Existential Panic Attack Brought On By The Green-Eyed Monster

Have you ever had an existential panic attack? That moment where you wonder what your life is all about and if you are heading in the right diection? I originally posted this on March 5, 2012 (not that long ago) and I am kind of amazed at how much I have changed since then. In just a few months I have transformed from scared and insecure to goal driven and hopeful. I wanted to share this for anyone out there who is feeling stuck, scared or unsure right now. I have so much more confidence in myself today, just a few, short months later. There is hope! Hang in there.
We were recently visited by friends with a seven month old baby. This is a baby that is the same height and weight as my 21 month old daughter. When they held him up in a standing position he looked directly into my daughter’s eyes and smiled condescendingly (OK, I may have imagined that last part).  My daughter is skinny and small for her age, according to the doctor’s growth chart, but still, this was kind of amazing to see. “He’s very laid back and happy,” his mom told me as my daughter collapsed on the ground in a dramatic heap; crying over something horribly wrong that went completely unobserved by the rest of us. He also sleeps through the night which my daughter does only occasionally and sporadically and when the stars align and the tides come in and hell freezes over and pigs fly. Already, I was feeling green with envy. No wonder these people were able to complete so many projects, go on (what seemed to me) nonstop vacations and make enormous leaps in their careers and education all while toting their little, or gigantic, bundle of joy around with them. They were actually sleeping – unlike me. Me, I look like the poster child for a movie about the walking dead. Me, who thinks getting dressed and washing the floor is a major accomplishment. Me, who was six days behind on her online art class only a day after it began. Then, just to punctuate their personality differences, my daughter chucked a yo-yo right at the baby’s head and then screamed for him to give her back her toy (like he had wrestled it from her tiny hands in the first place). Luckily, the yo-yo missed, but I understood how she was feeling. At least I could relate a little bit.
I felt so inadequate when they left that I immediately ran to my laptop and logged into the website of the local college. “What are you doing?” Jim asked me. I told him if I hurried I could still apply for the fall semester and enroll in classes so I could get a job that makes LOTS and LOTS of money. I need to do something to increase my status and vacation opportunities. What about my retirement?!!! I need to BE somebody. If I hurried maybe my life wouldn’t suck. My heart was beating fast. I was having an existential panic attack brought on by the green-eyed monster. “I thought you wanted to paint. I thought you liked your life,” Jim said quietly. “I do like my life,” I sobbed, “but I don’t think I SHOULD like it. I’m not accomplished enough. I didn’t even have one thing to write down in a family Christmas newsletter last year.” Then, realizing how absurd I sounded I started to giggle. Then I cried some more.
It’s so easy to compare your life to someone else’s and find yourself coming up short, especially when you don’t have all the facts. Other people’s lives look so perfect on the outside, but in reality each of us has our doubts and concerns that we struggle with. It’s not easy to prioritize children and family in a culture that worships money and status and tanned vacationed bodies and gigantic credit card bills. I often worry that I might be making some terrible decisions and wonder if other people are better at this whole life thing than I am. “Maybe you are doing it wrong!” the little voice in my head shrieks with maniacal laughter. I am, after all, my own worst critic. Will I ever reach the ridiculously high standards I have set for myself as either a mother or a painter? Probably not, but it’s not for lack of trying. The best I can do is to learn not to beat myself up for falling short a little or sometimes even a lot. I’ve got a great life, a great kid, a wonderful husband, and my career is moving forward, albeit slowly like maybe a snail and a turtle were taking turns driving the proverbial car.  Anyway, it’s time to stop being a whiner or a quitter, or a winner or a loser, or whatever the popular saying is now. It’s time to stop the dramatic sobbing on the bed and grow a stiff upper lip. I’m picking myself up and dusting off my maternity pants (the ones I should have stopped wearing 21 months ago). Besides, not too many people can go to work with a smashed banana on their pant leg or purple paint in their eyebrows. I do have some advantages in this world.
Sometimes all this envy stems from stage fright. When things start going too well I get a little nervous. I guess that’s why other people’s plans look so much better and easier and of course safer than my own. It’s easier to toss my life overboard and follow the status quo. It’s easier to agree with people that their way is best. It’s easier to pretend to be someone than to actually be someone, to actually be me. No more easy stuff for me I’ve decided. I’m taking a stand. I’m proudly taking the road less travelled and choosing to go uphill both ways. My accomplishments are sometimes small when compared to the accomplishments of others, but they are my own. Plus, with just a few hours of sleep each night and a not-so-laid-back toddler (go get ‘em kid) I’m kind of impressed with all that I am able to accomplish. I did write this blog after all. It’s much more coherent than my speech is at this point. That has to count for something. My life isn’t exactly glamorous, but I don’t have the energy for that anyway. Excuse me, but I have to go wrestle a permanent marker, a penny, and an Elmer’s glue stick from my toddler’s hands before she eats them or uses them as a weapon against the dog. After that I am going to high five myself and write “Life Saver” on my resume.

25 thoughts on “Existential Panic Attack Brought On By The Green-Eyed Monster”

  1. This made me think of this quote that I often cling to:
    The world contains many paths, some exalted, some mundane. It is not our task to judge the worthiness of our path; it is our task to walk our path with worthiness. – Anonymous

  2. What a geat quote! Thanks so much for sharing it with me. I might need to get it tattooed to my body so I don't forget it. Somedays I am so good at being content and other days it can be a real struggle. It would be nice to stop judging my own path…what a relief!

  3. Thanks for sharing this post with me!!! I can completely relate. I often as myself if I am doing it all right or if I am making the right choices! But I am doing my best…so I guess that's all I can do:) Great post!!

  4. I know! It's so hard to be a mom because like you said we are damned if we do and damned if we don't and we don't need other people to judge us when we are constantly juding ourselves. It's nice to know there are people out there who can relate to these experiences. Thanks for reading my post 🙂

  5. Shoot, I don’t even have kids yet and I completely relate! Jealousy has always been my nemesis. I struggle with it often, moreso when acquaintances buy large houses, nice cars, and seem to stay thin with zero effort. I think you’re awesome, and I’m currently of the opinion that my opinion is the only one that matters. So there’s that for you.

    1. Your opinion matters greatly to me so I applaud it since it’s on me and (of course) positive. Jealousy is such a thief. I wish I never felt it, but I do. I’m getting better at not comparing myself so much to others. It’s not always easy.

  6. I’m glad you figured out that whatever you have done in life is no small feat. People often feel anxiety and sadness when they are focused on something they used to have in the past but no longer, or focused on something they would like for their future but can not have at the moment. I was told a while ago that you will have what you want in life not when you want it, but when you’re ready for it.
    Societal pressures tend to make us feel inadequate but we would all benefit by going on our own happy path. For example: I live with my brother currently. I tend to feel like a loser because I work somewhat part time, have very little of my own, never got married or had kids, and I paint little mens for extra money. When that feeling overwhelms me, I have to remember that I pay rent to live here which keeps the oil tank full, I keep their dog company while they are working insane hours, my mini painting is an actual business, plus I’m part owner of an LLC and I live a reasonably stress free, happy life. Not many can really say that. In your case, while your daughter is a bit of a drama queen and tiny, she will develop an incredible, independent life that is full of creativity and challenges. She seems to keep things interesting for you and I think you would be bored with a laid back child.
    You are an incredible artist, a mom, a wife, and all sorts of wonderful fun things. I have little interest in getting married and having kids but sometimes I’m envious that you’ve taken that brave path that scares the bejeezus out of me.
    While you may think you’re not doing life right, remember that there is no right or wrong…we’re all just individuals that are dealing with things the best we know how. Keep going on your own path with confidence and happiness. If you have joy in the moment you’re in, whatever that may be for you, then you’re doing it right. 🙂

    1. Thank you. I could just hug you for that. I would hug you if we didn’t live so far apart!

      Reading that is like taking a deep breath.

  7. I’m so glad you reposted this, as I am new to your blog. This topic is so relatable. I struggle with my role as a mostly SAHM and what our culture regards as “successful.” You are so honest and witty. Our culture fails to value artists and dedicated, present mothers. You are doing an amazing job from what I can see.

    1. Thank you for such kind words. I struggled for a long time with my identity once I became a mom. I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do next. I was getting conflicting messages at every turn. It’s been a difficult process. The more I define success for myself and the less I turn to society or other people for those anwers the more confident I feel.

    1. I’ll try not to, but there are moments when I feel like what I am doing is pointless and I am weird and sadly insignificant. The good thing is, thanks to people like you who I have met through blogging, those moments are much further apart and don’t last very long!

  8. You and I have had a few conversations about the SAHM thing. I’m glad you reported this. You are such a great mother, wife, writer and artist. All things you should be proud of. I can even get off my lazy ass and start my blog. Look at how far you have come. Be proud!!

    1. You will start your blog when you are ready. The thing is you are doing important things right now that you aren’t even unaware of. I think sometimes it helps to focus on what you are actually doing instead of what you aren’t doing. When you make a list you will surprise yourself by how many good things you are doing each and every day. Sometimes you have to go through that lazy “floating” phase before you figure out what it is you want to do next. It’s hard to go through that stage. I didn’t like it. I know you are struggling too. Hang in there!

  9. You are amazing, We all feel like we could be better at times it is hard not to see throught the cloud of green when thing happen. I think you are fantastic, smart, strong, talented, artistic, and a wonderful artist. Also a amazing mother, dependable and great friend. This post just proved how amazing you are!

    1. What a nice thing to say! Thank you. I think part of my problem back in March was I wasa terribly isolated. I hadn’t met wonderful people like you to bounce things off of. I didn’t know what was normal. Having access to all of these amazing mom-bloggers has changed my life for the better. I know it’s a big part of why I am able to be happier.

    1. Thank you so much for calling my work inspiring. It’s people like you that make it possible for me to get out of bed on the days I just want to hide under a blanket all day. Well, you and the screaming toddler! I think we all go through this multiple times. We have to re-evaluate where we are headed and what we are doing. I think the biggest lesson I am taking from my experience is that nothing lasts forever, especially not how we are feeling.

      1. Auto correct is kind of a bully. I’m glad it finally let you type the word you wanted to. No need to be sorry! We all have that problem at one time or another!

    1. When I first read this I thought you were changing the “reposted” that I thought you had written in your first comment to “reported”. I think my brain auto corrected your auto correction! Both words are accurate. Auto correct usually changes my words into something very ridiculous. It is also sometimes very funny. If you are commenting from your phone I just want to thank you and hug you. I know what a pain that is and I appreciate you struggling with it to leave me a message. That means a lot to me!

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