Generally speaking, I don’t do so well in groups, large or small. I don’t always do well one on one with people either. Actually, I don’t do well with animals or with other living things. I can’t even keep most plants alive for long.
Maybe it’s another manifestation of my intensity or my introversion or my high sensitivity or my anxiety or my menopause or all of the above or something worse. Whatever, I’m just not all that good at it. Also, I’m a lapsed MSW. And people tend to like me, some even adore me. Go figure.
I’ve been told that it’s obvious I have a heart for people and for justice. I think that’s true. I really do like people – mostly – and I sincerely care about them. Eh, actually, I love humanity, but people? Not so much. I’ve come to realize I’m just not so good with them unless I interact with them in small doses, with frequent breaks. Sometimes I wish I could care for most of them from afar so I could reserve my energy for when I really need to step up to the plate in person. Because constantly *being there* wears me way the hell out, and if I don’t take really good care, I go down the tubes.
There are issues I care deeply about and I’ve always wanted to do my part in helping to make things right or better or good or just or safer for people somehow. Maybe I care too much. I tend to take it all too personally, to feel it all too deeply. And of course, that can get in the way of getting shit done. Sometimes, in an effort to make it “right”, I become obsessive, and I rarely know if what I’m doing makes a damn bit of difference in the end or if the toll it inevitably takes on me and the people around me is worth it. I can be difficult to live with in my determination to make it “right”. I can become really, REALLY outraged and sometimes I yell or pull out my extensive catalog of profanity. Or BOTH. I realize that’s rarely an effective way to get ideas or concerns across. I know there is a place for blowing the lid off of stuff to balance out the silence or inaction, but there’s an art to knowing WHEN and HOW to do that and apparently I don’t have that talent. I lack subtlety; when I’m on a mission, I’ve been told I’m more like a tornado. I can go from halo to broom stick in a split second. I can make people uncomfortable. I really do aspire to learn to keep my cool and/or to more gracefully take the proverbial bull by the horns while getting things done. Learning to walk away sooner could be good in some cases too. But I never do.
I still struggle to see shades of gray in some areas. When I see certain things in only black and white, it’s pretty easy to become very worried that whatever it is I’m fighting for is gonna fall through the cracks where there’s no middle ground, no cushion. And no way am I letting THAT happen. And/or I try too hard to figure people out inside my own head instead of just letting them be. And letting myself be. And I suck at giving people the benefit of the doubt. And I hope for – or insist on – the best and I expect the worst and then when the worst happens, I’m shocked, heartbroken, pissed. And I often think I’m right and you’re wrong, which can be a big problem, obviously.
It’s a primary reason I don’t want to go back to work, BTW. The people. And me. Together.
Whenever Husband and I are scheduled to go to one of his work events, I always say the same thing before we leave…its become a little comedy routine between us now…”ok, I’ll go and I’ll do the corporate wife thing and I’ll smile and exchange pleasantries but I have my own problems, I’m not looking for new friends and I don’t need anymore clients or causes either.”
And when occasionally I find myself actually becoming part of a group? Well. If I find myself in a group where people are too much alike – even if they are perfectly fine people, which typically they are – I start to get pretty uncomfortable. My cult alarm goes off, especially in the past 9 years or so for reasons that are obvious if you know me well. Or if I find myself in a group where people are too different and the inevitable conflict breaks out, I ALWAYS make it worse by trying too hard to fix it or make it “right” which generally accomplishes the opposite and also blows up in my face.
As I get older, it turns out I also suck at multitasking and juggling too much life at once. Eh, actually, I think it’s possible I’ve always sucked at it. Life is just another code word for dealing with people, you know. And I suck at it. Did I say that already? Anyway, this multitasking deficit is viewed as a great weakness in our culture, I understand, and it significantly impacts my interpersonal relationships, but it does force me to try to set better boundaries for myself. Basically I’ve learned to say no so people will leave me the fuck alone.
I realize all of this might make me seem like an asshole. Maybe that’s what I am. Or maybe I’m simply not wired to handle lots of people and goings-ons at the same time. Or in big doses. It’s just not my bag anymore. Actually, I don’t think it was ever my bag, I just tried to mold myself into someone I’m not. Maybe it’s actually a strength I finally recognize this and adjust my life accordingly, right? I used to mercilessly compare myself to other people and I tried to pretend I wasn’t like this and I even tried to “fix” it, but I don’t do that too much anymore because I get so freaking fed up and exhausted and even MORE bitchy. Sometimes I forget, but usually I’m shocked into remembering again pretty quickly.
I have my family, our home, our community, a few friends…that is my village. It’s what I can manage day to day. I’m trying to do it well. Mostly I stumble along and it’s all a mess, but I’m committed as all hell to trying to do it well enough. The rest is extracurricular. Not because I don’t care. Because I DO. DEEPLY.
A long time ago I said I wanted my epitaph to read, “A Woman of Moderation” because I was so beyond sick of the extremes of nearly killing myself to try to get it “right” AND at some point, throwing my hands up in the air, saying f*ck this because I couldn’t stand the pressure of too much life going on all at once and what if I get it all “wrong”? No gray area, no good enough. I desperately wanted sane, middle ground.
I think it’s still a worthy goal, moderation. I’ve made some progress because, as I said, I learned how to say “no”. I also learned how to ask for help. Well, I’m learning. And I learned that I need to listen more which can be challenging for me because of the whole thinking I’m “right” thing, but I swear I’m trying. I’m learning I need to find a way to fear less because the worst is rarely the worst. I need to try to accept, for reasons I do not understand, sometimes the worst – which isn’t really the worst – needs to happen in order for the best to come. Actually, no, that is completely fucked up and I will NEVER understand it. I need to apologize for being an asshole when I’m being an asshole, which happens more than I like to admit. I’m learning I cannot make anyone do anything he or she is not ready to do. Well, I haven’t really learned that one yet because according to Husband, apparently I still think I’m God, but I’m trying. And I really do want to learn to balance my passion for advocacy, activism and social justice with the whole not-good-with-living-things thing. It’s still what I believe is my calling in some fashion but what remains a mystery to me is how exactly to put it into effective practice. I’m learning I need to try to roll more with the uncertainties of life. This last one is a biggie – I learned that I need a lot of time alone to replenish my energies AKA getting away from ALL THE PEOPLE. Even though I love them, including you.
Oh, and I’m learning to balance this blogging thing with the self-editing problem I have. Putting it out there and then taking my hands off the wheel a little bit. Publishing here is proof of that.