I like to volunteer. It gives me a sense of satisfaction, a direct course of action, and a frame of reference. Lately I have joined a couple of new causes, and defining my roles with them is an ongoing process.
One day last week, my to-do list was long, and each undertaking had a specific window of time for completion. Multitasking was forcing me to limit the effort and concentration I could put out. The last two hours of my life were spent staring at a computer screen while cussing a stream of obscenities. The job I had to complete wasn’t within my scope of knowledge, and my frustration was showing. More like my frustration was coaxing me to pick up the computer monitor and drop kick it through the window, but luckily that hadn’t happened yet.
Jason, my husband, came into the room and asked two simple, innocent questions:
“How’s it going? Need any help?”
Cue my epic meltdown. There were tears, there were flying limbs, and there were insecurities revealed. What’s wrong with me? Who do I think I am? What makes me think I can figure this stuff out? Why do I need help to do this?
I can blame the emotional outburst on the cumulative effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and medication, but what really caused the moment was self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. Those other things create a climate that allow my insecurities to bloom instead of retreat. Those nagging doubts that I tuck away spilled over once the facade cracked.
I admitted openly the worry that I am a fraud, that I’m not good enough or smart enough to accomplish what I want to do. My face burned with embarrassment. I articulated my most guarded apprehensions out loud, and the look on Jason’s face revealed his sympathy for me. He wisely suggested I take a break, an idea that I fully embraced.
Later on that evening, we attended a Philadelphia Flyers game with Baby #2, whose Mites team was scheduled to play a three-minute hockey scrimmage. He was excited to play goalie, a position he and his teammates rotated through all season long. He’s a natural stay-at-home defenseman, aware of his positioning on the ice, instinctively protecting his goalie, able to block shots, and not afraid to battle it out in the corners. He had been considering trying out as a full-time goalie for the upcoming season, and the thought of playing in goal on the Wells Fargo ice animated him.
His outing did not go as expected. He let in two goals and with just three minutes of ice time, the game ended in disappointment for him. By the time he returned to his seat to watch the rest of the Flyers-Hurricanes game, he was ready to cheer and forget about his performance. The next morning, though, he wanted to talk about it.
“I wish the game would have been longer last night, so my team had a chance to even the score.”
I patted his shoulder. “I know, bud. Three minutes isn’t a lot of hockey, but you go to things like that for the experience.”
“I’ve been thinking about playing goalie…” his voice trailed off, and he bit a corner of his bottom lip.
“What about it?”
“Maybe it’s better that I stick with defense. I’m good at it, and I can’t expect other people to do for me what I do for them when they are in goal. Maybe some of my teammates are better goalies than me because, when I’m on the ice, I’m a better defenseman than they are.”
His analysis startled me. “You mean, you think that when you do what you are good at, you are giving your best to the team, and that helps everyone else?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I can do the other things, but they take a lot of practice and hard work. I don’t mind doing the work, but if someone else is already good at it, I should keep working on what I’m good at. That’s what helps the team.”
And, just like that, my 8 year old gave me perspective.
Of course I can take the time to learn and develop new interests, but why am I ashamed to admit that I’m not the best or most talented at everything I attempt? I was setting myself up for failure with that attitude.
The next day, I reached out to a friend whose wealth of experience explained the hangups in my task within 20 minutes of conversation. I was able to complete the assignment and then move on to other things that I could easily handle on my own.
It sure is easier to reach your goals when you don’t unnecessarily carry of the weight of them on your own.