Today's subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Wild Geese
The cardboard coffee-cup sleeves in my hotel room exhort, "COOL IT! You can't book a vacation with injured fingers." It took me a minute to realize it was referring to hot beverages, since what's on my mind at the moment is the discerning act (for an assortment of reason, right now the word "balance" is skunked to me*) between what can feel like incessant pressure to Do More vs. self-care vs. making excuses for snaggety things one would rather not (as opposed to cannot) tackle. They wear each other's clothes, and sometimes the people strongly urging that I not sacrifice health and sanity for ambition/achievement are also the ones simultaneously mountainizing molehills in the name of ideals (including the illusory grail of a "balanced" approach/treatment/what-have-you to some of them snaggety things), which in turn gets in the way of me meeting my existing promises.
[* Hadn't read Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic
before looking up something else midway through writing this entry, but yeah. What she said there.]
Old George, a dancer I'm fond of, once told me that experienced dancers make tons of mistakes but recover from them better/faster than novices. I'm thinking of how some very successful people in my circles didn't do their part in projects we worked on together, and how irritating that was but also how ultimately irrelevant, but also how I don't want to be that kind of person and that's why I keep saying no on a regular basis to numerous worthy asks, and how several people have told me I'm their hero/inspiration for my ability to do so. I'm thinking of how I know I need to dial back even further when I have to jettison or even cancel existing plans, and when it's a relief when things fall through, and how FOMO, like many other afflictions, is something that hasn't permanently gone away but returns again and again to be dueled with. How my tendency to overplan means that I spent several hours reading up on things I did not have time to pursue in the first place, but it's also how I found the wonderful restaurant where I answered my craving for homemade pasta after a particularly nerve-shredding visit to the nursing home (where a resident with dementia demanded help I could not give, where I was gently reprimanded for wheeling another resident to the dining room [her request, but it turns out she's supposed to wheel herself for PT reasons], and an aide claimed my honorary mama's caregiver had set out only one sock last night and thus not put them on [but said caregiver, who is fan-freaking-tastic, checked the drawer and the socks were together. WTF]).
Where I'm going with this venting? It can be either or both gratifying and uncomfortable when people praise me for all that I get done, because I do pride myself on stubbornness, smarts, and stamina and am pleased when those qualities are recognized, but sometimes the complimenting has the tinge of backhandedery or self-justification, especially when the dialogue essentially filters through as "You're superhuman (or crazy), and I'm not, so I'm going to ask you for this last-minute favor..." I want people to see me as a (re)source, and for my beloveds** in particular to not feel undue constraint about asking me if I would like to help out with a this or that, but I get as pissy as the next diligently boring corn-hauling ant when I feel taken for granted.
[** And, it's probably no accident that my beloveds tend to be people who, being often of cloth or wiring similar to mine, generally don't lightly or habitually make demands of me in the first place.]
I hesitate to post this, since I too can be as bad as the next screenhead when it comes to worrying about whether a subtweet (subpost?) might be about me or if I've effed up Yet Again without realizing it. (The saying of "You know what you did" when angry? Instant friendship-ender, that. I've been called a mind-reader multiple times because of my ability to pay attention and commit key/interesting details to memory, but the label doesn't make it so, and even if my background/values/temperament weren't distinctly atypical, history has shown that I can be spectacularly
clueless at times -- which has been true of a number of people in my circles. So.) But I'm hearing/seeing/sensing frustration and exhaustion from multiple corners in reaction to so much Be More! Do More! YOLO! Sleep when you're dead! You haven't given as much as ____! You aren't _____ until you _____!
in the air and on the airwaves, and I'm not immune to comparison syndrome myself. (Will I forever feel a pang whenever I find out that yet another friend/acquaintance made Phi Beta Kappa, and feel thoroughly ridiculous for that flash of envy? It hasn't made an iota of difference in my career or love life or health, the fees would have been a significant burden, actually qualified individuals deciding against membership is a recurring thing
, not every school has a chapter, etc., blah, blah, OY. [To my credit, I'm not so obsessed that I knew any of those details (except the first) until a few minutes ago, and it doesn't take a psychologist to figure out that right now it's a trigger because Honorary Mama has been proud all her life of being PBK -- her key (and the chain it was on) was one of the pieces of jewelry she made a point of repairing and keeping -- and we're at a juncture in history where honors are rightfully being questioned and analyzed in depth in terms of who awards and receives them and the presence of privilege in the mix. And, on a more personal level, the yearning for and (non)pursuit of prizes and recognition and (not) being chosen is a recurring motif in conversations and reflections, as is the witnessing (and sometimes experiencing) of delusions and cluelessness (I have been that singer/actor at auditions with zero sense of how inadequate I would have been in the parts I coveted, and I have also zipped my lips and sat on my hands when encountering versions of that younger self: it took me long enough to get to a place where I was ready to acknowledge that I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and it's a lesson my avocations are inherently designed to teach me over and over again. I have been blessed with sufficient confidence to send work out again and again -- and also the analytical skills to read something a few months/years/decades later and conclude that I wouldn't have accepted/purchased it either).])
Anyway -- what I sat down to say? Some people do
need to be told to sit ass in chair and put in the legendary 10,000 hours before they angle further for attention. I have been that person, and as unready for that admonition as anyone else raised on fairy-godmother-to-the-rescue tales. Some people are better off in the company of kindred spirits looking askance at words that rhyme with "flaweductivity"
and coming up with superpowers. I have been that person. Some people alternate slip-slogging through mud and serenely spending hours in a rocking chair by muttering about how none of this will matter in a few hundred years because humanity is heading toward extinction faster than not but for the time being, we (being able) still owe it to God to bake chicken pies and brighten at compliments (especially when the compliments come with tattoos
) . . .
. . . and right now, I am that person. And now I shall half-rush through breakfast and half-ass my makeup and hair and get myself to the places I have promised to be at today, and there will also be pockets of time later today where I shall treat myself to something delicious food- and/or drink- and/or sightseeing/hearing-wise, and linger over it for longer than strictly necessary, and feel gratitude from head to toe for being alive.