My number one favourite quote in the whole English language is “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. Not really because of what it means, but more for its simple elegance in encapsulating whole pages of self-help books, whole philosophies of mindfulness, into eight little words.
Of course its meaning is beautiful too, but I’ll be damned if I can apply it to my own life.
My own motto would be much more along the lines of “Never knowingly underthought”, with its hints at those stolid British preoccupations of preparedness, thrift and constant, if quiet, vigilance. I approach any major life decision (by which I mean anything from choosing a new purse upwards) with the mental attitude of a SWAT team: swarming over all potential outcomes, both good and bad, and scoping out the most improbable of pitfalls to provide covering fire in the event of attack.
If this sounds like I’m boasting, I’m not. The problem with tackling things in this way is that too often, after realising a 3-D landscape fraught with threat and peopled with vivid enemy combatants, the safest way to proceed feels like to stand still and avoid taking a step in any direction. And that’s no plan for a rewarding or fulfilling life.
Occasionally, I do take a step anyway, even though it feels like the ground beneath my feet will explode as I tread down on it. Times like now, when – in what feels like a heartbeat – I am going from being a full-time stay at home mother to being a full-time worker again. With under two weeks to go, the butterflies have taken up permanent residence. I don’t know whether they signify terror or excitement, whether I am grieving for what I am about to lose or anticipating what I could gain, whether I am more afraid of what could go wrong or proud of taking the chance anyway.
From both family and professional perspectives, the risks seem manifold. The old imposter syndrome is back, on steroids. What if I can’t do it anymore? What if I never could? What if it was all a fluke and this time I will finally be caught out, with the direst of consequences? Then there are my children. They will be ok in childcare, but they will be tired. They will have to keep their public faces on for three more hours each day, rather than coming out as they so often do at the end of school and hugging me tight in what feels suspiciously like a recharging of their batteries. There will be personality clashes and missed playdates and a sudden scarcity of that precious time to just loaf and invent their own pastimes which has felt like the greatest gift I could have given them.
There is the crux. I have given them this time, and now it feels as though I am taking it away from them. All the research in the world and all the common sense observations of those around me notwithstanding, this is, in the immediate short-term, a selfish decision. I could have done something else that would have impacted their lives much less dramatically, but when it came down to it, I didn’t want to. For all the advantages that I know the example (and the money) will give them, it feels a bit…mean.
I don’t think that this will be a long term scenario, but I do need to talk myself out of the assumption that it will be a blip. These past six years, with what has been, to me, the most amazing gift of being able to prioritise home over anything else, are done. The next two weeks will be a blur of preparation as I try to pull together my wardrobe and myself so that I start this new phase in something other than jeans and hiking boots and without the mental drag of second-guessing what I’m doing and feeling that I am somehow out of place.