Wherein I Accept My Own Limitations
May 27th, 2011

I think I started down this path a couple of weeks ago when I opted to read Prep instead of continuing to stall out in my attempts at Anna Karenina.  What I wasn’t ready to tell you then was that my failure with Tolstoy had much to do with being pregnant, and with the fact that lately if I get into bed at 9:30 my typical half hour of reading is always trumped by the opportunity for more sleep.  Nevertheless, I made the decision (for which I continue to be glad as I am now devouring Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto) to accept the fact that, despite my best intentions, I had bitten off more than I could chew.  It seems I have arrived at such a crossroads again.

A couple of months ago I told you about my upcoming cupcake battle with GAP’s family.  When I wrote that post I was eager for Cupcake Wars.  My competitive spirit had been stirred.  I made the first of what I thought would be many batches of trial cupcakes in pursuit of my best contender.  But shortly thereafter that plan was derailed (also by pregnancy).  The first trimester sends my regular sweet tooth into hiding and has me craving salty, savory foods.  The mere thought of multiple batches of cupcakes (and worse yet, frosting – blech!) was enough to make my stomach turn.  As it turned out, my first trial batch was also my last.

I changed tack and decided to submit my entry into the savory cupcake category – I was charmed by thoughts of tiny chicken pot pies and potato gratins tucked into cupcake wrappers.  I would conquer the cupcake battle yet!

As it turns out, that plan has fallen by the wayside as well.  The reason?  IEP.

Early this month I spent six days on the West coast with my sister and her new baby.  It was, as always, difficult being away from my adorable and increasingly hilarious son, but it was an important trip, and one which I wouldn’t trade.  Then, for the first half of this week I was in San Diego for work.  This weekend we will be busy with GAP’s family.  And early next month I will be away for several days again.  This meant that upon arriving home Wednesday night I had two evenings with IEP before the craziness of weekend family plans and additional travel began whittle away at my time with him.

I could have spent those two evenings crafting tiny pot pies (which, for the record, would have been delicious and prize worthy), but making such creations would also have made me, well, miserable.  I would have been guilt-ridden by my divided attention, and would not have enjoyed what should have been a fun culinary project due to the acute pains of being spread too thin.

I don’t like saying “I can’t.”  It doesn’t roll off my tongue easily.  And if we want to get technical about things I could have gotten it all done.  I could have stayed up late, sacrificed sleep, ignored the sage suggestions of my husband to let something slide, and managed to squeeze a few batches of savory cupcakes into two evenings packed with laundry, dog walking, packing, and limited toddler snuggling.  But here’s what’s great about being 33 instead of 23: I don’t want to.

Aging certainly has its drawbacks.  My body doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago.  I have plucked at least half a dozen grey hairs from my head in the past month.  And 11:00 at night feels awfully late these days.  But today I have confidence that was totally out of reach in my twenties.  I have nothing to prove – especially to GAP’s family who has known and loved me for nearly a dozen years now.  I can bow out of Cupcake Wars without a dent to my pride.  I can easily explain that things have been crazy lately and I felt it was more important to spend my free time working puzzles with my son than tweaking recipes in the kitchen.  I can fawn over everyone else’s delicious confections without thoughts of inadequacy swirling in my head.

And let me tell you what – it feels good.

It’s hard admitting what I can’t do.  It’s hard accepting that I have limitations.  But I know from experience that it’s even harder to live a life under the delusion that I don’t.  I’m disappointed to withdraw from a fun family competition.  I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to tell white lies about secret ingredients and playfully trash talk with my sisters-in-law.  But 10-ish years of adulthood and two-and-a-half years of motherhood give a girl perspective.  And what a relief that is.

6 Responses to “Wherein I Accept My Own Limitations”

  1. Ana Says:

    Wow, I am so there with you!! I had this realization last weekend; I had so many “projects” that I wanted to do that were getting in the way of simply relaxing and enjoying this time with our family of three. My son is at the enchanting age of learning language—every day brings something new and unexpected; I just want to capture it in a bottle & keep it forever. I decided abruptly to let go of several of these projects—literally deleted them from my to-do list—because nothing is more important than being in these moments.

  2. Christine @ Coffees & Commutes Says:

    First, let me say congratulations about the pregnancy!! I didn’t know, and I’m very happy for you. Secondly, as I stare down my own 34th birthday I am right there with you. It’s hard, no question, to say no to all the things we want to be doing, but with age comes a new understanding that we can’t and shouldn’t try to do it all. Just this weekend I had a to make a huge decision about a life change that was important for me. Once I did I felt so relieved and wondered why I had put it off so long. It was about setting vital boundaries, never easy, but often important.

    Hang in there! I hope this busy time passes and you have calmer days ahead.

  3. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Setting limits is so hard. Harder for those of us with (excessively?) high standards and expectations of ourselves. Especially hard when we’re also mothers, responsible for little ones.

    But that limit setting? Oh, it’s going to come in handy with two kids!

    So many life skills with parenthood. So many. And transferable, too. If only the marketplace realized it; if only we realized it.

  4. Rachel C Says:

    Thank you.

  5. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    This has been one of the most humbling lessons of motherhood for me: “It’s hard accepting that I have limitations. But I know from experience that it’s even harder to live a life under the delusion that I don’t.”

    And even though I know it, I don’t always remember it. Thanks for the reminder in this smart and thoughtful post.

  6. Cathy Says:

    I am so far behind with my reading! Congrats on the pregnancy. I must agree with you in that getting older makes it easier to set priorities and understand your limitations. When I started reading the paragraph where you say “I don’t like saying “I can’t.”” I immediately though – oh no, it’s not “can’t”, it’s I don’t want to! But, if you have any tasty recipes you might want to share, I’m a foodie at heart. And I wanted to know if the sour cream did the trick in those cupcakes as I’ve never actually tried that before. Next time.