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 ME. That 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.