Making Mean Faces

The other day, I was picking up a prescription from the pharmacy counter at Publix.

I’ve always thought of prescriptions as a rather personal thing. You know the pharmacist has a lot of power with all the information they have in their database. They know why you may be taking the drugs they’re issuing you. It seems most folks uphold the modicum of privacy when it comes to transactions at the pharmacy counter, leaving a respectful distance (albeit framed by impatience!) between themselves and whomever is waiting ahead.

I was mid-transaction. I’d signed for my prescription and was about to get the goods and pay, when a man around 50 years old basically sidled up NEXT TO ME. My defense mechanisms sounded the alarms. I had a grocery basket on the counter in front of me for my drugs to go in after I’d paid for them as I still had some shopping to do. The encroacher put his basket on the counter NEXT TO MINE. The hell? All of this silently went down and I shot the dude a nasty look to tell him to step away, but he wouldn’t even look at me. He instead gazed at the pharmacist. I paid, being sure to cover his view of my card PIN, and shot him one final withering glance that told him where he and his drugs could go, and I walked away. Creep.

Why do I write about this? Because I have never been one to make mean faces at people to show my disdain for them. I never would have done that in the past. I might even get to the point where I could vocalize my displeasure to future encroachers to not stand so close to me. (“Don’t stand, don’t stand so, don’t stand so close to me.”)

Seriously. Dude. Back the F off.

This means I am changing! This is ultimately a good thing, I think. I hope.

It’s kind of fun, expressing myself with my real emotions rather than spending energy covering them. In the past, I would have tried to rationalize the man’s behavior rather than instantly concluding his behavior was inappropriate and doing something to let him know it. I would have told myself to calm down, that maybe he has some sort of social disorder or mental disorder. I’d try to find some way to forgive him for this lack of respect. This time, though, I didn’t process all of that and instead shot him a mean look. It would have been ideal if he had seen the mean look, but at least I did it. I let the world know I felt.

Feeding Myself: Dance

For Christmas I received a gift card for 4 classes at a local dance studio. I’ve been aching to attend a formal dance class for well over 2 years, and I finally went last night. Prompted by avoiding the massive dose of pollen outside, I ditched my plan to go for a run and instead went to a dance class. I’d wanted to do one with more movement, but I was able to go into a stretch class instead. I love stretching, so I was happy to go; I’ll go again soon to a movement class.

Ever the worrier about new places and things, I got there early and told the front desk attendant, I’m new. She kindly helped me out, gave me a quick tour, etc. The studio is really nice! It has a very swanky locker room area, 4 studios, and a good assortment of classes. It doesn’t have Zumba, but it does have Cardio Salsa, which I watched the tail end of as I waited for my class to begin. Will definitely be trying that one!

Stretch class was challenging, but all my stretching on my own paid off. There were only a few times I felt weak, but my abs and back are so much stronger than they’ve ever been in my life, and I felt like I was properly flexible, too. It was a challenge, but not over my head. I can only get better.

It was a little hard to see my physique in the mirror, though. Although I’ve been running, my midsection and thighs and upper arms looked enormous compared to most women in the room. There was a clearly professional ballerina behind me who was tiny tiny tiny, and the lady next to me was tiny tiny tiny and the instructor was tiny, too. I decided to turn my mind to my strength and not my looks. I even smiled, as I remembered how wonderful it felt to be in a real studio and letting my mind go to follow the instructions. I also had to laugh at the obscene amount of sweating I was doing under the very warm light right over me. I also kept spotting hairs from my head all over the floor. I was awkward in these ways, but again, I felt strong. Capable. And I didn’t want it to end. The hour flew by and it was time to go.

I can’t wait to go back. I’ve needed this.

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.

 

i like you, girl

I’ve spent one-on-one time with three different friends in the last 24 hours. I do consider Josef my best friend, but I definitely need girl time in my life. I know it’s good to have my a cappella group and women’s Bible study for girl time, and I work with a lot of great women, but I really miss having a best friend who’s a girl. Luckily, I have lots of really great friends that I can go hang out like I have been doing the last day, but I do miss having someone that I have to call every day to tell her something, and vice versa. So, it is good that Josef can serve that role for me along with general husband role things that he does and that I love him for.

The first friend I went to see yesterday, B, has been going through a really hard time lately. I was happy to be able to go hang out with her. She is really funny and it’s good to see what great mother she is to her son. It makes me hope that I will be a good mom when that time comes for us. I think she is recovering from the sadness in her life and is really grateful for the support she finds through her husband and his family and our church.

Next, I hung out with an Octave friend, N. She and I have been jonesing over a need for some Sonic. As in the drive-in fast food place. I hadn’t been in about three years, maybe even longer. We had a great time at Sonic and I am glad that I got the need to eat there out of my system! Did you know that when you pay at the Sonic screen with a debit card, it screens you with the question, “Do you know your PIN?” Too funny.

Today I walked with my friend I mentioned who ran the marathon and dedicated a mile to a person who had experienced cancer. We walked for two hours! We hadn’t hung out in a long time, and we clearly had a lot of catching up to do! It felt great to walk for so long, too. She mentioned that she doesn’t like when other women call her “girl.” I told her about the guy I dated (and broke up with over instant messenger) who could not bring himself to say “I love you.” Instead he would say, “I like you, girl.” It just constantly rubbed me the wrong way. When I did finally break up with him (over instant messenger!) he told me that he really had wanted to tell me that he loved me. Hope he had better luck with the next girl he dated with his awesome proclaimations of love. 🙂

So it felt good to get in some quality girl time and to also know what a good friend I also have in my husband.

Now I get to get ready for a fun weekend getaway with Josef, my BFF. 🙂