Consider Pier 1 For Your Next Good Cry

It doesn’t seem like Pier 1 would be a good refuge for someone in the maelstrom of an identity crisis, especially if accompanied by a three year old.  However, it worked for me.

I had taken my daughter to school on the city bus and was feeling urban and self-congratulatory about my “green” decision to save fossil fuels and expose my child to public transportation.

It’s possible I had a spring in my step.

We were almost at school when we ran into a former colleague from my law firm days.  Hellos and genuine embraces were exchanged.  I hadn’t seen her in years.  She looked the same– bright eyes, J.Crew outfit, and rosy cheeks of the 100% Irish.

I could have gotten over her stylish appearance and characteristic high-energy level.

Then, when we exchanged updates. I learned that she is working full-time, raising her two young children, serving on the board of a prestigious legal foundation that helps underprivileged women, and traveling to Laos for vacation with her husband.

It’s not that I felt like I had to match her resume, because I can’t.  But bells of insecurity began ringing before we parted paths on the sidewalk.  And because we were still 10 minutes early for school, I made a snap decision to step into Pier 1 to collect myself before facing the cheery swarm of preschool moms.

That anxious, I-might-cry-feeling was percolating when I stepped inside and felt assaulted by the pumpkin spice candles and the Halloween decorations. Where can I cower in this store without Sadie breaking seasonal inventory?

“Sadie, follow me. Let’s go look at the sparkly pillows!” I forced a jocular tone in my voice, hoping she’d be willing to turn her back on the bedazzling skeletons and ceramic bats.

Gamely, she skipped ahead of me and plopped herself into that iconic Pier 1 staple, the papasan cair.  Good, she’s contained, and now I need to contain myself. 

I considered explaining to Sadie what was happening, but I couldn’t think of an age-appropriate way to describe “losing my shit because I am comparing myself to someone extraordinary.”  I took a seat on the other papasan chair and took a deep breath.

I was strangling myself with questions like: what the hell am I doing with my life? Why am I not working full-time and serving on a Board? Am I lazy? OH MY GOD I AM LAZY.

This would have been a fine place for me to have a good soul-searching but for the glittery palm fronds and four-foot Eiffel Tower replicas for my three year old to scale.  I steered her away, but then she nimbly fled to the picture frame section, where hundreds of frames lined up like they were awaiting the fire squad.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Pier 1 employee who was stacking harvest-themed flatware keeping tabs on my poorly-supervised child.

You really don’t have time or space for this right now.  BUCK UP.

I gave myself the tenderest pep talk in my repertoire.

For once, it helped.

I owed it to Pier 1 patrons and Sadie to wrangle her away from the breakables and postpone my cry.  I saw the strange brilliance of Pier 1 as a place to have an existential crisis– there’s far too much shit in there to spend excessive time bemoaning my decision to step away from full-time legal work.  With all those fragile consumer items, I simply had to get over myself and put my regrets on the back burner, which is exactly where they belong.

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65 thoughts on “Consider Pier 1 For Your Next Good Cry

  1. The grass is always greener…

    Would it help if I told you I think of you as the “someone extraordinary” like you think of her?

    And you did so much better than me!! I would have gone on a Pier 1 shopping binge. Every bat and goblin would have had a new home with us. You averted your crisis AND didn’t buy anything. You are incredible. I am not worthy.

  2. oh my god. why didn’t you tell me? (I’m not even sure what that means). I can’t believe you were sitting with this when I emailed you that quote. Just reading this story crushed my soul, I’m incredibly proud of you for being so present in the moment and for being so honest in your writing. I know sometimes I look at you like you wouldn’t trade seats with anyone in the world. Yes, you have your issues (like every human), but you own them so completely that I forget you have “grass is always greener” moments. I guess we all do.

    • It came on out of nowhere. I haven’t lamented my lawyer past in a while. That night we went to see Trouble Wither Curve, and I cried again for Amy Adams’ character law trajectory. New mourning.

  3. That woman you met may have been thinking, “I really wish I was walking my daughter to school right now.”
    I try to remember that every mother is at least a little screwed up. It makes me feel better. I’m not quite sure what this says about me.

  4. Where’s the nearest Pier I? I so completely relate to the inconvenient existential crisis. I love that you were able to stay present to yourself and to Sadie. I usually resent my kids’ interruption when I need a cry, meltdown or a good comparison session. Bravo, mama! And for the record, “lazy” is the last word I would use to describe you. Not even close.

  5. Before talking about the post…I loved your response re: lying about Sadie’s age for preschool. I did that for my daughter when her baby brother was born. I thought she looked big enough for her age to mainstream with the 3′s.

    Everyone has a back burner, even your old friends. We can’t do everything so me make choices which preclude others. We need to take those “moments” in Pier One to get our shit together. Sounds like you handled it marvelously! I’m with Kenja…I would have walked out with a bag full of impulse purchases!

  6. These intrusive thoughts can strike up at any moment, usually during the most inopportune times. But you worked it out, you told those little lies to leave your head. Stepping away from full-time legal work so you can be at home with your kids is by far a better return on your investment. No one says at the end of their life, “wish I could’ve worked more.”

  7. This was great. You had me from the title; it was simply perfect. This was wonderfully phrased and so true. It’s the curse of being a woman; we constantly compare ourselves to others. I just mentioned this phenomenom yesterday in my blogger idol play-at-home post. I am so guilty of comparing myself to others. But, you should know I think you totally kick ass!

  8. Ug. This one hits a little too close to home. There are some status updates on facebook posted by those supermoms that can send me into a tailspin or shame and regret for days.

  9. This reminded me a lot of the lawyer character in “Trouble With the Curve,” in a great way: law stuff = boring and unsexy, baseball = HOT! Wonderful, wonderful comparison of the picture frames to firing squad victims; it’s a memorable image and one that will stay with me I’m sure.

  10. I just loved “bells of insecurity”. I have felt this and what a perfect way to describe that moment when insecurity hits us, when we begin to compare. Comparing is so dangerous, isn’t it? When I catch myself comparing I do what you did. Pep talk and keep going. You are living your life which is exactly what you’re supposed to do.
    Beautifully written. I felt every word of this.

  11. Come on! Way too hard on yourself. Relax.. remember your ‘about parenting’ enjoy the children? i think you need to enjoy your moments of now. yes, there was a before now and there will be an after now, but right now, you’re being a great mom and a great writer and doing a great job. go have an ice cream and don’t sweat it. :)

  12. You don’t need to have given up a career to raise a child to feel this way I can assure you. I don’t know if that matters one iota, but it’s true. You handled it with aplomb as far as I’m concerned. I love your descriptions of all the sparkly tempting stuff. Kudos to you for not buying any of it. How empty our lives would be without angst and self-criticism. I admire your straightforward honesty. Nice post.

  13. Ican relate to this!! I’m always feeling inferior to someone. Always. They do this and that and that and this, and all I do is this, but not that, and that but not this. Does that make sense? If it’s any consolation, your posts each week make me laugh or cry or nod my head in agreeance. I think that’s pretty damn spectacular. And who wants to go to Laos? The mosquitoes are terrible.

    • I know. I am sure the Loatian food would give me the toots. Thanks for your happy comment. I can’t believe anyone is as insecure as I am. Shouldn’t there be a pill for this?

  14. I bet your old colleague didn’t make a “green” decision to save fossil fuels and expose her child to public transportation.

  15. Oh honey, I loved this! I can SO relate. I left work six months ago, and lawdy, it has thrown me for a loop. You’re extraordinary, and I loved this line: there’s far too much shit in there to spend excessive time bemoaning my decision to step away from full-time legal work. Well written!

  16. Oh wow. It would be so hard not to feel inferior. At least for a little while. But seriously. If she’s doing all that? She isn’t mentioning that her husband has chosen to stay at home with the kids or that the kids spend a lot of time with nannies. This does NOT mean she’s a bad Mom. She’s a professional and a parent. If she has nannies, it just means she can afford them, and I’m sure she loves her kids completely. (Yes really. My first ever OB-Gyn was this awesomely balanced lady with FOUR kids of her own to go with her well developed practice. Her husband was ALSO an OB-Gyn. They had a nanny. They didn’t apologize or try to hide it. It was just part of their life.)

    My point is more that I’m sure she’s having to sacrifice something. For all you know, she envies you the time you get to spend with your kiddo. Because that is just as important and the board.

  17. I said this to my friend today, “For the mentally unstable, it’s our thinking that gets us into a bind.” She didn’t hear me because I called her mentally unstable. God, people are picky.

    It’s true though. I mean, had you NOT seen this woman, she would have been out there existing without you thinking about her. All that changed is she bumped into your blocks and made you think about them differently.

    Your blocks were lovely before, during and after she came a long.

    I’m a professional at getting into a funk because of my thinking. I’m less professional at getting out from under the rock I find.

    And for the record, I don’t think you’re mentally unstable. Well, except I do. I think we all are to a degree.

    It’s really wonderful that you wrote about this. I was head-nodding the whole way through.

    And then I wrote a sermon and sent it to you.

    What, preaching isn’t how you make friends? Like I said, picky.
    :)

    • I will own mental stability. It’s true. She’s been out there all along doing her thing and I only got hung up because I heard about it. I’m very picky but I like you. You had me at “mentally unstable.”.

  18. Here’s the thing. That lady doesn’t have any more time in her day than you or I do. So the reality is something has to give. Chances are she doesn’t spend as much time with her kids. Not saying her way is bad. Just that it isn’t more. That said, I’m sure I would have felt the exact same way.

  19. Ah, we’ve all been there. But I bet you she walked away from you (and home to a late night of catching up on files and emails and calls and not feeling like she’s got enough time for other things) and thought the grass looked pretty green on your side of the fence, too. Don’t we all do it?

    I loved, “Let’s go look at the sparkly pillows!” — How many times do we force some strangely perky phrase out of our mouths just to keep our little ones from catching on to mom’s sudden attack of despair. That line just really made me laugh!

  20. It sounds like you suffered from a ‘facebook’ moment. You know how there’s research about how facebook is bad for self esteem because people only put the best of their lives on there? At least it was just a brief interval :)

  21. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this. I really am. For what it’s worth, I think what you’re doing is so wonderful. I work full time (well, 32 hours, but who’s counting?) and the stress, holy crap the stress. My kid has been sick this week and I’m spending my time barking at him and begging him to get better because I have so much work to do. I have half a post written in my head – not a full post mind you because I don’t have time to write (what I love) because I spend so much damn time at work (what I hate) – all about being a working mom.

    I don’t meant his to tell you don’t really want to be working. Of course you know what you want and I’m not trying to tell you differently. Just to say that some of us who do work spend time wishing we didn’t, wishing we were with our kids more, wishing we weren’t what we are.

    No matter what, it’s hard. Sending you hugs.

  22. Hmmm… clearly the identity crisis bug got us both this week, huh? At least you’re not loopy enough to blame it on imagined past lives, LOL!

    I don’t know where I’m supposed to be in life, nor what I’m supposed to do. I’ll be 40 next summer and feel some invisible alarm clock is set to go off and declare me a loser for having accomplished diddly for a resume. If I stay in the present, I’m fine. But when I start thinking what-if, my world goes all wonky. I think I’d rather have a really rotten case of influenza than a mild case of identity crisis.

    • I’m going to be 40 in July. Same deal. Mostly it’s ok because I’ve got some energy and I trust I will use it well. But I still have waves of WTF…. I can’t believe you have it too. You’re soup mama!

      • I’ve never been the right me at the right time. I’m a high school teacher who doesn’t want to teach, an actress without the time to act, a fat tap dance teacher whose own kid is her worst student, a mother who intended three kids, but got a bonus fourth and someone who had the potential to be a doctor or lawyer or something way awesome and couldn’t choose, so she’s a bunch of crazy quilt squares. That’s why I call myself Soup — you put all the ingredients on a big old pot and let it simmer forever. I’m still simmering, LOL!

      • I am laughing outloud about your kid being your worse student. Why is that just so perfect? I get you on the quilting and the timing. I really do. It will all make sense someday or I will stop caring about it making sense. One or the other.

  23. I was friends with a super-mom once. Her large house was spotless, she baked her own bread, volunteered for everything at school, didn’t need more than 4 hours of sleep. Once several of us moms were at her house and she was explaining that she was a strict mother, while in the dining room her daughter was dancing on the table and we later learned that her son was trying to feel under our daughters’ dresses. The kids were in kindergarten. And she has an alcohol problem. So you never know. Anyway, sparkly pillows to the rescue!

  24. I’ve been on both sides of this, and the only answer I’ve come up with is working part time. It helps me maintain my sanity, and the guilt is minimal because I do have time with my kids. This could all change now since I’m unemployed and may wind up back in an office and working full time, and I am freaking out. I think I may need a trip to Pier 1 too.

    Hang in there, mama. I promise you will look back on this time and be glad you were able to be there.

  25. Would it make any difference if I said I thought of you as someone extraordinary? I know it’s easy to compare yourself to others, but seriously. In just the short time I’ve been reading your blog, I’ve compared my writing success to yours plenty, and I think you’re great. Also, you really made me crave the scent of Pier 1. So thanks for that. haha

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