notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Overwhelmed. But Improving

It’s been quite a while since I wrote last.

I’ve been very overwhelmed.  

You probably don’t need the word ‘very’ with ‘overwhelmed.’ but it makes me feel better to use it. I need the extra emphasis that adverbs bring.

About a year ago, I took on an extra job.

I already had three part-time jobs.

I paint watercolor pet portraits. This business is my post-retirement passion. I paint a portrait or two every week.

And my paintings have led to a second job. I’ve been offering painting workshops at area libraries. The participants bring in a photo of their pet, and I help them paint their pet’s portrait. They’ve painted mostly dogs and cats, but we’ve also painted some fish, birds, horses, rabbits, and even recently, a tarantula. 

It’s great fun, and I may even expand to senior centers. I usually schedule just one or two a month, but it’s demanding because a lot of preparation is involved.

Eighteen months ago, my local library was looking for a part-time bookkeeper. I hadn’t been looking for a job. But when I saw the ad, I just knew I wanted to do it. I’ve always wanted to work in a library.  

I applied for the job, had an interview the next day, and was hired immediately. And I love it. To work in a place full of books with people who love books? Perfect. 

So that’s three part-time jobs. That’s pretty busy for a ‘retired’ person.

Then there’s my writing, book club, house, two dogs, four cats, my online Spanish lessons…and a husband. 

All while my mother was very ill. 

And about a year ago, I got a phone call. Another job offer.

Our town’s small historic movie theater had closed during the pandemic. And now it was being re-opened as a cinema and arts center. The board of directors knew I was the library’s bookkeeper. Could I do their books too?

Well, I love movies. And free movies were involved.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t take the job for the money or the movies. 

I took it because they asked me.

First – I am not good at saying no.

Second – My ego kicked in.

Yes, my ego definitely stepped over my better judgment. I didn’t apply for the job. They called METhat made me special and important.

So I told them (and myself) that I could do it. It was a work-from-home job. No commute. I could keep my own schedule. An hour here and an hour there. 

I paint my portraits. I prepare my workshops. I have good time management skills, right? 

What I forgot was that I WANT to paint Ollie and Fluffy. I do not want to pay for soda and raisinets.

What I forgot is that it’s relaxing to put on an audiobook and listen to a story while I am preparing palettes for my workshop. It is not relaxing to clear paper jams from my printer when it’s eating bank statements.

And I did not realize how nice it is to file away my finished work in the library’s file cabinets and be done with it. I could go home. I did not realize that being a home-based bookkeeper meant that the work would be on my dining room table, just sitting there, making me feel guilty if I actually wanted to do anything else. Can paper give you a dirty look? It certainly can.

It didn’t take me long to figure this all out. It just took a long time to admit it.

Last Christmas, I had been doing the cinema bookkeeping for about six weeks. I was visiting my mother in the nursing home. Her illness had progressed to the point where she was not always coherent, but she was having a good day.

She remembered that I had taken on the extra job, and she asked me how it was going. Mom has always been my confidante, my sounding board. I told her the truth. A mild version of the truth, anyway.

I said that I wasn’t really enjoying it. It was “a lot.” 

Mom is a worrier, even with some dementia, so I added, “But I haven’t been at it very long. I figure I will give it another couple of months to see if it gets better as I get more used to it.”

Mom said, “Well, okay.” But then she said – more lucid than she had been in months – “Just remember that two months can be a very long time when you are unhappy.”

I think now that she was so present and so clear because she was being my mom. She wasn’t helpless. She was needed. We all respond to that.

I did give the job another couple of months. But not two months. I gave it six months.

Every week, I was more stressed and more overwhelmed. I had dwindling patience and no tolerance for anything going wrong. I was always one minute away from a meltdown. My poor dogs. My poor husband. I decided in the summer that I would quit.

Telling my boss and the board took another few months. I gave my notice in October. And gave them another four weeks. 

I have to admit that I worried about my fragile little ego. That I would feel bad if my boss easily found someone to replace me. If the new bookkeeper would make it obvious that I had done a terrible job. 

Luckily, when they hired someone, I wished them all well and helped in the transition. If the new bookkeeper is competent and they love her, that will be wonderful. It doesn’t reflect on me.

That’s a revelation for me. A small triumph of sanity over ego.

So all in all, I worked for a year at a job I didn’t really like and didn’t have time for.

That’s enough, I think.

I’m happy to be overwhelmed at my normal level.

15 Comments

  1. annmiller168

    Thank you. Your message is very timely for me. I’ve been asked to do something (of limited duration) that would likely be overwhelming for me. It does feel good to be sought after, but I think I need to say “no”. All the best to you in the new year.

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  2. SuzyM

    I was also recently asked to do something “big” with a two year commitment. I was told I would have alot of support from others. I was flatterred, but also knew in my heart that it wasn’t something I was passionate about. I politely declined this opportunity. I was happy to let someone else with a passion, to fulfill their dream.

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  3. Glad to see a post from you. I think about you often and hope all is well. Your mother was there for you when you needed her advice; that’s what they do best!

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  4. Deb

    It’s a habit many of us have- to be everything to everyone. Taking time to reflect on ourselves is necessary, as is letting go of what doesn’t work. Glad to see you back Nancy!

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  5. What a great post. You remind me of me – always willing to do things for others without thinking about how it impacts your own sense of wellbeing. I’m learning how to say “No” but it’s taken me nearly 70 years to do so. 2023 will certainly be a better year for you – do what you love and leave the rest behind. Happy New You Year!

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  6. Great story and I can relate, especially to the “ego” part. When I was 16 (62 now) my dad taught me a lesson when my ego was going through a growth spurt. “They did fine before you showed up and they will do just fine after you leave. Don’t take yourself too seriously.” There is a modern meme to floats in and out of some business pages that addresses those of us who might be labeled workaholics…. “If you died today, they would have you replaced and no one would remember you two weeks later” or words to that effect. To your last issue, right or wrong, your replacement will find (or manufacture) things that they had to fix, to bolster their ego. Guaranteed. Just remember, …Life is short and dead is for a very long time. Enjoy your life. ( and have a Merry Christmas)

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    • Ray, your Dad and mine must have shared philosophies. My Dad always gave me the same advice. In turn, I passed it on to my children and grandchildren. We all at one time or another believe we are irreplaceable but the people we are working for know differently.
      Merry Christmas to all and may the New Year bring time to put your egos on a back burner.

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  7. Gabi Coatsworth

    I sympathize. I took on a lot of things during the pandemic when I didn’t have anywhere else to be and I needed to occupy myself. Now that life outside the home has picked up, people want me to travel to events they previously ran on Zoom, which takes up much more of my time. Since several of them are writers groups I don’t want to let my writers down, but it’s a lot. And I suspect there’d be no replacement for me if I stopped. So it’s a juggling act and a ball gets dropped now and then. I need to give up some things but it’s so hard… 🙂

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  8. You had me going there for a while. I thought you were going to come to terms with the overload and figure out how to magically balance it all. But no, you did the wise thing, albeit a bit late. Since my husband died, I have more free time, and I’m doing more art, more socializing and some volunteering. But I’m wary of taking on any more “jobs,” even if they’re volunteer work. And paying jobs? No. People tell me I should sell my art, knitting etc. My answer is, “If I’m getting paid it’s a job, and I don’t need a job.” Happy new year! Please post more often.

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  9. Procrastination gets you every time! Merry Christmas!
    ~Elle

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  10. Merry Christmas Nancy. Good to see a post from you. Take care and all the best for 2023

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  11. Ray G

    So, IU guess I must say it again: your mom was one of the nicest people I have ever met.

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  12. I also overwhelmed but improving

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  13. I just loved the moment between you and your mom, when she could be Mom again! Well done!

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  14. I have often found myself in similar predicaments. I try to remind myself regularly, “I don’t have to do something just because I am capable of it!”

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