In the last couple of days, I’ve had the opportunity to handle something differently than I ordinarily would, and so I’m taking it.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with feelings of overwhelming and comprehensive failure. These are feelings, of course, and not rational thoughts; today my mother, with that look mothers get when their children tell them something like this, asked “You know that’s not true, right?” Intellectually, yes, I know that’s not entirely true. But someone might alert my feelings. They haven’t gotten the memo.
When this happens, when life is like repeatedly playing an impossible level of Candy Crush, I almost always do the same thing: retreat into myself. I recede from connection and from many forms of interaction. When I do engage in an interaction, the mask goes on, with the exception of a very few people I can solidly trust not to be uncomfortable with my vulnerability, or turn the topic around to themselves after what seems like a decent interval, or, worse, actively minimize and invalidate the feelings that are so overwhelming right now. And I certainly don’t write about it. I’ve always felt an obligation to have things figured out before I write publicly about them, although I’m not sure why. Also, putting something like this out in public invites the commentary of people who are certain they know what the answer is, whether it’s Jesus, or Buddha, or letting go of negativity, or the latest piece of advice that is snappy enough to fit onto a Facebook meme. That’s tiresome.
I spent the winter wrapped up in this kind of ball, and as reliably as I retreat into that shell, the outcome is equally reliable: it makes things worse.
Why I decided to do things a little bit differently now, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s growth. Or it could be a thought I had this afternoon, that perhaps feelings of comprehensive failure are an indication that I should re-examine my values, my expectations of myself, and my motivations for doing the things I’m apparently failing at. So I did.
I was raised to take care of business. I feel pressure to be a provider, a good parent, a good partner, a good friend, to be creatively and professionally accomplished, to nurture anyone who needs it, and to have a home that isn’t gross. And I have been working like mad at all of those things, and coming up short on all but a couple.
Photographs? Not good enough. And anyway, where’s that new camera you’ve been saying you were going to get for a long time now?
Writing? I have two half-finished Kindle Singles I’ve been working on since January.
House? Let’s not even get into that.
And as for the provider angle, well – finances have been something I use as a proxy for self-esteem. I think that happens a lot to people who have been fortunate to make a good income. So when that area starts to be a challenge, things get real, fast.
Here is one inescapable truth: If you live long enough, and are at all open to life, you will find yourself bumping up against the wall of bullshit you’ve constructed to insulate you from your deepest fears about yourself. I suspect that might be what’s happening to me right now. So maybe writing about it is my way of not leaning on that wall.
So here it is – the post about something I have not yet figured out. It’s an open question, and I don’t yet know what the answer is. It looks suspiciously like life, though.