Why Don’t You Like Me?

Mika’s Song, Grace Kelly, is on my mind right now:

“I could be brown
I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful
I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green
Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don’t you like me?
Why don’t you like me?
Walk out the door!”

I keep submitting my interest in singing to various folks and groups, but I keep getting rejected. More in the form of never hearing anything back.

It hurts.

Why don’t they like me???

I know a lot of performers have to get used to rejection. Auditions aren’t nearly as comprehensive as anyone auditioning wants them to be. They (whoever “they” may be) say it’s more about who you know than it is about how talented you are, anyway.

Also I tell myself, this is God’s way of telling you this is not the right experience for you, or it was meant for someone else.

Then I think about the question, “is what you’re doing getting you what you want?”

Maybe I’m approaching my dream to sing the wrong way. Maybe I’m approaching all my dreams in way that won’t get me there.

I think I will make a dream board. I’ve heard they are a good exercise in helping people more clearly visualize what they want. It would be good to get it out of my head, for sure.

Have you made one? Has it helped you?

If you’re reading, please comment! Comments don’t show up until I approve them (control freak that I am, I can’t handle mean comments auto posting).

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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Under Pressure

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It’s an astoundingly gorgeous day today. I wish I could have appreciated it sooner. I’m fortunate that my desk is beside a window so I can see the glory of the day outside.

But I did not want to wake up.

My bed comforter is a little too warm. Even though I sleep with minimal pajamas as a result (interpret as you will), I always wake up covered in sweat, my scalp damp.

And yet, I did not want to wake up.

I felt overwhelmed by the gravity of sleep more so than usual, as I have fought it my whole life. I had to get my son to school though, and myself to work, so I rose and readied myself and him for our Wednesday.

“Is it Ballet day?” he asked, as he does every Wednesday. He is not enrolled in his school’s ballet class, but he’s hyper aware of the schedule so he always asks, confirming the day.

“Yep, buddy, it sure is.”

“And tomorrow is Thursday, Spanish [class] day?”

“Yes. You’re right, tomorrow is Thursday, Spanish day.”

As all small children need and like, the boy loves predictability and organization. He also is currently fascinated by calendars, maps and globes, and counting the months of the years or letters of the alphabet by 2s. “Mommy, is it, February, April, June, August, October, December?” Seriously, what 3 year old thinks like this?

My childhood schedule was predictable. Aside from whenever dance class day happened to be, and sporadic trips to visit aunts and uncles and cousins in the area, my life was: school during the week, dinner around the same time, homework, chores on Saturday mornings after cartoons, along with some playtime, and church on Sundays.

Now we decide last minute that we’re going to Helen for the weekend, or we make advance plans to go to Helen for the weekend, but the departure varies. It means sometimes we take our son out of preschool on Fridays. It also means he knows two places as home, two bedrooms as his, two sets of toys, two sets of what routine is. It’s like he lives in a divorced household, only his family is in tact.

I’ve often worried what impact this is going to have on him long term. The pediatrician didn’t seem concerned when I asked her. I think I am the only one bothered by it, and extend my concern to his well being. I know my sister and her family will take long weekend trips to weddings, etc., and another family I know seems to always be going somewhere on school breaks and weekends.

Between work, weekends back and forth, and my illness, as I described before, I get so tired. So easily. There’s so much pressure to keep going going going all the time.

But, I know I need stability in schedule to heal. I need routine in order to heal. I need a schedule.

But it bores me, I think. I get restless. Did I have TOO much stability growing up? What am I rebelling against? Other needs controlling my life? What is this pressure? Am I manufacturing it? I recently took a career test that says I like change for the sake of change. Weird. I never would have guessed that I’d show that through a test.

The introvert side of me LOVES when my calendar is free of meetings. The extrovert side of the house is thrilled when I have a lot of meetings. But, I get really tired prepping for meetings. Under pressure. I am often so happy when a meeting ends and I am free. Pressure released.

My running schedule is sporadic, based on when I can go. I had to stop my run yesterday because my hip hurt. My time was suffering as I gingerly traipsed unevenly along. After 30 minutes I stopped, afraid that I’d risk further injury if I kept going. So today is a rest day, even though I’d rather have run a lot yesterday and still be going running today. Because running relieves that pressure.

I keep craving solitude, too, more than usual. I feel so cranky when this need hits at night. It’s not like I live alone, after all. I think this need arises when I react to the pressure of the demands of the coming day. I shut down.

The grass is greener on the other side, y’all, and it calls to me daily. The clock is ticking and there’s so much I want to go do. I want to escape. But at the same time, I want (need?) stillness and tranquility. I guess this is the push and pull of the manic/depressive cycle? Under pressure.

Part of me wishes there were a Presbyterian version of a nunnery. I could elect to go into that kind of service and devote my time using my talents to helping others. It would be my job to go out and serve these ways, but also part of life to live in solitude on purpose. Someone else would set the schedule.

Or I could figure out a way to do that in my life so I could be generally happier.

The things I love to do most, however, don’t really align with a schedule. Artistic inspiration cannot be forced. I guess that’s where discipline comes in, so that when artistic inspiration hits, the underpinning support is there. That’s how running has been. The more I run, the better prepared I am for challenges like speeding up and running tougher terrain.

So, I guess all this is to say what I seek is balance. Every time I try to schedule and goal set, though, I tend to overdo it. I set myself up for exhaustion. My therapist has talked a ton about mindfulness, and I am glad I have a session planned for tomorrow so I can bring it up. I need new tools in order to do this.

I’m staying put this weekend. Not going to Helen. I need a break and we’re going to be there all of February with events for Fasching (Germany’s equivalent to Mardi Gras/Carnival Season). I’m trying to take a break from drinking, as I swear it’s a Pavlovian response to being up there. I am not supposed to drink on my meds, too. This is yet another area where I need discipline.

Part of attempting balance is to turn to the things I’m good at and enjoy, but in a non-exhausting way. My therapist has told me I need to ask for the things I need.

Here’s what I need, simply put:

To dance.

To sing.

To run.

To read.

To stretch.

To create artwork.

To help others.

To go to church, for the ritual and community.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Revving Up Again. But Still Stuck.

I realize yesterday’s post was not the most sunshine-y. I think I may have reached my optimism limit some days, yesterday being one of them. I want to speak my mind. Once heard someone say (paraphrased), “you may not know exactly what your thought is until you’re actually speaking the thought out loud.”

Or, in my case, writing it.

I took 3 days off from running. Mostly because of a certain vices in my life (cider, wine, etc.), but also because of rain, and actual general laziness (exhaustion???). When I ran last Thursday, I wasn’t feeling it, even though I ran 5 miles. I only ran 17 miles last week, as opposed to 30 the week before. I have this goal of running the marathon and it’s pressing on me too dauntingly. I was partially afraid of going running again yesterday because I thought I might not *want* to. Luckily I was able to run and enjoy over 6 miles yesterday. It was a cold and blustery day, but lots of folks were out and the morning rain had moved out. And I slept mostly well.

Self care is the hardest thing for me right now. It feels so selfish. Running is an acceptable form of self care to most – therapists, my husband, others who run. I don’t want to lose it so I have to take care of myself all the more. Running is how I blow off steam, clear my head. Running is also probably how I run away from my problems, like my issues are a gang of evil monsters with clubs on fire running at my heels. It’s a solitary activity, unless running in a group of course. Even though I am not a swimmer, I imagine the submersion into water feels so good to satisfy a person’s need for solitude. I know I like to submerge in the bathtub to disconnect for a bit. Running feels the same way.

I may not run a marathon quite yet, but at least it’s in the realm of possibility for me given how much I run now.

Sometimes, though, I hit a wall and have no energy. I shut down and have to rest. My brain overloads and basically gets stuck on an unproductive spin cycle, centrifugal force holding everything troubling against the wall and holding them in equally overwhelming importance. “Deal with me!” each issue yells at me at once. These are the very thoughts I am having right now:

“You need to work.”

“You need to think about dinner.”

“You shouldn’t have eaten that.”

“You need to go to church.”

“You need to take a shower.”

“You need to see how your friend you talked to last week is doing.”

“You need to donate to that cause.”

“You need to volunteer more.”

“You need to go to bed earlier tonight.”

“You need to wake up earlier tomorrow.”

“You need to do the laundry.”

“You need to run tomorrow.”

“You need to remember to get ready for that meeting next week.”

“You need to vacuum.”

“You need to go through the mail.”

“You need to get better at meal planning and stop wasting so much produce.”

“You need to clean off your desk at work.”

“You need to go to your friend’s show.”

“You need to call your state representatives.”

“You need to check your email.”

“You need to send that report.”

“You need to meet your billing deadline.”

“You need to apologize for hurting feelings.”

“You need to be a better mom.”

“You need more rest.”

“You need to use those gift cards from Christmas.”

On and on it goes, when I am not running.

This is why I run.

 

 

 

 

Garbage Beauty

My heart hurts today. I want to sleep.

At my age, I should not feel like a teenager, but I do. I feel like maybe my sickness makes me restless and life so uncertain, so prone to moodiness.

I hate and hesitate to admit this, but I feel the prettiest I’ve ever felt in my life, in terms of the exterior. I’ve always struggled with my view of myself. At 37, I think it’s more that I’ve accepted myself and not so much that I’ve suddenly actually become pretty. I think it’s my desperate final blossom before I move into middle age, so I am trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

At the same time, I feel so ugly and rotten inside. Maybe it’s the sickness, but maybe it’s just a recognition of where I am right now. If I focus on the outside, maybe I can keep the interior ugliness from shining through. But, it’s there.

I see them everywhere now: men looking at me. What a vain thing to say. Probably, men have always looked at me, but for the first time I am noticing. And maybe for the first time, I want them to see me. That’s right, buddy, I am pretty. Thanks for appreciating it.

Is that not disgusting? What is this horrific vanity? Am I trying to find value in myself based on being desired? Do beautiful works of art become smug the more they are appreciated?

Here I am, a married woman. To a husband who loves me and tells me I’m beautiful. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t I love myself more than this?

The High Museum here in Atlanta had a Vik Muniz exhibit back in the summer. What a talent. He takes familiar works of art and reconstructs them with other objects on a large floor then takes a photo from up above.

He has one series where the medium he uses to reconstruct the original artwork is actual junk. All kinds of discarded items: paint cans, tvs, tires, coils that he’s collected.

Here’s an example, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus:

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That’s how I feel right now, and have for a while. Like the garbage version of Venus. Reminiscent of actual beauty, even enough to fool the eye, but actually made up of garbage upon further study. It’s not a pretty feeling at all. I feel so vulnerable right now. And worthless.

Thanks for reading.

Congratulations: You’re Bipolar

Yes, that title is supposed to be in sarcasm font.

“I sometimes feel like I am on a ride, a roller coaster. And I get stuck on the point before the ride actually starts. Like I am anticipating fear of what is to come, so I can’t even get the ride to actually begin,” I said to my therapist last week. It was Wednesday. I’d reached out and she was able to see me the very next day due to a cancellation.

“Tell me more about that,” she said.

“Well, I have all these times where I feel really good about myself and abilities. I make all these great plans and have bursts of ideas of things I want to accomplish. But then my mood shifts and I have set myself up for complete failure. Because when I am in a low mood, I see all these things I had very much wanted to do, and I realize I am frozen by feelings of being overwhelmed and I just can’t even begin to get them all done. And this applies to every single area of my life.”

“Well, this is completely different than what you’ve told me before,” she said, as she headed over to the computer to look at the schedule for the center where I was evaluated for depression and anxiety. “You may have bipolar disorder. We need to get you in ASAP to be evaluated for that so we can change your treatment plan.”

I told her that I think I am finally getting better at naming my emotions and describing them better to her, and this particular description is nothing new to me and in fact has been going on for decades. I seldom finish what I start, I always feel like I’ve set myself up to fail, and it’s exhausting. I told her I’ve wondered if I had bipolar disorder.

So I went in Friday and the nurse practitioner I’ve been seeing there has now started me on mood stabilizing medicines. We’ll see how that goes over the next month as it takes a while for these things to really show whether or not they work.

biopolarcovernihcrop

 

 

 

What Am I So Afraid Of?

The big bad wolf? Virginia Woolf?

Kind of sad, but I edit myself constantly as I decide how to present myself to others. No, not “kind of sad.” Actually sad.

I think a large part of who people think I am is wrong because when anyone gets to know me, they tell me how surprising I am, including my own therapist. The last time I saw her, we sat down and she joked, “I’m just going to get settled here with my box of popcorn, because I know I’m about to be entertained.”

I guess I am afraid I won’t be liked.

I won’t be loved.

I am afraid that I don’t really know who I am.

Maybe I am so detached from being able to be myself that I don’t know who I am.

Depression and anxiety make this even worse, of course, or perhaps inform it. Or maybe I’ve always had these mood problems along for the ride, and they are as ingrained in my persona as the part of me that loves glitter (even though it’s tacky) and the part of me that relates to the world via song lyrics rather than actual names of feelings.

I’ve been running a lot lately. Even if I don’t know who I am, I have a new persona of runner.

Last week, I ran 17+ miles across 3 different runs. This week, I am up to 12+ miles across 2 runs, but I took a day off yesterday because I read about new runners chasing that runner’s high and getting injured. I am only competing against myself, not even really training for anything, and I feel so good about having running in my life right now. I may suck at everything else, but dammit, I am good at running. I can’t afford to lose it.

Because I run right after work and start and end at my office, I often run into colleagues as I get on the elevator. It’s led to some good connections and conversations. One lady can’t believe I used to hate running as much as she does. She REALLY hates running. Another lady might run with me (and she wants us to sing together! This is awesome!). A man said I’ve inspired him to work out (sweet!), and another tells me he’s going swimming so now I ask him if he’s going swimming when I see him (he is). One man added me as a friend on FitBit and after an awkward week or so passed, I explained to him that I wasn’t going to accept his request because he has more steps per day than I do, and I like being in first place on my FitBit dashboard. Luckily he was not offended.

One man asked me what I was training for, and when I said, nothing, I just compete against myself, he said, “Geez, are you just that stressed out?”

Maybe, wise man. Maybe so.

Running is meditative for me. I don’t listen to music as I run, mostly because I like the ambient sounds around me and also because I’m on campus, I don’t want to block out the sounds of cars or other things I should avoid hitting or being hit by. I listen to the birds in the trees, someone who practices the trumpet time-to-time along my route (through the trees — I can’t see this person), and whatever else. I work on my musical compositions in my mind and also sort of zone out. There are some regulars on my running path, so it feels like a community. I’m trying to find others to run with right now as the days are getting shorter. I want sign up for a trail run the Saturday after Thanksgiving. (This one.) I can’t decide if I should do the 10K or the half marathon. Josef, always cautious — which is good — says I should stick to the 10K, but there is something in my mind that wants to go for the half. The first 3 or so miles are difficult, but then it’s game on and I feel like I could actually run forever.

I find it amusing that I like running so much given how much I really hated it in the past. I’m often thinking, who is this person who likes running? Even if I don’t know who I really am, then I guess I can just as easily be a runner, right? I will feel tired, but happy and accomplished (feeling words, friends).

Hmm. How much is that race?

(Be right back. Talk amongst yourselves.)

Okay, I just signed up for my first half marathon.

Eek.

It’s okay, I got this. It’s in a month.

Eek!

Perfection

After a 2 year break, I think, I have some things to say.

“You’re so perfect.”

“How are you so perfect?”

“You do everything so well – you’re just so perfect!”

“I love your shoes. And your dress. And that scarf goes with both, ties them together, actually. It’s perfect!”

My whole life has been built around this theme. Why? Who even knows.

No one ever told me explicitly I had to be perfect. There was no sit down conversation with my parents where they said, “we won’t love you unless you’re perfect in all things.” Similarly, my two big sisters, who helped raise me, never told me, “you’re not good enough to be in our family unless you’re perfect. ‘Cause perfect is how we do things around here.”

And, God never said I had to be perfect, either.

When I was kid, I was very independent. I liked to figure things out for myself. Researched encyclopedia pages to answer the questions I could have asked parents or teachers. Taught myself how to ride a bike. Perfectly happy to read a book, create some artwork, write, whatever. I lived in my head. My imagination had a never ending supply of entertainment. I rarely gave into peer pressure, either. I think because of this, many people left me alone.

Looking back, I really could have used more input from an imprinting adult on how to express myself. Once I became interested in interaction, I think in order to feel interesting to others, I became both a chameleon and a comedian, becoming a source of blending in and enjoyment for others at the expense of my own happiness. That’s not to say I didn’t have many authentic, wonderful experiences — I did — but as a daily habit, I always tried to draw as little attention to my own feelings as possible because then everyone might realize how inept I was. The times I did express myself were some of the worst experiences in my formative years, as developmentally necessary and normal as that pain likely was.

We all do this. When someone says, “Hey, how are you?” the answer is always something like, “fine,” even when things are crappy and I’d rather not talk about it. Because I don’t even know how to talk about it.

I’ve been through counseling with different therapists in my lowest points. One of them, who was my least favorite (she literally spent every session talking about herself), actually finally gave me some useful information that none of the others had. This was our last scheduled session out of maybe 6 that I had to attend due to a self-initiated referral, and because I was weary of the idea of having to keep coming to see her, I told her I now felt much better and didn’t think I needed to continue these visits. She recognized my determination, and she must not have been too concerned for me otherwise to compel me to continue our sessions, because these were her parting words, showing me she actually had been observing me the whole time despite my lack of participation:

“You’re a perfectionist. You have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. And, you squelch yourself.”

The first sentence made sense but I didn’t really focus on it at the time. The last sentence is what I reacted to at the time, as it was only too true. I’d rather be miserable than ever let on that I am unhappy. Others in my life never have any idea I’m enraged, depressed, or anything other than what I want them to see me be. This is generally because I don’t want others to worry about me. I’m the peacemaker, and I’ll try to distract others from their misery so they don’t even have time to notice I’m carrying a huge suitcase full of my own misery. And as a result of successful deflection of attention on me, others think I’m somehow perfect.

Perfectly happy. Perfectly content.

Perfectly furious at times, to be honest. And never comfortable enough to reveal how I really feel, and therefore who I really am.

Remember how I mentioned that I taught myself how to ride a bike? I actually can’t ride a bike. I was such a poor teacher to myself – ill equipped. My bike training regimen consisted of figuring out the balance of the small rusty used bike that was at our house. It didn’t even have brakes, but fortunately, our driveway was the perfect gradual U shape, allowing for a gentle downhill launch and an uphill natural braking mechanism. Over and over I went, down and up, a live physics lesson, until I reached equilibrium. I was such a poor teacher to myself that I also never learned to truly love riding the bike. Just checked the developmental box and moved on. I’m terrified to even try now. The last time I tried I shook so badly that my hands ached for days from gripping the handlebar with such ferocity.

I refused help with it, because I wanted to figure it out, but maybe there was something more to my rejection of help. I had trust issues as a child. I still do. And just like no one told me to be perfect, I can’t recall why I would have trust issues. But between these two areas, I have a placed a huge burden on myself. I have this weird belief that I am to be both perfect and 100% self reliant. Neither of which is possible. Neither of which is healthy. Neither of which feels good.

Even now, I am writing this and wondering if I should just delete it all, edit it to death, try to say all the things I left out. Reveal more. Reveal less. I hate dithering, but I do it all the time. Perpetual spin of yes, no, yes, no. Stop, go, stop, go. Don’t, do, don’t, do. Say something, no don’t, say something, no.

The major dithering episodes usually drive me crazy, keep me up at night, and end with decisive ultimatum action. I usually leave situations rather than try to make them better (jobs, singing group, relationships). I reject before I am rejected. I think the act of detaching gets the point across. Even when I give other plausible reasons for ending things, it’s usually because I have chosen not to fight for what I really want. I choose flight over fight.

I’m going to try to take a crack at being less perfect. I’m so used to putting everyone else’s needs in front of my own, and it’s very hard for me to be actively selfish enough.

In writing this post, I read an American Psychological Association article that said some really scary things about perfectionism, including these revealing highlights (emphasis mine):

“The PSPS rates three aspects of perfectionistic self-presentation: advertising one’s own perfection, avoiding situations in which one might appear to be imperfect and failing to disclose situations in which one has been imperfect.”

“‘”Those types of individuals [perfectionists] tend not to disclose anything that’s going to make them look imperfect… It’s difficult to keep them in treatment, because you’re asking them to do the thing they’ve been fighting against.”‘

I think the imperfections I choose not to disclose is what keeps me stuck in the Dithering Cycle. Why make someone unhappy with what I could say? Why make a big deal about something that maybe isn’t a big deal in the long run? Okay, I’ll just instead smile and say, “I’m fine.”

I’m always amazed at what people feel comfortable telling me. Whether it’s a compliment or something deeply personal, I am usually stunned at first. Sometimes I think I am a mirror, reflecting back how others want to see themselves, so I can see that I make them comfortable enough to share their thoughts with me. I’m going to work on saying what I mean. Maybe I’ll amaze someone else.

As I write this, I imagine myself on an elementary playground, standing before a swinging jump rope, and it’s my turn to jump in and keep up with its pace.

Encouraging Me: Jump in, Susan.

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Jump in!!!!

Dithering Me: No.

Encouraging Me: Oh for the love of all things, just go do it! What can you possibly be waiting for?

Dithering Me: No.

Deciding not to decide is making a decision.

The lyrics to Lean On Me say, “no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.”

I’m in a Dithering Cycle right now. How do I get out of it? How do I let my needs show?

My current therapist says I need to work on expressing how I am feeling. I’m going to start there. She says we can’t control other people, places, and things. And no matter where we take ourselves or surround ourselves with, we’ll still be stuck with our same unresolved issues. If I want to be all the things I want for others — to feel worthy of time and attention, to feel valued — then I’d better get to work on addressing my unresolved issues.

Here goes nothing. Well, not nothing. These feelings are going to be named.

I feel unfulfilled because there are a million things I want to do with my time that I am not doing. I feel like I am wasting precious time. I feel like I am 80 years old, looking back on my life, and am disappointed in myself for the things I’ve left undone. I feel worried about the many unknowns in life. I feel guilty for hurting others I’ve cared about by not expressing love to them. I feel overwhelmed with responsibility. I feel lonely a lot of the time. I feel disconnected from those I feel like I should be the most connected to. I feel sad over relationships I’m not enjoying that I used to. I feel lost. I feel frustrated. I feel terrified about sharing all of this. I feel vivacious though, doing so. I feel sad about not singing in an official group or recording. I feel my talents are invisible when I am ready to shine. I feel like I am missing out. I feel mature and childish at the same time. I feel stormy, like a teenager, which right now to me means the world is at once amazing and unfair. I feel confused about what all I am feeling. I feel like dancing. I feel like singing. I want to create. I want to leave a legacy. I’m tired of constantly retreating to the safety of my shell, like a turtle or a snail.

Me: Jump in. Let’s do this.