Y’all know I’m a from-the-get (as in all 20 years) fan of SVU, right? And that my woman crush is forever and always Mariska Hargitay/Olivia Benson, right? And that if I ever actually meet her, I’m confident it will be so embarrassing because I’ll promptly burst into tears and be unable to speak, right?
Right. Ok, well, with that made clear…
Everything I love about her is really being explored in this 20th season of SVU. In particular how it is that she manages being a full-time single mom and the head of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit. And how she does both these things as her body ages.
An episode a couple weeks back really dove into this stuff, as Olivia’s son Noah gave her typical kid-who-has-been-through-a lot sass, and as she got winded chasing a perp down a busy city street and as a result did not catch him before he harmed someone else, and as she sits at her desk, alone, wondering who she is beyond mom and cop–as if those two things alone are not fierce forces of nature or “enough.”
Her faithful comrade Fin Tutuola comes in to check on her, and as she vents her fear and frustration he says to her, “Liv, nobody is expecting you to be Wonder Woman.”
She looks up at him, steels her face says, “I do.”
Oh Liv…preach, sister.
This last week has been a lesson in “I actually cannot do everything and be everything to everyone at once,” for me. A lesson I need reminding of often. Yesterday, especially, I struggled with this. The expectation is all mine–no one else’s, but still, this innate desire I have always had to want to be present for, in any way I am able, the people I love best and whatever work it is I have been called to.
I am not Olivia Benson, but her desire to be both the best mom and the best professional she can be resonates with me deeply, and I’d even add, “also the best friend or partner.” And I know what it’s like to feel as if you’ve not measured up in one capacity or another, that sinking feeling that maybe you actually can’t do it all, and what that does to your sense of self.
Nobody expects me to be Wonder Woman.
But I do.
Ok, two things here…
One, I am tempted to say, “Raise your hand, ladies, if you feel me here,” because I think women are especially susceptible to this “I must be all things to all people,” way of thinking. But I also know men–good, caring, amazing men–who struggle to feel as if they are holding up their end of things, as if they are managing it all–work, home, kids, bills, etc.
Second, it isn’t that my priorities (or yours) are not straight. I am fully committed, at the end of the day, to the truth that my daughter is the single most important job I have. But I have other important relationships too. And I career I really value and often feel has been pushed to the side. And writing I want to do. And home projects. And…and…and….
Y’all get it. I know you do.
And so this morning, this is for you–all the tired, stressed, overworked, too busy, and feeling-less-than-amazing moms, dads, caregivers, twenty-somethings learning the art of the hustle, grandparents managing retirement and their grandchildren…whoever you are…if, right now, you feel like you have to be Wonder Woman (or Superman)… Hear. This. (as I repeat it firmly to myself):
You do not have to be Wonder Woman (but it’s fine to wear kicky red boots if you want, just because…).
You do not have to be Superman (although, again, if a cape helps…have at it).
No one is expecting this of you. I swear.
You are YOU, and I bet you are probably doing your best. And if you are thinking to yourself, “I wish I had it all together like that one person (whoever that person is)…” let me let you in on a little secret…that person does not have it all together. I promise you. Something in their life is lacking attention.
This life, it is a delicate balance, a tricky dance we do to manage it all, and I have finally and blessedly learned that the cobwebs in my lampshades do not matter anywhere near as much as the relationships that give me life, and that keep me whole, and that I give the majority of my spare time to. I’m okay with the lampshades lacking attention as a result.
You do not have to be a superhero (even as their stories have a lot to teach us about how to be human). You do not need a giant house. Or the corner suite. Or a fancy vacation to an all-inclusive resort over the weekend just like those other people. Some days what you need is to know that it is okay if your best is simply putting one foot in front of the other, because forward movement is forward movement, even if it feels slow as those proverbial molasses.
Look, y’all, the desire to keep up, to fit in, to excel, to be on our way up somewhere (even if we don’t know where that somewhere is) is so strong. I get it. But what I also know is that I am not, in fact, Wonder Woman, or even Olivia Benson. What I know is that I am not perfect. And neither are you. And in our imperfection we all have this God-shaped hole in our hearts that longs more than anything to be loved and to belong.
And this is what matters most.
Be kind to yourself today. Take a deep breath. List five people/things/situations in your life you are grateful for and whisper a prayer of thanks for those people/things/situations. Hug someone you love. Eat something you really enjoy. Just…breathe. And remember that you are loved. And that you belong.
I promise, I’ll do all these things today, too.