Responsibility Seesaw

Responsibility Seesaw

A seesaw appears to be a binary. Either you’re up or down. Emotionally it’s easiest to imagine this as you’re happy or you’re unhappy. Stressed or not stressed. I am often stressed by responsibility so naturally I dream of relief. How wonderful it would be to roll the backpack of anxiety off my weary shoulders and shove it deep into the closet, not to be hoisted again until next season. I wish for this so often. I am delusionally imaging a world of equilibrium. I think if I am not stressed about too much to do, I will be in a stasis of happiness.

No. Stasis does not exist, it is merely the briefest moment of passing through the fulcrum from one state of anxiety to the next.

I noticed this last night. I was taking stock and feeling pretty darn good about my week’s accomplishments. I had managed to do so much! And the future was looking a little less hectic. It’s as if I had been stuck in the up position of the seesaw for a month by an elephant of labor who either refused to pump his thick legs up and down or who was just too large for it to be effective. But miraculously, he had shrunk in size and I was slowly floating down. Happiness is just on the other side! Here I come!

I felt total bliss as the board evened out, me and the now skinny elephant smiling across from each other, perfectly aligned, our eyes meeting in joyous anticipation.

How brief was that joy, how fleeting that sense of ease. The skinny elephant suddenly transformed into an emaciated rodent who flew up in the air as my terrified butt whacked the ground. Thrown from the game he scurried away, leaving me unable to go up again. What if I don’t get any more work? What if all the jobs dry up? What if I have nothing to do? All the anxiety was back, just a mirror image.

Too much or too little. Those are always the main course. The hoped-for sense of ease is a momentary movement in between.

I am glad I could see it so clearly. And the metaphor helps. Possibly the thing to do is get off the damn seesaw.


Illustrations by my brilliant husband, Andy Norman.

Tell Me Again How Many Steps I Have to Back Up Before I Can Move Forward?

Tell Me Again How Many Steps I Have to Back Up Before I Can Move Forward?

Last night I am watching some TV before bed, my reward for doing all the things. I’m thirsty so I hit pause and carry my water glass to the Brita water dispenser. It’s halfway empty. I don’t like that. I like it to be full. I fill my glass part way and start to feel a tremble, a tug. I should stop filling my glass and go fill the pitcher we use to transport the water from the sink to the dispenser. Then I could drink my water while the pitcher’s filling. It’s important to be super-efficient at all times, right? But I can’t move the pitcher to the sink because the sink is full. I can’t make the sink less full until I empty the dish drain. Should I have some water or empty the dish drain and do all the dishes?

I become aware that I am incapable of having a little water in a pleasant and focused way. I am always trying to get ahead. I am in a loop of this before that.

It’s true that there is a lot to get done, every day. Without consistent hard work, that dispenser is not going to fill itself. But it seems wrong that I can’t even have water unless I am being productive. I need to ponder this.