The Librarian Told Me I Was Failing

The Librarian Told Me I Was Failing

Little Lady and I hit the library. I was there to pick up a couple of items just in from my mile long request list, jam packed with unraveling and mind blowing reads that are stripping me down and filling me up. I can’t get enough of dissecting this human experience and I’ve devoured pages regularly for the past few years. Little Lady was just there for any book that offered interesting illustrations that she could draw at home.

library books

It was check-out time and somehow the two of us had accumulated a stack of books we could barely see over. I hit up the self-check so Little Lady could pretend she’s a real libwarian. As we were sliding barcodes under the red laser, a message popped up on the computer screen alerting me that ‘there seems to be a problem with your card – please see an attendant at the counter for help.’ It’s only a library, but I begin to respond as one would after presenting a bum credit card at the store – sweat and all. I tried cheating the system with my daughter’s library card, but it wouldn’t allow the transaction since these particular titles were reserved under myaccount.

I knew there wasn’t a “problem with my card”. I knew exactly what the issue was. The late fees accrued on my library card had exceeded the threshold of allowable irresponsibility and they would not let another book leave through their doors in my reckless care.

In order to continue with check-out I would have to walk up to the pale, thin, gentle looking man at the counter, who probably hasn’t a single shameful dollar compiled on HIS card, to be read my rights, or lack of, regarding this misstep – in detail – as I pretend that this is news to me…

I wasn’t sweating because I had late fees or because I only had $4 in my wallet to put toward my total in order to get it to an acceptable balance to release more material into my careless possession. I was agitated by the feeling of loose ends.

In a former life I was organized. I had complete thoughts. I had spare time. I was one who aimed high and accomplished most of my goals. I was bright. I was strong. I was a rock that others cold lean on. I had a sharp memory and an organized life. I remembered birthdays and special occasions and marked them by gifting personal and thoughtful treats. I could form intelligible language during conversation.

Today, I’m …in this phase…. I’m a single parent living along in a house with two children, building a handmade business from scratch with a part-time job on the side, tending to long desired writing gigs falling into place, and other opportunities surfacing from years of hard work. I’m juggling work, the kids’ schooling needs, appointments for the three of us, managing bills and books, grooming emotional well-being, heading household and property maintenance, and engagement and adventure and life with my babes. I work stolen moments throughout the day and late into the evenings after the kids are tucked into bed.

I’m chasing dreams and building something that I can be proud of, that I’m passionate about, that can support my children’s needs, and an arrangement and life that they have grown accustomed to and that I believe in.

Drop your story here _______________. We are all in it together, running side-by-side, listening and answering to what calls on us.

Right now, in this phase, I have a lot of irons in the fire. I don’t have enough hands for all the irons in the fire. I’m also aware that this isn’t forever. There are waves and seasons of struggle or fight and there is sweet reward in perseverance. We are granted breaks, however small, and those are the moments in which we catch our breath.

Sometimes I run late. Sometimes I forget to pack the snack for Spanish class. My house is often in disarray. Sometimes I ramble because my brain is sluggish, overloaded. I usually forget at least one thing behind wherever I go. I owe maybe 4 people a thank you, a birthday card, or a call at any given time. And I wear my ‘mom uniform’ too often in public out of convenience.

When the pale, thin, gentle looking man was explaining that my fees had exceeded the limit I was hearing him tell me, “You are failing. You dropped the ball AGAIN. You are slipping, not put together.” I’m going to silence that voice because it does me no good. I’m going to give myself a little grace in this phase. I’m going to work on not defining myself and measuring my worth by my shortcomings at any particular time, but by the heart and effort I put into what I am accomplishing – something so much deeper than hitting the mark of stereotypical togetherness.

Not failing, Mr. Libwarian. Living.

Join me?


  1. Anonymous says

    you should not have any fees too big. I paid off $8.00 for you when I took the kids in February while sitting with them………you just never stop being a mom luv you

  2. Mama! I love that you make time for stacks of books at the library with your kid, feeding your soul with information and writing about it all. It’s all about choosing how we approach our days, right? So things feel uncomfortably messy sometimes. But what I see is you choosing a life you want and that your kids will cherish. xo

    • Nici…clearly I’m embracing vulnerability on the eve of my presentation gig because reading this brought some happy tears. Yes, the idea of choosing our outlook and extracting beauty has had profound impact on the path I’ve taken over the past few years, facing the unexpected. Thank you. Cheers…J (shewillshine)

  3. Chureen Abrahamson says

    Funny J,
    I had over $100 in late fees and haven’t been back to the library for that reason. I’ve since found 5 of the 6 “lost” books but still haven’t paid the late fee. Hoping to get there again soon, but I’ll have to pay the fee gradually my hubby would kill me if saw that sum on the debit card.

    • Ha! Love it, Chureen. A librarian commented once to tell me that the late fees are used to maintain and improve the library and that made them less intimidating to me. Consider yourself offering a hefty donation. It’s like you’re doing good. ;) Cheers…

Leave a Comment