Thursday, September 23, 2010

Colossus

I am notoriously hard on myself. Ask anyone who really knows me, and for better and for worse  it is one of my defining characteristics. There are advantages to this. I don't know where I would be without a deeply ingrained drive to do better, to be a better mom, wife , sister, daughter, to not let myself off the hook for crummy behaviour or shoddy work, to keep growing and letting the expansive "who I am" on the inside expand. This is the upside.

The downside...well, I hardly even have to explain that do I? Guilt, fear, self loathing, stuck on a hamster wheel of critical introspection that does not allow for any real forward motion...an under-achieving over achiever all bound up in thwarted expectation.

Knowing both sides of this equation, I work on it from a few different angles. For example I work on accepting "good enough". This is a hugely difficult concept for me! When I attempt something, whether it be art, parenting, dealing with the school, planning one of my projects etc, and inevitably fail to meet standards of perfection in some way, rather than turning inward with a litany of all my shortcomings (because O how I love to dissect every move and every conversation with an exhaustive list of should haves!) I can just file it under "good enough" and walk away. A liberating concept all oozing with common sense and stuff, right? But bloody hard to do! For me at least.

So I stumble my way through my day to day life, trying not to beat myself to a pulp over every mistake, managing to put some things in the "good enough" file and waking up at 3:00 am with a blush and a start over others, but knowing myself better all the time, and you know...doing OK, enjoying my life, even being pleased with myself here and there. 

BUT there is still this underlying current of overachiever's angst that runs through my sub conscious. What have I done? Where have I gone? What am I contributing? I get a little jealous pang when I hear of people travelling to far flung places. Feel a little wistful when I hear of this or that grand career success (and the dollars that come with it...I admit it is mostly the $$$ that make me feel wistful). Get a little defensive about the fact that I never finished University or am "just" a SAHM.

BUT (another but, does the second but cancel the first? Double negative = a positive or something like that?) in moments when I look at my life with the utmost clarity and deep-hearted truthfulness, I know I am right where I am supposed to be. I have everything I ever wanted (all the big things, the profound things). I see myself in my last moments feeling such gratitude for this time, and the only regret, if any, would be that I was too worried and guilty and should have just enjoyed it more. 

So what gives?  Why the angst?

1. That's just the way I'm built. I am an itchy, twitchy, too much in my own head, nerved up, double-triple-thinking kind of gal. I don't find my way to peace easily. The expansive inner self wants to expand, and is questioning, testing and pushing...always.

2. And this has been the entire point of this navel-gazing post, I've got the wrong yardstick. I am measuring myself by some strange arbitrary standard that I've cobbled together in bits and pieces along the way, instead of measuring myself against myself. Many parts of this measuring stick come from societal norms and ideals (what I should have, what I should do), some from my overly religious upbringing (what I shouldn't do, who I should be) and some from other people (my observations of them, or the expectations I've allowed them to foist on me). I would like to think that at 35, and being a smart, emotionally autonomous woman, that I would be free of this kind of crap, but there, right there...is the undeniable undercurrent of "not quite good enough" to prove me wrong. I measure myself by this randomly assembled yardstick, and I fall short. I am an underachiever. I haven't ever really done much, and everything I have done doesn't really count. 

When in reality, in my own life measured against where I have been and where I am now,


 I am a fucking colossus.


I have slain the dragons, battled demons and been "there and back again" more than once. I have changed who I am with the hand of the deftest sculptor, and painted masterpieces of patience and love and courage with painstaking strokes of thought and word and action. I have every reason to be proud with no reluctance, and no apology. What if instead of wearing underachiever on my chest, I wore "survivor", "addiction conqueror", "tenacious anxiety battler", "redeemer", "life bringer", "dauntless caregiver", "boldly creative maker of cool stuff", "forgiver", "joy finder" or simply "FUCKING COLOSSUS" (I like that, it really has a certain je ne sais quoi to it) on my name tag?

Why am I sharing all this? Why write another one of these awkwardly confessional blog posts? What's the point? (she asks herself as she looks at the clock and realizes that the morning has slipped away) 

Because I know that I am not the only one holding the wrong yardstick. Not the only one judging herself by pointless, arbitrary standards and coming up short, and feeling diminished. I bet in your own lives, dear and lovely readers, that if you were holding yard sticks that measure from where you have been to where you are now (and perhaps leave some room for where you are going next), that you are fucking colossuses too.

And I just wanted you to know it.

Page in the "Impulse" book. I don't love it, but I am filing it under "good enough" and calling it a day.




7 comments:

  1. Now that is a manifesto! Love the strength with which you wrote. Finding value in who we really are.
    You go girl !

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  2. hi there, guru.
    there's been a black vine twisting around inside me once again and i've been pretending it's not there for a while now. apparently, i need to chop it back and uproot it. i might not be at Fucking Colossus yet. shall we say 'Constant Gardener' to phrase a coin?

    excellent post. you'd think just living would be enough for us humans.

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  3. Man, I needed this today. Not only am I holding an impossibly hard yardstick, I'm beating myself with it. E, you ARE a fucking colossus. And so are you CraigH. My two faves.

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  4. The C is now on my desktop. Fabulous post! I'm going to commit it to memory and use it as a mantra "I am notoriously...". Yes, YOU ARE a Colossus. *switch to tiny font* I, however, am a tiny polywog pond. Stagnant and stinky. I like the Constant Gardener coin too. I need to go find some bovine feces to roll around in, see if I can't get something germinating. It's Saturday, what to do, what to do. I'm in the middle of proofing a young friend's novel re mutants and the meaning of life. I'm a fucking SAINT. d

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  5. Oh honey. I know exactly what you mean about the niggling voices and the self criticism and doubt and the million what if's, and I have my teeny tiny moments where I pat myself on the back and think I did OK, but in the day to day, I just can't stop thinking I could be better at this. I want to be better at life. I can only get one or two things right in any given day and the other hundred or two - well, you know how that goes. Yes, I carry the yardstick and the tape measure and the ruler and all that judgement stuff around all the time. I would like to feel collossal but I'm not there right now, maybe, partly thanks to the rampant sleep deprivation and brain fog. But I'm going to picture my giant self stomping on the negative thoughts when they pop up, thank you for that lovely visual. Thank you for this very timely and true post. I'm one of your biggest fans, you are AMAZING.

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  7. hey lady- YOU RULE. you really do.
    thank you.

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