I’m typing an instant message, responding to our sales assistant, with one hand and scrawling a note with the other - Thursday, 6:00, dinner with T?
I’m talking to my good friend Tammy, making dinner plans for us and our kids for Thursday night.
“That sounds really good,”I say into the phone and my stomach panics a bit as I think - can I make it out of work and out to dinner by 6? What about my boyfriend, he’ll be on his own. I have two columns due and I wanted to work on that freelance stuff Thursday. Maybe I’ll wake up early Friday instead, get some stuff done.
“It’ll be really good to see you guys,”Tammy says brightly into the phone,”Ash has been asking about Nolan, it’s been weeks and she misses him.”
“Aww,” I say and I think about the fact that my fridge contains only half a container of banana peppers and a handful of blueberries. There might be a rotten cucumber in the produce department. Grocery shopping will have to wait too.”We”ll see you Thursday at 6:00.”
When I hang up the phone and close off my IM conversation, I open up my email: 27 unread, 4 requiring immediate action, 2 very important proposals are perilously close to being overdue. I think about the fact that the towel rack needs to be hung and I have a major ant war going down in the kitchen. Even though I really do want to see my friend and her daughter, I’m already thinking of ways I can get out of it. There’s just too much to do.
I’ve always had a tendency to overcommit, and I fear I’ve gained a sometimes flaky reputation because of it. My intentions are good: I don’t want to disappoint people, I want to be a good friend, I want to take on that extra piece of freelance work and do a bang-up job for an acquaintance who’s given me an opportunity. I want to make a salmon dinner for my boyfriend while engaging my 4-year-old and sporting lean legs. I aspire to be an earnest, reliable friend to all the girlfriends who’ve been so good to me.
I hate saying no. I feel inherently that I can somehow squish 40 hours worth of stuff into a 24 hour period. And then I realize, for the umpteenth time, that I cannot. That I have disappointed someone again. It’s worse since I became a single Mom, and often I feel like I have to choose one: friends, boyfriend, son, or work. If I try to spread myself out between all four, I become pretty useless to any of them.
On Thursday at 5, I have a 6 figure proposal due in an hour. I haven’t yet gone to get my son at daycare, and my fridge is still perilously empty. I’m guilty because I didn’t get to my run yet today, and really I don’t have the excess cash to be spending on dinner in a restaurant for Nolan and I. I grit my teeth and feel awful and, inevitably, pick up my phone.
“I know. It’s OK. Next week.”she says sweetly, used to my cancellations and perpetually forgiving. She’s a single Mom too, but somehow she never flakes on me. I want to know how she does it but I fear it’s simple: she doesn’t over commit. I have to learn that one, and it might take me some time.