5 Things It Turns Out I’ll Never Be Done Learning

I spilled chocolate protein drink on myself this morning.

I spilled chocolate protein drink on my white work blouse and down my face and in my hair; waaaay too late, of course, to go home and change.

I gave my nephew a ride to school this morning, too, because I AM AN AWESOME HUMAN BEING, and I help my family.

Also, I screamed at the spider who malevolently descended from my sun visor while I was giving the nephew a ride, scaring said nephew because he’s “not sure that’s very safe driving, Beth, to scream and close your eyes and wave your arms like that.” I was braking and pulling over because SPIDER, but did my nephew see that part? Noooooo. He just criticized the blindness and the flailing. What does he know?

I went to the drive-through ATM a few minutes later, and I nicked the concrete pole that protects the machine from People Like Me, knocking my driver’s side mirror from the car entirely, which was a little bit my fault, because, yes, I technically hit something with a part of my car, but also was definitely not at all my fault because Someone Else of the teenaged variety had already wrecked that side mirror, like, 3 years ago, and it’s been hanging on by a thread (literal thread) and super glue, so it was pre-broken, and I just finished the job like the person who opens the pickle jar after someone else tried and tried and tried and loosened it so that the buff guy gets all the undeserved credit for actually popping that sucker open. I am undeservingly credited, is what I’m saying, for knocking the side mirror off my car, and I’m happy to share the credit with others because that’s the kind of sharing, generous person I am.

All of that, plus remembering my kids get out of school for the summer on Thursday and I have no summer childcare arranged, happened before 9:00am this morning, which, let’s be honest, makes it pretty much like every other morning, full of mishaps and danger and ME, screwing stuff up, and it occurred to me this morning that I’m not very good at adulting. That, in fact, if given periodic Adulting Exams, I’d most likely fail and have my Adulting License revoked.

“Adulting” has become a verb lately, and I approve. Yes, it’s kitchsy. Yes, it’s trendy. Yes, it’s a grotesque twisting of conventional, acceptable grammar rules, using a noun as a verb. But it’s so helpful, isn’t it?

Now that I’m 40, though, I’ve figured out nearly all of us adults are merely impersonating grown-ups. I mean, I won’t say all of us; theoretically, there’s someone out there who’s a grown-up and feels like it, too. But most of us? Yep; totally faking this adult thing and a little bit amazed we don’t get caught more often with our pants down or watching our side mirrors fly away at the drive-up bank.

It’s nice being 40, man, because the pressure’s kind of off now. If I’m not a grown-up yet, I’m unlikely to become one, and realizing that is freedom. There are things in life I’ll just never be good at — things in life I’ll always be learning and will never have “learned” — and I’m grateful to know it.

And, because I love you, fellow grown-up impersonators, and I don’t want you to ever feel alone, I present to you a short list of…

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5 Things I’ve Learned I’ll Never Be Done Learning:

  1. How to Clean: I recognize that part of my problem here is an absence of motivation, and I know there are myriad how-to-clean resources available on the World Wide Webs, but I feel very confident saying I’m not ever going to fully learn how to clean things. It’s fair to say at this point in my life that washing my sheets once a week is never, ever, ever going to happen. Nope; I’ll wash my sheets once a month, maybe, if I combine just the right amount of optimism and lying to believe that’s true. And window sills? Dear Lord. Do people actually clean those? Because mine are a dead fly museum with some pretty wicked black mold in the corners to keep those fly carcasses company. Millennia from now, when future archaeologists dig up my house, they’ll create all kinds of brilliant theories on why I collected fly carcasses and what that says about our family unit. I wish I could see those reports, because, frankly, I could use an explanation.
  2. How to Have a Body: I’ve had a body for a while now. Like, as long as I’ve been alive, and a little bit before that, too, and I’ve gotta say, having a body is complicated. This thing has nooks and crannies and scratches and scars and needs. It needs stuff all the time, and I only know what those things are some of the time. This body has weight, for example, and it’s very, very good as preparing itself for a future apocalyptic starvation scenario where it needs to have the reserves to live off of body fat for months and months, but apparently no one has given it the memo that we’re not facing a Worst Case Famine Scenario here in 21st century suburban Oregon, so it’s a little behind the times. This is the body I have to navigate, and I used to think I’d figure it out eventually. HA! Now I know this body’s a life-long science experiment. Which is ultimately doomed.
  3. How to Work a Brain: I’ll be honest, my brain’s not all I was led to believe it might be when I was little. Not to belittle my mom or her parenting style, but she’s a lying liar who lies, you know? Unlimited potential, Mom? Yeah, right. Turns out, I’m not going to be a princess or the president, and, worst of all, I couldn’t actually have grown up to be a unicorn no matter how good my brain was. My brain, in fact, is a little faulty, prone to depression, and has very, very questionable judgement. Not to complain, but they should probably offer better customer service and free repairs on these things.
  4. How to Be Good at Family: Family is the best except when family is the worst, and I’m afraid I contribute to both ends of the spectrum. I’m a wonderful mom — funny, charming, engaging, involved — until I’m ragey and dysfunctional and tired and, well, not at all wonderful. And I’m a wonderful daughter, a wonderful sister, a wonderful friend and a wonderful wife in exactly the same ways because it’s important to be consistent. Yep. Sure enough. I’m wonderful. And woeful. Wonderful and weird. Wonderful and wild. And fantastic and feral and free. And triumphant and trapped. Both/And, friends. Very Both/And.
  5. How to Have Faith: Oh, Faith. Oh, Faith, you tricky bastard. Oh, Faith, who I once thought was the opposite of doubt and who I’ve since learned shelters the Doubters under her wings, and the Questioners, too, and gives Love and Light freely to all comers. Oh, Faith, who is at once both freefall and foundation, and grime and grace, and more complex and simple than I ever imagined. Oh, Faith, who I will never fully figure out or understand but whom I pursue anyway because you are as strange as you are compelling and beautiful, and, when I listen to you and not necessarily to what others say about you, I find myself drawn into the lap of God to be simply loved for all my fabulous follies and flaws.

My list, of course, could go on and on and on; thousands of thousands of things I’ll never be done learning. But this is enough for now, because I can write the list forever or go forth and live the imperfect life. I pick going forth into imperfection. And I’m inviting you to come, too.

In conclusion, I spilled chocolate protein drink on myself this morning, and I flailed blindly at a spider, and I ripped a side mirror off my car by accident and because I’m me. I will always be a mess, and there will be some things I will never figure out, and it turns out that’s OK. Which is, of course, another thing I’ll never be done learning; that I’m OK, anyway, not just despite the mess, but also because of it, for it’s inside the mess and the chaos and the madness and the mire that we find the mystery and the magic and the laughter and the grace to keep learning and keep becoming. In the end, we are all becoming; becoming, meaning in process, and becoming, meaning already beautiful. We are becoming, friends. That’s as true a truth as I know.

With love,

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P.S. If you have something to add to the list — something you’ve learned you’ll never be done learning — I’d love to hear it.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
19 comments
  1. There’s nothing more terrifying than a spider coming from the visor WHILE you’re driving. I’ve been there. I thought I was going to die because I was going 60mph+ on the highway and then SPIDER!!! @#&%$!!! Also had one on my seatbelt one time. My friend suggested I just set fire to my car because obviously there’s something wrong in there.

  2. I’m only judging you for drinking a protein drink. The rest is forgiveable.

  3. Oh I am so with you on all 5 of these! My 6th would be “How to be On Time”. I used to end up walking the 4.5 miles to High School at least once a week after missing the bus, and am still regularly missing buses, trains and flights 25 yrs on. If any of my friends or family receive a birthday card from me on time, or a Christmas card from me before Epiphany they get worried about my mental health. So yeah, timing is not a skill I’m ever likely to learn.

    Oh, and also, you have drive through ATMs in the US?!? I am so jealous, that would be so handy to save having to drag myself and my son out of the car and into the Scottish weather!

    And to the mama with the mouldy slip n slide, we left our paddling pool out at the end of last summer and it ended up with it’s own ecosystem inside!

  4. My sheets aren’t changed as often as I’d like (but thankfully [?] my kids still have accidents, so their sheets are cleaned regularly). And I thought I was the only one who feels like I’m impersonating an adult! I love the Sandra Cisneros story “Eleven” where she says we’re all the ages we’ve been all at the same time. So I’m 15 and 23 and 8 and 32 and 37 all at once. At least I never have to go back to being, say, 13. Thank God.

    Love your writing. And you.

  5. I think we should just change “adulting” to “adultery” and have a good belly laugh, only I’ll have to opt out on the laugh because of my stitches. This is a perfect post. I know exactly how you feel, except working full-time is way too adult for this kid and I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of it. (Besides surgery, because that makes it impossible to go play with my friends.)

  6. I will never be done learning how to act like a serious adult person. For about a year now I’ve been writing our church newsletters and bulletins. Nearly 8 months of that has been without the guidance of a pastor. Left to my own devices I get bored and start slipping little jokes and asides into the announcements. And heaven help us if we’re light on announcements. I try to look for appropriate, religious themed clip art to use as filler, but somehow I end up with butterflies flying out of the TARDIS.

  7. I’m in my 50’s, which I can’t really believe, and I also feel like I’m faking it. Totally. I was recently encouraged to join the local Women’s Club, and at first I thought, no, I couldn’t…that’s for older women. And then I realized that somehow even if I’m at the low end of “older women” the description still applies. How freaking depressing. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, either.
    I am always encouraged when you talk about how difficult faith is. It’s my #1 spiritual issue,

  8. ((hugs)) Mama!

    This reminds me of a Dickinson poem:

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you – Nobody – too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    How public – like a Frog –
    To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
    To an admiring Bog!

    Instead of “Nobodys”, we’re NoAdulters. 😉 And we’re awesome and rocking this life.

    Wish me luck. I’m trying to sell a car. For the first time. I’m 42 and I’ve never handled a transaction like this before. O_o

    Ya know what? Adulting sucks.

  9. My husband and I just had this conversation last night, after the real estate agent (!) left our house. I was like, “Do you ever feel like you’re not really an adult? Like you’re still a 16 year-old just pretending?” And he sighed, and said, “No, actually, this year, I feel more like I’m 40 and just pretending to be a 29 year-old.

    I’m currently planning a getaway for us. Because clearly he is under too much stress. 😛

    Also, I don’t think I will ever learn how to be graceful. Falling and tripping and dropping things and carrying too much, that’s pretty much where it’s gonna be at for the rest of my life.

  10. Two things: My grandma was in her fifties and talking to fourteen year old me about how she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up, with a laugh at the end. It’s stuck with me for twenty years, and helps when I feel like I should have this grown up thing figured the heck out already.

    Your point about being a good mom who still rages and is tired and not enough hit home hard. This week I have been a screaming mess, wondering if I’m going to become one of those adoptive parents you hear about who abuse their child who already went through enough trauma and deserves so much more. I have all the excuses in the world – pregnant (again – and scared) and moving far far away in three weeks (and scared) and trying to keep life normal – two birthdays in June. It is too much, and I know it, but I still long to do it all, and tend to hate myself when I fall apart.

  11. Your posts are as timely as ever. I was just thinking this morning “Gah! I’m almost 30, but my brain is telling me that I’m still 20. When do I get to *feel* like a grown up?” Glad to know I’m not the only impersonator out there 😉

  12. I think you’ll never be done learning how to drink beer and dirty martinis. And the only way to keep on the learning curve is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.

  13. prayer…can’t seem to figure that one out, sigh. But I’m still trying…

  14. I just discovered your blog and I LOVE it! Truly. So fun! I have subscribed and now expect even more awesomeness! Thank you for being alive when I needed it!

  15. I’ve done the exact same thing to my car mirror at an ATM. The repair guy was trying to make me feel better by saying that they repairs tons of mirrors because someone hit them. Then he had to add, “Usually it happens when people are backing up though. “

  16. Needed this today, thanks. Being an adult and knowing you must make adult decisions can be rough. Waving in the dark, only it’s still daytime. Much love, friend.

  17. It is because of your mess that we all love you so. Your Chocolate drink makes my moldy slip’n slide rolled out for all the neighborhood mommys to gasp at all that much easier to take. I just grabbed my mop (it has never been used before)and squirted some dish soap on it and mopped it with pride right there in the front lawn in front of the whole town. Because I am rocking this mommy thing every which way! Head held high!

  18. ” I will always be a mess, and there will be some things I will never figure out, and it turns out that’s OK.” Praise the Lord because I, too, can be something of a mess. Something I’ll never be done learning: how to walk and also carry a liquid at the same time. I live with lots of little slippery puddles.

  19. this was my favorite post of yours yet.
    Here is to almost adulting and not ripping a hole in our pants today.

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