The line from Oklahoma means something very different for those of us in our 40s than the teens for whom it was intended. Women in the public eye from Oprah to Mika Brzezinski warn women against the desire to be everything and to please everyone. Something much easier said than done!
I have never seen Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The title strikes too close to home. I strive to be a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend, a good adviser, a good historian, and a good writer. The more I fight to fulfill all these roles the less I fulfill any of them well. I should say “no” to something.
I should say: No, I don’t need to give that paper. No, I don’t need to read those applications. No, I don’t need to write that piece. No, I don’t need to give that party. But I can’t stand to jettison any of these things, because they constitute my very being. I am so overbooked I can’t breathe, but if I gave up on any facet of myself, the outcome would be worse. I would mean I gave up on being me. As Ado Annie concludes, “I cain’t be what I ain’t!”
At this time of year, when the application cycle is crashing down around me, my own conference paper deadlines loom, and the adjustment to a new school year for my children has our household in even higher levels of upheaval, I feel compelled to offer a universal apology.
Yes, I am stressed. No, I can’t relax. I am sorry if that makes you ill at ease, and me a lesser mentor, mother, hostess, and human being. Perfect isn’t possible, and its pretense merely makes pain in others. At least I know nobody looks at me and thinks oh if I only did such and such like her, everything would be perfect. Anyone with a view on my life knows that for all the balls I attempt to juggle, a goodly portion drop and roll away from me. I have no magic tricks to help me keep the balls in the air, nor do I judge other jugglers with balls at their feet. At least, I can laugh at myself and hope the world laughs with – not at – me.
When you ask if I am “ok,” I am. I’m just fine in an Ado Annie, OK for Oklahoma, way.