Friday, May 25, 2012

I/O Error

I have a problem. It's a really big problem. Or, at least, I've let it become a really big problem. I networked with so many different people, and read so many different blogs, I can't handle it all anymore. Last year, I implemented some changes that gave me increased energy and lifted my mood, and I took that opportunity to overextend myself. Only it didn't feel like it at the time. But now, it does.

Over the last few weeks, I've reduced my networking to a few groups on Facebook, and really, I even stopped reading my newsfeed for a while. So, if you had something interesting going on, I probably didn't know about it. The last few months were marked with my computer being on most of my waking hours, and the number of tabs on Chrome so many that sometimes all I could see was the little icon saying which tab it was. When it got that bad, I would copy and paste the links from the things I wanted to read someday and send them to myself in email. I have about a half-dozen emails like that buried in my Gmail, going back to somewhere last fall, along with hundreds of messages I marked as "important."

To compound the problem, I purchased a bunch of books to read... all books I intend on reading someday, but for now, I just have to do it in little bits and pieces.

What is going on?

I think I am reinventing myself. Or trying to find out who I am. What do I like? Who do I like? How do I want to spend my time? What lifts me up? What brings me down?

I describe myself as a "recovering control freak" in the About Me section of this blog. What made me a control freak in the first place? What made me want everything to be "just so?"

I *think* it has something to do with school. Okay, I'm *sure* it has something to do with school. I had 20 years of it. I remember having the edge shaved off my happiness when I would receive a report card and have a "minus" next to one of the A's. The one-hundred-percents were few and far between. Somehow, I let that all feed into my belief that I was never quite good enough.

Monika Hardy, someone I greatly respect, often cites this quote:

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."
Oscar WildeDe Profundis, 1905
Everyone around me seems to have these really intense standards in some respect or another. It doesn't take long, in chatting with someone, to find one. There will be some subtle judgement of another, some lack of empathy. Sometimes I even find myself doing it, and it leaves me feeling unsettled forever after.

Am I living up to my standards, or those of someone else? Honestly, I don't know what my standards are. I really don't. I've been surrounded by those of others, and have been given direction for so long, I've lost myself.

In parenting, I can tell you that my standards are a lot different than I thought they would be. My goal for my kids when they grow up is for them to know how to find their own happiness, not be able to write perfect sentences or do matrix math. Maybe, as someone who struggled with depression, I want them to be able to have the one thing that I have found elusive -- a strong sense of self-worth.

Once upon a time, I found joy in painting and drawing. I found joy in writing. I found joy in building things. When I was in graduate school, I found joy in reading and doing research. What happened? I know I love those things, but I am afraid. I think I am afraid I won't live up to others' standards, and it won't be enough for me to just love what I have done myself.

In the words of Alfie Kohn, I have been Punished by Rewards.

This morning, I took a step in a different direction. I played the piano. I haven't really touched the piano for several years, except to dust the keys. I started out with the easy stuff I played in 1983, so I wouldn't be too hard on myself if I missed a note. I enjoyed hearing the music I once made in my youth, back before my band teacher came to me and suggested I pursue music in school, and I replied that, "No, I want to be able to feed myself," when secretly, I think I was worried I would be a failure.

A year ago, I started carrying a drawing pad and artist pencils everywhere I went, hoping that I would catch up on my drawing. Well, I didn't get much drawn, but my daughter, never having been punished by rewards, quickly filled up every page of each pad I kept in my bag. Hopefully she won't need courage to pursue her passion someday, she will just do it.

Even with this blog, I started it, but I am afraid to write. Certainly, I should be able to write profoundly like the "professional" and friend bloggers I have followed. Shouldn't I? But no, I go months and months between posts, out of pure fear. I'm always thinking of things to write, but rather than write, I throw myself into social networking to see what everyone else is doing, who everyone else is being.

Just thinking about it, I have the following fears about writing...

1) What I write will be nothing new. It will have been written before. It will be trite -- a waste of time.

2) What I write will annoy people. It will anger them. I will create enemies.

3) What I write will not please my English teacher.

4) What I write will be wrong.

I hope my kids never have these fears. I'm trying to provide an environment which encourages them to explore and create without fear of criticism.

These kids have had time and space to explore and create this year, without judgement (unless their parents have been providing it). They had time to fail. They had time to get comfortable with failure. It was a risk they took, and they claim it yielded *actual rewards.*

This is my time, thirty-seven years late, to explore and create. This is my space.

Time to reboot.


  1. What an amazing post, Amy!!

    I've been trying to do a similar "restructuring" but it's a very difficult process, isn't it?

    I know it is ironic to suggest a book :) But I just started "The Not So Big Life" which is all about reinventing (rather, rearchitecting) your life to have what you really want in it. She points out that we say "I don't have enough time" or "I don't have enough space" but we often miss the big questions about what the real issues are. I'm only a little ways in but enjoying it (I got it from the library).

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Lisa. I think I have another blog post brewing up in this same vein...