Having It All

Posted | 11 comments

Having It All

Do you remember the Enjoli lady?  You know that gorgeous woman in the commercial who belted out “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.” I do and more than anything I wanted to be her.

I grew up in the 70s. Women were burning their bras, asserting their rights, and joining the work force. Cindy’s mom went back to school and became a nurse, Jackie’s mom started selling Tupperware and was making more money than her husband, Adele’s mom got a divorce, and Mel’s mom had a stack of Playgirls next to the bed.

I came of age in the 80s. Women were putting on the power suit with the floppy silk bows, rolling up their sleeves, and playing in the boardroom. They were being promoted, having kids, and buying themselves BMWs. With their perfect hair and gourmet dinners, the women I knew were smart and successful and beautiful.

I bought into the idea that I COULD have it all. I could be an amazing wife and mother while holding down an 80 hour per week job, volunteering in my community, keeping the house clean, the garden pruned, and putting healthy meals on the table. After all, it was the age of Martha Stewart.

The signs that this wasn’t going to work were there all along. Instead of becoming the Enjoli lady, I became tired. Being a perfectionist, didn’t help matters as good enough was never good enough. I’d drive myself crazy redoing what I had already done well. I was having chest pains at 28. I was stressed, edgy, and overwhelmed. I pushed myself again and again to the brink of exhaustion. I was plagued with self doubt.

Being persistent and dedicated I believed that I could work my way through any situation if just stuck with it long enough. I thought I could tear down any wall and overcome any obstacle if I just tried more and worked harder then the next person. I thought I could do it all.

And so from the tender age of 20, I engaged in this ongoing cycle of pushing myself to the brink, collapsing, pulling back and regrouping, and then doing it all over again in an effort to create the mystique the Enjoli lady sold so well. Life would be good if I could just buy the right house in the right neighborhood with the right car parked in the garage. If I had the right outfit and went to the right places with the right people, I would be happy. If I could prepare the right dinner and host the right holiday event and buy everyone the right presents, all would be right in the world. If I had the right job, doing the right thing making the right amount of money, then and only then would my life have value and meaning. I had totally bought into the “American” dream as presented by Mrs. Enjoli and I was miserable.

I will give myself an A for effort. I tried so hard.

In addition to the thousand of little signs that the universe so kindly sent trying to tell me I was on the wrong path, I had three major events that finally knocked me upside my head to the point that I could no longer ignore that what I was doing wasn’t working. In a nutshell I was betrayed by someone I trusted implicitly, I was pushed beyond my limits by a situation to which I was devoted, and finally I was gutted.

Once again, I retreated. I found a quiet place and I took a long hard look at my life. I saw the patterns of repeated self abuse, of repeated unhappiness, of repeated misery all stemming from my desire to be just like Mrs. Enjoli. I made a vow. I vowed to myself that I would not do this to myself again, ever.

And that is what led to the journey I’m on now. I’ve let go of so much. I’ve made so many changes. I realize that I don’t have to be the Enjoli lady. Now, I get to decide what success looks like and how I’ll spend my time. I get to decide what’s important. I get to choose the life I want. I don’t have to live the life I was sold. 

11 Comments

  1. I gave up the life I was sold eleven years ago. It was the best decision I ever made. My toughest days as a single parent are better than the best days living a lie, trying to be the Enjoli lady. Here’s to courageous imperfection!

    • “Courageous imperfection” LOVE IT!

  2. Of course I love this and relate to it. You always inspire me and make me think. Thank you!

  3. Beautifully crafted real life tale Denise! I don’t know this song, at least by its words… but WOW what a radically extreme metaphor to live by. No wonder so many women have driven themselves to pure utter exhaustion only to finally be STOPPED by its generating madness. “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.”

    Love the image. Cracked. Thankfully we do crack, so the exquisite deeper reality can finally be lived. I see this beauty in you, Denise. So grateful to know you and have met you.

  4. Denise, as soon as I saw the title of your post, the melody started playing in my head… such is the power of marketing — i.e. SELLING you something, as you pointed out!

    Making things look & sound better than they really are (in an effort to convince folks that they “should” have/be/do), is a message that implies you’re NOT any of those things unless… (Truthfully, I bought into it for many years, too.) I’m ecstatic you saw the light and decided your life and time are worth more than bacon and a trendy perfume.

  5. I love this post, Denise. Particularly the line: “Now, I get to decide what success looks like and how I’ll spend my time. I get to decide what’s important. I get to choose the life I want. I don’t have to live the life I was sold.”

    Only for me, after working my way out of the first life “I was sold” I founding myself adopting the next life I “was sold.” Ha, ha, I’m a work in progress. I think I need to keep looking at the “choosing” piece. One day at a time.

    • It’s a process. I’m still a bit a refugee of the first life. Trying not to repeat and it’s so much harder then it looks.

  6. I’m a woooooman… doubleyew-ohhhh…M-A-N. I can say it again… {but I won’t}.
    Yeah, I bought that package that said I could have it all. It is exhausting.
    I feel like we’re cut out of the same cloth {I hope the patterns line up and the edges are all trimmed neatly, seams pressed open} and wonder how I didn’t break down completely.
    Letting go of what we think life should be… learning to be fully present… not missing the little things. I so appreciate your take on life. Thanks for the skill in which you share your sweet gifts.

    • We are birds of a feather and we’re both heading from great to even better.

  7. Love this! I totally understand this mentality. So glad you have broken free from that thinking and are living a more peaceful life.

  8. Not a woman but I can certainly relate to buying something, unconsciously, that didn’t work out. I now remind myself I am choosing my life.

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