Monday, October 01, 2007

Let not your heart be troubled...

It's been two weeks since I posted anything, and I am trying not to feel guilty about breaking my promise to myself to post at least once a week.

I feel guilty a lot. I don't know how closely that is tied to being female. Most men I know don't seem to struggle with guilt the way women do. At the risk of overgeneralizing, men seem much better able to forgive themselves for their failures than women do.

Actually, men seem to be much less likely to brand their mistakes, misjudgments, and mishaps as "failures" to begin with. There might be a lesson in that...

But for every woman I know, guilt is a daily fact of life. Parenting seems to ratchet up the feelings of guilt exponentially. I learned early on that the one, sure thing that all mothers have in common is that we feel guilty.

Doesn't matter if we work outside the home for money, stay at home full-time, or something in between. Doesn't matter if we are married, single, or in-between. We never feel that we have done enough or given enough. Many of us feel responsible for the health and happiness of all those we love, and we simply cannot fulfill that responsibility.

It is arrogance, of a sort, of course. It is arrogance to think that we have the power to make other people happy...especially to make them happy all the time. Certainly, as parents, or as partners, we have responsibilities to our children and our spouses/loves. We owe them care and commitment, fidelity to the relationship, and our best efforts at love. But we do not owe them a pain-free life. That is not within our power to give, anyway.

I was reminded recently of my inability to do the impossible. I had taken on way too much, at a time when my emotional and physical reserves were low. Shortly after I wrote the last post, I nearly put myself in the hospital because of stress. If you've ever had a panic/anxiety attack, you will understand where I was. If not, be sure to thank the good Lord that you've never experienced it.

I was working on the biggest project of my career. There were some serious communication breaks---and it didn't help that my client is in Africa, in a time zone 7 hours ahead of mine. On the day that was the worst, I received a message that I took to mean "You're fired!" On top of all the legal wrangling over my divorce, that was just about the last straw. I could barely breathe, my chest felt so tight. And I hadn't gotten more than 4 hours of sleep for days running, so I was totally exhausted.

But in the midst of all the mental and physical turmoil, I suddenly felt this calm descend on me. And I heard this voice inside my head saying "Let not your heart be troubled." It wasn't a big, dramatic thing--like the time I heard God telling me not to kill myself. It was more a whisper than a shout.

But all of a sudden, it felt as if the panic and the stress just...vanished.

Later that day, I got a call from my attorney saying that my ex had agreed to settle and to pay me back for the cost of filing the lawsuit.

And the following day, I got the message that I hadn't been fired after all. That it had all been a mistake.

The stress came back in a big way after that, of course, because of the tight deadline and the massive size of the project, but the paycheck will come in handy. We finally put it to bed on Friday, and I'm still struggling to dig out from under all the other stuff that didn't get done while I was focused on it---like cleaning the house, and doing laundry, and spending time with my kids.

As I move into this new week, I am trying to hold on that gentle admonition to have a peaceful heart. To remember that I simply cannot do it all, and that it is folly to try. That I should strive to do my best in all things, and then give the burden of my unmet expectations for myself to God---who is really the only one big enough to handle it, given my over-sized ego.

Wish me luck.