Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

The Acrid Scent of Red Sharpie

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When I was younger, my energy, enthusiasm, and motivation ran at about an 11 all the time.

It’s more than just the ever-present pickling of years that leads to where I am now. I’m more aware of social injustice and have a sharpened understanding of my own helplessness in the jaws of a system that whispers promises of the power of the many.

I feel tired — soul-tired and bone-tired all at once — more often than I don’t.

And I feel guilty when I see how little I’ve produced. I feel worried when I re-read a chapter, fingers smoothing over the crinkled edges where I’ve erased and edited and bled and finally just left as an exercise for future-me.

I’ve done better.

I should be doing better.

I should be better.

A better writer. A better person. A better friend. A better daughter. A better aunt.

That’s not even the full list of nouns that hang around my neck like so many decorative, hand-knit nooses.

Every once in a while, I can feel the flickering light of a resurgence of enthusiasm. I set goals. I’ll work out more. I’ll write and draw every day.

Then the enthusiasm shivers and hisses and dies back down and I’m left staring at a list of homework assignments that I’ve given myself. And the hours turn into days, and each task gets covered in a big red F surrounded by the acrid scent of sharpie markers and failure.

I need to be kind to myself.

Not just in a patronizing “surely you’ll do better next time” kind of way.

I need to be kind to myself. Without turning a kind word inward, I’ll never make it. I’ll just burn out trying to light too many candles, and wonder where all my wax has gone.

When I’m feeling enthusiasm and energy is a bad time to set goals. I appreciate those times, and need to make the most of them, but I can’t hold myself to that as a daily standard.

I’m not looking for advice or sympathy.

I’m just trying to figure out how to look back on a night spent with an open book and a mug of tea without staining the memory in a thick coat of red sharpie. To value the clean home and the quiet night as being worthy and good enough. They don’t have to be a dirty secret. They can be a goal. They can be a positive checkmark for a way to end a day. They are a success in and of themselves, and not just a cute pitstop on the highway of life.

7 comments

  • Good news! I have both some advice and some sympathy for you.

    Oh wait. Sorry. Just got to that part.

    Here’s what really stood out for me: “When I’m feeling enthusiasm and energy is a bad time to set goals. I appreciate those times, and need to make the most of them, but I can’t hold myself to that as a daily standard.”

    This is just a different manifestation of, “Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.”

    I’ve gone (and have been going through) much of what you’ve detailed here, but that’s not news to either of us. I’ve also done some deep self-examination and may have come up with something to help. But I need to let it steep for a while before I triumphantly return to my blog with The Solution.

    In the meantime, that mug of tea sounds nice.

    • I just don’t want people to feel obligated to try and fix me. There’s kinds of broken that can only be worked on from the inside.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned