Having it All

I always thought I would grow up to be a kick-ass Alaskan homesteader. By age 15 I had dreamed out in incredible detail how I would build my log cabin, milk goats that survived on willow scrub, tend a garden carved out of the wild bush, hunt, fish, can berries for the long winter. I made countless graph paper sketches of cabin and garden layouts, lists of the groceries my family would need for one year in our bush homestead home.

Oh yes, my future kick-ass self was always a mama. In the fantasies, they blended so seamlessly– homesteading and mothering. Fantasies are lovely that way. In my ‘pre-enactments,’ the kids were perennially about 10 and 12. They did chores and homeschooled. They more or less took care of themselves, Swiss Family Robinson style. I don’t remember ever washing their dishes or doing their laundry (by hand in the creek?) I was busy kicking ass, right?

After the reality of kids, and just life in general, my homesteading vision was tamed down a bit to this punk housewife gig. Lately, in addition to rocking the garden and kitchen, in addition to raising up two gorgeous kiddos, I want to be able to write. A lot, apparently. A friend recently suggested that maybe I’m not meant to be a full time mama. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and sign my kids up for day care. But I don’t want to have to give up being with my kids to write. I don’t want to give up punking my household for either. I want everything I want. I want it all.

Because I’m worth it.**

I am always so profoundly disturbed when I dig deep, deeper within my psyche and unearth– the advertising industry.

Fuck me.

Under everything, all my intellectualizing, my earnest desire to affect change, my renegade claim, my hippie upbringing, my alternative education– under all that self that should know better is a solid foundation of good old American free enterprise. Which has underwritten me with the belief that I can and should have it all.

Capitalism wants you to think that you’re “worth it,” so that you will buy it. Corporations profit hugely off of an infinite desire for more, and a faith in the god of ‘having it all.’ If they can keep us believing that ‘all’ is possible, we will keep spending until we get it.

And they can keep us believing. They have the big bucks to spend on the top pyschologists in the world, to determine exactly how to shape us all into perfect consumers. I hate to venture into conspiracy theory territory here, but if there is a ‘they,’ it’s the ad industry. They have the tools, the brains, the money and the motive to control the entire modern world. Because who is safe from media these days? No one I know, and I know some contenders, believe me.

Media is everywhere. Big Brother had nothing on us. Look around you right now and count corporate logos. How many electronic devices are within reach, how many of them are on? How often do you look at something designed by corporate advertising?

If I think too hard about it, I get completely creeped out. Horror movie style. They are in me! No one is safe!

My Man always laughs at conspiracy theorists. He thinks the government’s too stupid to pull anything like that off. Bumbling idiots, he calls them. And maybe the ad industry is too. Maybe they’re not even trying to rule the world. But no one can argue that they are trying to make the maximum possible profit. And nothing ensures profit like a captive audience with an insatiable appetite.

How does this fit together? The ad industry’s evil plan to take over the world and my worn out “lost dream” story?

Well, here I stand at the ready, insatiable appetite for coffee, chocolate, heirloom seeds, and self-images. I want to be all and everything. I think I deserve to be everything. Wholesome mama, passionate wife, punk urban homesteader, and now respected writer on top of everything else. Who the hell do I think I am?

This is such a big subject, I hesitated to tackle it at all. To plumb the depths of this one would take far, far more time than I have. But let me ask you this? Why do we think we can have it all? Why do we think we are worth it when people all over the world, throughout history have had to be just plain old whatever-their-families-needed-them-to-be in order to put food on the table? Why do we all think we can accomplish so much more in our small lifetimes than anyone else?

And why, oh why, is this even more prevalent among us ‘alternative’ folk? We think we’ve circumvented The Man and his evil plans. We think we’ve banished the rampant consumer instinct, the materialistic desire for moremoremore, when in fact, we just moved it over 6 inches. We want moremoremore life, moremoremore accomplishment.

When My Man and I got together, at some point as courting couples often do, I asked him what he wanted from life. Among other things, he said he wanted to be ‘great.’ I remember scorning him a little, his egotistical desire to make history. Many years later I have finally realized that I wanted to be ‘great’ too, I wanted to accomplish what so many people before me have failed to do, to succeed exceptionally in many things at once.

Everyone I know, same story more or less. We start out thinking we can have it all. When the natural limitations of life start to sink in, typically in the 30s, and we realize we are not going to get it all, we feel disillusioned. We start throwing blame. If we have a family, we blame it on being tied down. If we’re single, we blame it on loneliness. If nothing else, we can always blame it on our parents!

If we could just wipe that slate clean. Stop blaming, stop expecting to be superheros, stop thinking we’re so extra special.

If I could do that.

Oh how my life would be easier! If I could just vanquish the ads.

Because I am worth it. I’m worth not feeling perpetually dissatisfied because I can’t accomplish every single goddamn thing I ever dreamed up. I’m worth feeling worthy without the right mascara/handbag/woodswoman image. I am worth just being me, whatever shape that may take over the course of my lifetime. Homesteader, mother, writer, wife, frumpy stinky me washing my 659th load of dishes in a plain old sink with running water and Joy soap, like every other American housewife. No accessories, no glory. Just me.

We’re all worth it.

**For any overseas readers or folks who grew up under a rock, “Because I’m Worth It” was a slogan created for L’Oreal in 1973 to sell their higher priced hair products. According to AdSlogans: “The message was all about what the woman thought. It was about her self-confidence, her decision, her style. Over time, “Because I’m Worth It” has become part of our social fabric and today an astonishing 80% of women recognize and respond to this positive phrase and powerful sentiment.”

25 thoughts on “Having it All

    1. this was one of the ones knocking around in my draft box that your “Being Everybody” reminded me to finish.

  1. Love this, I feel exactly this way.
    With this post and a post I read recently on The Art of Manliness, called the Law of Sacrifice, about having it all (in a different way than you express here). I have had this topic on the brain a lot. I feel I need to reread it every time I feel that desire to add another skill/hobby/thing that resonates deep within my soul to the heap of things I’m already juggling, and not as successfully as I’d always envisioned. How do I choose when all these things I want are good and would be beneficial to myself and my family and how do I get it out of my head that I/my family will be happy and better once I am doing it all. Sigh, this’ll linger awhile in my thoughts.
    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. this actually sounds a lot like the stuff i am going through but i generally attribute it to aging – midlife crisis…that point at which you know you are just not going to do everything you wanted to do, nor is the greatness you wanted in whatever way going to come easily – if at all – with time slipping away daily. but i do suspect, even in the years before madison avenue, that people had some of the same struggles, same ideas, same grand dreams and same disappointments. they just looked different. i think it’s called the loss of innocence.

  3. I don’t know if it helps to hear again that you are not alone….but, here I am typing it.

    A Traditional Chinese friend of mine, first generation American, once told me, “I don’t understand you American parents. How do you do it?” They believe traditionally, that life is a series of stages to be enjoyed. You have your busy parenting stage where grandparents are retired and help raise the kids and keep the house. Then, you get to work or help support the family. Then, you return the favor.

    Anyway, her explanation and comment helped tip my mindset to not be so full of angst at wanting everything. Right. Now. And, frankly, I’m a little bit less full of angst. Really, I can’t possibly do everything NOW. I can, however, look forward to more time to write or be creative beyond making dinner in about 3 years when my kids are in school. Then, they too can take on more responsibility to help with chores.

    It’s something I’m just now starting to get into my head and it helps. And I do have to remind myself when I’m washing dishes for the 4th time in a day to cook more food to clean up again, and again, it is never ending.

    We are all worth having desires or dreams. We just might not get to have them when we want them.

    All of my ramblings are to basically say, hey, I hear you.

  4. There are a lot of different subjects and situations that could be discussed in that post.

    On the madness that is consumerism and the infective mutant germ that is advertising: I am so deeply offended that they even want to hi-jack the “make do and mend” world and self sufficiency lifestyle that I am trying to live in. Fashion, packaging, magazines, homewares sellers are all trying to cash in on a “Thrift Shop” look. They are trying to SELL product that makes people FEEL like they are opting out of mainstream and being unique and planet friendly and part of a self sufficient lifestyle.Now THAT is the ultimate in usurpation.

    On the Super Parent ideal: I was so ad when I found out the truth. I was educated to believe women could have it all. Nay they MUST have it all or they are less than a woman of today. The idea of a stay at home mother was sneered at. So I found myself having babies and career (actually in labour at work with my second) and juggling it all. I was a single mother from the time the youngest was 3 so I even did the other role as well. Once they are grown and I had the chance to look around I felt like I was sold a crock of shit. Hell yes I would do things differently. I would take hold of that motherhood/housewife role and relish it. All those years I resented nearly everything I did because the combined roles were all too much for anyone’s plate. On days off I used to mow the lawns and have the children staged to the side playing hopscotch or painting and I thought I was still giving them quality time.I regret very much the amount of time my children were in care. We all use the finance argument but I think you are better in a small home with threadbare carpet than a big home that’s empty of the true family essence.

    On the Account of Blame: I blame the feminist movement on the above. Many great things were achieved with feminism but for a time there we really did become our own worst enemy.
    I also blame biology. I think biologically we are driven in that high reproductive time of our life in order to achieve our prime directive “to pro-create lots and nurture for years” Think about it, if it wasn’t for birth control we would be having much larger families and feeding cleaning and teaching our young till they are ready to leave the nest at their biologically ripe reproductive age. I think we are hard wired to go,go,go at your age. Maybe we are just prioritising in the wrong way.

  5. Sometimes I read your entries and my mind gets confused because I know I didn’t write it, and yet my brain just can’t believe it, because I swear it’s the same conversations I have with myself!

    I’ve been going through a lot of this lately…feeling like I should be able to do everything, at the same time, and greatly, just as I imagine. And then I realize I can’t and never will. And that sucks. Who sold me this bullshit idea that I ever could anyway?

    And sometimes too I stop myself and force myself to take a long hard look at my life and at the truths of what I have accomplished. And usually when I do I realize that in 26 short little years I *have* done a lot, and in some ways I’ve gotten farther and done more than I ever could have dreamed possible when I was younger.

    It’s great what you say too about us ‘alternative folk’ because I never really want material things (well except coffee and craft supplies….) but I *always* want intangible things, and always more than what I have. And I always feel this sense of moral superiority because of it too…until I kick myself in the ass and tell myself to get over it. And let’s face it – I have a great and wonderful marriage, I am college-educated, I am about to start a kick-ass job doing what I love and yet I feel disgusted because I am not living the homesteading dream like I have in my mind. I’ve got the part of it that I can manage now but not the whole thing and it leaves me feeling incomplete. How fucked up is that?

    And I often wonder is this just how people feel? Is this a product of our American media driven consumerist culture? Or do Peruvian and Mongolian and Sudanese people feel this way too, and it’s just a part of the human condition?

    Anyway – thanks Calamity for tapping into the subconscious that we all are feeling about this and putting it down into words!

  6. Just going through similiar things on my blog, with real life getting in the damn way of my ‘published cookbook writer’ fantasy. Now, I could dump everything, ignore the housework (more) and let the kids be more ‘independent’ (neglected), dump the patchwork & crochet lessons, and focus entirely on this SOLE food cookbook/guidebook idea, and work my ass trying to get somewhere with it…. probably to only get no where with it, and end up not feeding my kids properly, our ‘urban homestead’ flailing, a pile of UFO’s growing on my sewing table, and hating myself that I was so selfish to think I deserved to put the time & energy into a ‘dream’. But in there somewhere, I think ‘you never know’, others have done it, why not me, if I could just… yep, 36 years of advertising and marketing and media influence that I could be, should be, would be. Maybe it is something I could pursue, but at the moment, real life is more important, because real life has two little kids and one big husband who need me!

  7. We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
    Joseph Campbell quotes (American prolific Author, Editor, Philosopher and Teacher, 1904-1987)

    1. GREAT quote. So encapsulates my current life project. I’m gonna go google me some Campbell podcasts.

  8. Far out CJ, one of the best blog posts I’ve read in at about a year. Or maybe since your Surrender post which brought me here in the first place. We think it, you say it, and more clearly than we could ever think it. Who, like, ever rereads a blog post? I do. Yours.

  9. I don’t comment often enough, I feel. Your writing is amazing to me and I hope you don’t quit any time soon. Thank you thank you thank you.

  10. Nail-on-head.

    Part of the desire to blog (and my current frustration at barely blogging, and only blogging superficial things), is that I want to be all content-with-where-I-am, happy-to-be-invisible, not buying into measuring self-worth by money or job status or accomplishment – but I WANT OTHER PEOPLE TO READ ABOUT MY MEDIOCRITY AND CONGRATULATE IT. So really, I want the same stuff, just via different means. The hardest thing is actually to just get on with being a punk housewife, mama and creative WITHOUT NEEDING EVERYONE TO APPLAUD ME.

      1. I agree too!!! Blogging is a weird slippery monster innit?

        But actually, I do want to congratulate your mediocrity! And everyones. I agree advertising plays a massive part in it, but I think there is an essential need in all of us to be acknowledged and appreciated.

        So many good thoughts in this post. Thanks ma’am.

  11. I watch a fair bit of Madmen when I can, and yeah, it ain’t by accident that we are manipulated to feel this way.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to get my kids ready for their expensive school so that they can grow up to have the kind of education that they deserve in order to become fabulous self-driven individuals who can write before they’re 5 and obviously get fantastic and rewarding careers. And to take them there I have to go put makeup on or the other parents will think that I’m not making an effort with my appearance and that my household is outta control….

    Ya dig it?!!!

  12. Like a page out of my journal…which oddly makes me feel both less special & in great emotional company. For several weeks now I’ve been working on a personal mission statement to be my own lighthouse of purpose. Not a to-do list, because I do worthy things all the time. Rather a phrase or a motto or some kind of …something to help me stay on track with the woman I want to envision being. The woman with the kick-ass-I-did-it-my-way obit. That woman has a motto. Possibly a theme song. While we may become the people we want to be naturally & over time, I think our odds are higher if we’re intentional about the pursuit. Its just a guess. By the way – you already ARE an inspired writer.

  13. I think you can gave it all – just not all at the same time. The biggest quality that our geny really lacks that our forebearers had in spades was patience. It’s a big, long life if we’re lucky. Plenty of room to fit everything in. xxx

  14. What are you talking about? I make dish soap, laundry detergent, deodorant, crafts, clothes, work 40 hours a week with Autistic kids in an alternative health clinic, bake bread, cook dinner every night, garden, teach my girls a monthly over all theme broken down into weekly subsections and I’ve written 2 short stories and started a novel.

    Are you telling me this is why I’m considered obsessively perfectionistic? :p Honestly, I’m Norwegian so its not the persuit of the American Dream. Its my effed childhood of “you can’t do it” based people. So every day I get up, determined that “not having time” is a lie to steal my time, and if you love something and make it a priority, you’ll get it done.

    1. i can’t tell the tone of your comment. are you saying you rock and we all just don’t love what we do enough, in seriousness? or is this irony and sarcasm?
      do you really do all that? fuck. can’t you brag somewhere else besides this particular post? c’mon, i’m suffering!

  15. thanks for all your introspective comments on this one ladies. big subject. lots to think. i definitely agree with a few folks who said it’s not just the ad industry. absolutely, it’s a human nature thing. that’s exactly why the industry can get so much out of it, because it’s a real need. like selling coca-cola preys on humans instinctual draw towards concentrated carbohydrates.
    and in line with our natural need to be recognized, thanks y’all for your support of me and my writing!

  16. Yes, good one. Have you read Ways of Seeing by John Berger? The ad/capitalism stuff reminds me of that. A really great book.
    I can’t figure this out. It isn’t just that we’re “alternative,” it isn’t just capitalism, it isn’t just americanism, it isn’t just feminism. But I don’t think it’s biological. I suppose I do think it’s cultural, all aspects of culture. I mean, we wouldn’t be feeling this way if we weren’t always tuning in to the bombardment of images telling us we could do this, we could do that, if only. Blogs, unfortunately, are that for me.
    A friend recently suggested I try thinking in terms of what am I going to do today, today is what I’m doing. Of course, I’ve been too busy obsessing to try that. . . .

    1. i’ve found a lot of comfort in the Alcoholics Anon stuff. “one day at a time” right? sometimes one hour at a time is even more helpful.

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