life balances itself over time as needs change. Someday we will miss these times. :) My best to you!

        1. Of course, Meenakshi! We like wrapping in warm conversation and supporting each other here. Thanks for joining in!

  2. Kat, I can definitely relate to this post. But trust me, you are hardly in the shadows. You’re out there being a superb mother, wife, daughter, professional, friend, and everything else in between. You are saying no to a request because you have about 5 full-time jobs, which is COMPLETELY justifiable and normal. We can’t be everything to everyone. But you ARE everything to your family, which is what matters most. You’re working hard to support everyone around you and you’re doing a fabulous job. Don’t let that guilt trick you into thinking anything less.

    1. Thank you for this, friend. It is a constant struggle to feel that we are enough and do enough, isn’t it? One’s family does and should trump other concerns, even if the solution to this is complicated. x

  3. Oh my dear Kat. You could never be fully in the shadows if you tried..your wonder and excellence shines too brightly.

    You have so much on your plate – and sometimes you really just have to say ‘I’m sorry, I just can’t right now’ – not just for YOU – but for your family. When there are more cracks than glue to fill them…that’s when things get REALLY rough – so I’m so glad that you realised that you needed to say no…as hard as it is an as much guilt as I know happens….You guys just really do have entirely too much on your plates right now to try and juggle too much more without hurting yourselves.

    It’s funny – because you say you’re not SO good at this glue/slime thing – but I promise you that you’re the only one that thinks that. To me – you are amazing glue and slime. You are so beautifully perfect at the things you do. You just seem to do it naturally and have it all together. I think it is human nature for us to believe that we’re not so great at these things, that we scrape by and do our best but it’s never enough – but I know that you are absolutely fabulous and wonderful and amazing at those things – just because I know this. I see the wonderful in you all of the time.

    I am awful at saying no. It has led to me being so beyond stressed and sick that I had a mini-breakdown and have since been living in the shadows for years – doing what I need to do to survive – and not much more. I still feel like I’m recovering. Every time that I do ANYTHING – I feel like I’m trying to remember how to live outside of the shadows again – and man – it’s exhausting. Meeting friends, dancing, dating, volunteering – doing all sorts of things that I use to LOVE have taken a back seat because I had to live in the shadows not by choice – but because I burnt myself WAY out. Even now – there are days when I don’t say no when I know I should..because I just can’t handle much anymore..and then I end up crying in bed, exhausted (see: this afternoon for reference.) and wondering how I’m going to survive or get back to my normal self that juggled 17 balls and spent every night out at bars, with friends, out for dinner, crafting, volunteering and otherwise keeping myself so busy I had no time for any glue to hold anything together.

    So please my dear friend…Listen to your soul when it tells you to say no…know that no one can do everything..and you are already doing more than enough. Don’t burn yourself out. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to take care of you. You are so so so beyond worth it.

    Love you. xoxoxo

    1. I never thought I’d get a smile from being too I’m “amazing glue and slime”, but there it is! Thank you much. I take it as a complement coming from the Queen of Slime. :) You do so much for your family on top of dealing with real family challenges, Erin, it amazes me. It shows that others perceive us differently than we see ourselves. x

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