Parenting Blog

This Is Not A Cry For Help

Maybe it was a mild panic attack.

That’s awfully scary to consider and to write down.

I can’t know for sure, though. I’m not a regular around these parts, and this is not a cry for help with whatever happened and is still happening to me as I write this for good measure, but something rattled me in the dark hours of Tuesday and that something produced a shambolic night of sleep.

What a pity too — a pleasant evening with windows open and the ceiling fan a blur over head, wasted.

Over the decades, I’ve suffered the odd crisis of confidence but, thankfully, have never failed to quickly get myself out of the muck and the mire, usually with the artifical aid of an exciting freelance project, a trip to somewhere fun, or a night spent over pots and pans preparing a spiffy meal for the family as music plays and we four move about in an elaborately choreographed dance. Lincoln Center in our living room and, often, our underwear.

Last night, somewhere between 11:13 pm and 2:38 am, I was struck by a harrowing thought that disrupted me for hours. The thought I couldn’t shake was that¬†I have done nothing, and I haven’t yet found the impetus to escape it, not even a delicious dinner of honey drizzled goat cheese, hummus, nachos, freshly sliced apples and havarti with soft pretzels — Bogle tapas, we call it — while First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold¬†kept us singing aloud, could set me straight.

My better half, on the other hand, has done much but has been unnecessarily burdened with self-esteem issues since before we were a thing. My earliest recollection of her self doubt dates back to an unfounded worry about being in over her head during an extensive 60 days of job training some 17 years ago, weeks before she’d ace her Series 6 an 63 exams to clinch the position. She’d tell you, still today, that in mixed company she’s unable to hold her own in conversation because her experiences and interests aren’t as interesting as the woman who’s been on a safari in Africa or the guy who’s biked across the country or the couple who homeschool their gaggle of spawn, but what she must be too close to realize is that just within just the past few years she’s graduated from university near the very top of her class while simultaneously working a full time job and being a wonderful mom, served as a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters, been a Big Sister to an inner city high school senior, advocated for the rights of LGBT employees at her company, took up the challenge of being a Girl Scout troop leader when it looked like the troop might fold without new stewardship, and she’s supported me, the girls and the house through a hectic period of time that had me away from home far too often. Frankly, others should be intimidated to engage in conversation with her, not the other way around. In short, she’s done things, big things, difficult things, important things, helpful things. I’m trying to make her see all of this, while at the same time now trying to make sense of how I’m seeing myself.

I’ve gotten to do a shit ton of stuff, sure, but I’ve actually done next to nothing; nothing real, nothing substantive to help make the world, our community or myself any better, and I feel a brand new-to-me kind of invisible that I don’t know how to cope with.

If we don’t make a genuine impact, something more than writing a blog post or flying away to someplace or serving a plate of finger foods, were we ever here?

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9 Comments

  1. I think impacting lives is a decent metric. You’ve done a lot, in that regard.

  2. Dennis Oddo says:

    I’m not sure how old you are, but I have hit something similar in my life. On the eve of my 42nd birthday, I sit hear reading your post and it is hauntingly familiar to how I feel right now.

    I’ve done very well professionally, but this has come at a cost to my happiness in life. I’ve hit a crossroad where I enjoy what I do for work, and I am good at it but it’s all I have in happiness outside of my wife and daughter. I’ve relocated around the country to advance my career, but at the cost of relationships with friends and family. So the question that keeps me up at night is why am I here? I’m not curing cancer, or building houses for impoverished people. I am working to make money. Would I have been better off taking a decent job out of college that would allow me to raise a family amongst the people I love.

    What really struck me is your description of your wife. Are we married to the same woman? My wife is amazing, intelligent, beautiful, selfless and smart…but has 0 confidence in herself. This has made this journey around the US difficult as well. My wife can be far more successful than me, but she limits her abilities because she does not have confidence in herself that she can do anything, accomplish anything. I’ve seen it, she doesn’t even realize how amazing things she has accomplished and overcome in her personal life are way more daunting then what I have accomplished professionally.

    What is your purpose, I guess we all have to figure out why we’re here. For what it’s worth you made me feel less alone, and helped me verbalize something that is tearing me apart inside. I personally think that is something special.

    Thanks for your honesty, and Godspeed on your journey through this crazy life.

  3. You’re raising good people, right? And your wife might credit her success or some part of it to knowing you have her back, that you’re there to cook those tapas dinners and help with the kids. Sometimes our purpose may not seem obvious. As disappointing as it is, maybe we don’t all have starring roles. Someone has to be the supporting actor without whom the lead actor cannot shine.

  4. Jeff. I feel this way a lot. No matter how much you do, it seems paltry in the face of the vast emptiness that is the cosmos.

    Not everyone gets to be Schindler. Everybody makes their own contribution. By my reckoning, you’ve done more than most, less than some.

    My crises often come from the fact that I’m a clown, my show is small, I haven’t achieved like the next ten guys, I haven’t made my mark.

    But I also know that as a clown and as a person, little things matter. And entertaining people may not be curing cancer, but it’s something.

  5. Wait, it this the Bogle that has a music podcast thingy that makes a few hundred people happy every day? Is this the Bogle that organized that Kidapalloza? Let’s just stop with these two examples of how you’ve impacted the world in a very real way. In your own way *you have already made your dent in the universe*. Maybe you’ve just caught yourself staring at that dent and trying to decide if it’s big enough? It’s okay if you are. We all reflect.

  6. I know Rob, I know. Thank you for popping in with the reminder. It’s so strange how I objectively know the things I’m responsible for and yet it doesn’t (right now) feel like anything at all.

  7. You turning 40 this year too? I wrote this earlier this year. I’m in a WAY different place now though. http://www.jencooper.net/stuff-that-comes-with-age/

    ps. I got some things wrong in the piece I wrote. I focused too much on the “women” aspect. It’s clearly not simply a woman thing.

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  9. Hi Jeff,
    I hear you. I wanted to tell you that I so appreciate your blog – your humour, your appreciation of great kids music and most of all your enjoyment of your girls – is so uplifting.
    I also wanted to recommend listening to this part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast episode just after the 18 minute mark https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/magic-lessons-elizabeth-gilbert/id1138081319?mt=2&i=374062291. She talks about writing a letter of honour to yourself – it sounded really powerful to me.
    Thanks again, Jeff…

joc