I Am Not Superwoman

As I write this, my husband and I are in the process of moving to a new apartment. Our small living room is a maze of boxes and packing material. Chaos reigns in our home at the moment. All of our belongings spread all over the apartment make me feel completely and utterly out of control. No matter how many lists I make physically or mentally, I can’t keep up.

I thought I had the moving thing down after multiple international moves because, seriously, how hard can it be to move when you can gradually move your things and weighing suitcases isn’t a factor. But apparently my ability to deal with the chaos of a move remains the same. I pack for a few hours, and then I break down in tears. Not because I’m emotionally attached to our apartment but because I can’t do it all.

I can’t pack and move every item right now. I can’t even pack all I want to pack because there simply isn’t room to stack box after box in our apartment. I tell myself we have an entire week to move our belongings to our new place. I tell myself I don’t have to be Superwoman, but admitting I’m not Superwoman is easier said than done.

Living cross-culturally taught me my lack of superhero status in a matter of minutes. Standing at baggage claim waiting for what seemed like hours for my bags in a country where I didn’t speak the language, all while praying the people waiting for me on the other side of customs wouldn’t leave the airport until I walked through the automatic doors – my first moments in Portugal showed me I was dependent on God and others in my new home.

From raising financial support to leave for the field to working through reentry when I returned permanently, each experience helped me draw closer to the Father and to rely on Him more than myself. Navigating a new city, working through a team situation, building new friendships – each difficult or uncomfortable situation pushed me to prayer.

Thinking I was Superwoman wasn’t even an option because I was well aware of my limits. I learned when to push myself to be involved in as many ministries as possible and when to focus on one or two specific areas of ministry. I knew I would never think or act or speak exactly like someone who was from the culture I was acclimating to. I assumed I would make mistakes and not have it all together all of the time.

But then I returned to my passport country. To where I was supposed to know all of the rules. To where I felt most comfortable. As I found my footing and made major life transitions, like changing careers and getting married, the expectation and pressure mounted – to have a perfect marriage, to be actively involved in ministry, to open our home regularly to others, to be as frugal as possible, to build deep relationships quickly, to keep our home immaculate, to serve elaborate meals, and to stay in touch with everyone I knew. My life became consumed by lists. Clean this, cook that, spend time with this person, invite that couple over, and so on. All this on top of working forty hours a week and adjusting to marriage.

Because I was home in California, I assumed I could do it all. I could be an amazing wife and employee. I could invest in new friendships and maintain older ones. I could cook and clean and do all the things because my culture told me I could and should. Until I couldn’t.

God didn’t create me to be busy all of the time. He didn’t wire me to spend hours interacting with people at work each week and still have the energy to interact with people all weekend too. He created me with a love and need for quiet and calm; meaning I had to relearn my limits. This meant stepping back from investing in new friendships and looking objectively and realistically at what were valid and good expectations for me and what ones were placed on me by others who don’t know me well.

Admitting I am not Superwoman has been a gradual process. I’ve learned how to accomplish what I need to in a way that works best for me and for my husband and to resist the urge to compare myself to other women who seem to have time to do everything. I’ve released the expectations I assumed others were putting on me and chosen time with my husband over checking a task off my to-do list.

Admitting and accepting my limits has given me freedom to choose the right things, instead of all the things. I am learning to be brave enough to live within my limits and to give myself the grace to do that. I give myself permission to say no and to ask for help.

Starting my morning by reading Scripture while I eat breakfast focuses me on what is most important. By choosing not to be Superwoman, I’m finding peace and calm. The chaos of everyday life doesn’t overwhelm me as easily, and I’m redeveloping the habit of praying about the little things as I go about my day, which helps me to rely on Him and not on myself. My success as a wife and employee is determined not in my ability to accomplish tasks and meet expectations but in my ability to live a life that glorifies my Father.

In what areas of life do you find yourself trying to be Superwoman?

Can you think of any tangible ways to scale back?

 

15 Comments

  1. Sarah Hilkemann April 3, 2017

    Laura, thank you for sharing this! It is something I have been trying to learn over the last few months. I tend to feel the weight of responsibility heavily, but then put too much pressure on myself that isn’t mine to carry. It took several people who are voices of truth in my life to remind me, “Sarah, you are not God”. Of course I knew I wasn’t, but I was acting like the things that were God’s job fell on my plate. I’m still wrestling with how to say no, how to let people in and ask for help, and how to live with ‘good enough’. Also, Happy Anniversary! 🙂

    1. Laura April 4, 2017

      Sarah, thank you! And I’m glad you have people in your life to help you learn to say no. Praying for you as you continue this journey.

  2. Phyllis April 3, 2017

    This is so good! Plus, you and I have the same style of packing: “I pack for a few hours, and then I break down in tears.” 🙂

    1. Laura April 4, 2017

      Phyllis, thank you! I’m glad I’m not the only one with that style of packing!!! 🙂

      1. Robyn Rochelle Cox April 10, 2017

        Sorry, Laura. I misspoke by us sing Sarah’s name. Names are so important. Please forgive me.

        1. Laura April 10, 2017

          Robyn, not a problem! 🙂

  3. Sarah April 3, 2017

    Wow, this speaks so directly to my heart.
    I am currently back in my “home” country as a single young woman, juggling three jobs along with my first time ever living in a Western country after a childhood overseas. I thought I could do it all, and for the first 3 months, it was fine. I was just fine.
    At least, that’s what I told people.
    Now, I’m realizing it’s too much. Like you wrote, I can’t BE a perfect employee, co-worker, AND sister, mentor, and friend all at once. It’s too much. I’m feeling dry — SO thirsty and hungry for MORE. More fulfillment. I’m realizing that all these things I’ve been doing, filling up my time with, aren’t fulfilling me; they’re making me ever so tired and empty. And with trying to be perfect, I’m realizing that I’ve built up walls — walls that let me pretend everything is “fine” to the people who are asking me how I’m doing.
    I need encouragement. I need real rest. I need to set boundaries, be real with myself and with God. Be honest about how I’m REALLY doing and be honest about the rest I need. I need to start BELIEVING that I am not superwoman.
    Thanks for this post. It is so current, so real, for me, and speaks right to my heart. Thank you for putting into words what has been such a struggle for me in the last few months.

    1. Laura April 4, 2017

      Sarah, praying for you! Praying you’re able to find rest and set boundaries.

  4. Monica April 4, 2017

    This is great- thanks for sharing your thoughts on NOT being Superwoman. My husband and I were just talking about how we are getting busier and busier now that we are back in the States, post-Sabbatical. Setting boundaries, creating space and times of rest for our family are incredibly important to us, but it’s so hard not to ‘pack things in’- good things! We’re constantly having to step back, prioritize, and find rest in the midst of Life. Thanks for the reminder that we just can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all.

    1. Laura April 4, 2017

      Monica, yes, it’s hard not to pack things into schedules here in the US especially. Praying for your family as you find the balance between setting boundaries and doing all the good things.

  5. Sally April 5, 2017

    THANK YOU for this lovely read. It sure strikes a chord within me, as this is the Exact process i am going through in my busy life. And i have teen daughter, and both mum and mum-in-law in tow, as well.
    Thank you for the beautiful reminder to just BE. In, and with Him.
    God bless you.
    To share a timely quote i came across by Ann Voskamp, “When you’re in covenant with Christ, it’s His responsibility to cover your cracks, to be all your competency and completeness”. Yes, we get to return to our limits and be at peace with ourselves. Praise God!

    1. Laura April 9, 2017

      Sally, you’re welcome. Thanks for sharing such a great quote. 🙂

  6. Robyn Rochelle Eubanks Cox April 9, 2017

    Sarah,
    Thank you.
    A late bloomer in foreign m world — I went to Germany, never having been there, didn’t know the language, at 49. Leaving adult children and successful education career was a paradigm shift. I sold my 4 bedroom home, car, most of my belongings and entered God’s lap knowing He alone could help me there.

    Living in Germany almost 10 years, I learned the language and invested in the culture. Mentoring women that God allowed across my path, I gloried in being an upfront participant to praying with many people to receive Christ. I even helped plant a church, all the while anticipating living out my life there.
    Then God shifted me back to my home country.
    59!
    I thought I was coming home to begin ministry for a m hub supporting the training of short term training sessions abroad in English or German speaking countries.
    Instead, God brought me home to discover an incurable neurological disorder that effects my vocal cords. That said, I can no longer verbally teach.
    At 58, I had no job, lived in a friend’s extra bedroom, no car, my few belongings stacked in a basement. This was my 2014.
    During that chaos he solidified a friendship that bloomed into marriage. I gave my husband my chastity ring worn for 28 years on our wedding day, August 1,2015.
    But I was weak and weary. I wondered if God would be able to use this woman. I had leaned on him through it all, painful divorce, single parent returning for degree, bible teacher…intercultural work…over the years he had given me more confidence in Him than my ability to be the super woman I had been in my 20s. Yes, He accomplished great things. But like you, coming back caused more frustration than I have ever experienced. I knew it would be hard but with spasmodic dysphonia… (name of disorder) whew! HOW?

    But God once again set me on a track of resting in Him. Getting back to the basics, keeping on the simple path, investing in the sharing of my lifelong passion of mentoring into bible reading/reflecting/sharing. Through the written page, on the internet, but it is slowly building.

    Now to stay in that intimate place of leaning into Him, making ‘no’ a valid and loving answer, and wisely guiding those that enter our community.

    I do not, nor do I ever desire, a life of anything but simple ordinary daily being. And that, as you so beautifully describe, starts in and through His Word.

    Thank you Sarah. Your wisdom from Him will serve you well in this strangling world we live in. May God grant you daily renewed strength.
    You have blessed me.
    Because He Is The I AM, i am,
    Robyn Rochelle Eubanks Cox

    1. Laura April 9, 2017

      Robyn, thank you so much for sharing your story. I love what you said about making no a valid answer; I love that!

  7. Casual Friday From Central Asia | Paracletos June 10, 2017

    […] Repatriating—returning to one’s passport country—can be just as unsettling as crossing cultural barriers for the first time. Laura Bowling tells how she dealt with the chaos. […]

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.