The Myth of Expectations

Blergh, Hard Stuff, It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Rants, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

I recently read a post from one of those “mindful” dating sites.  The author was writing about the “myth” of dating difficulties for people over 40.  She abruptly found herself dating at 45 and, despite all her friends’ dire predictions, was having an absolute BLAST! And you know what she claims is wrong with her friends?  They just have the wrong expectations!  If they would clean up their emotional bullshit and change their expectations, all the chum they’d been attracting would disappear and they’d suddenly have their pick of ridiculously awesome people.

I’m here to call bullshit on that entire perspective, and the implication that I’m just not doing my personal work well enough, that I continue to attract bad things to myself because I’m not working fast enough to unload my baggage.  This effectively makes every sh*tty thing that happens MY FAULT.  Because I’m not doing a good enough job being better.

Seriously?  I’m not doing good enough AT BEING BETTER?

Despite years of messaging about “creating my reality,” I have come to understand that most things that happen that are out of my control.  I get to control my responses and reaction and choices, but I’m not responsible for the fact that so many people in their 30s and 40s are hot messes.  Or that I get coffee with them.  Or that I lose my job, fight with a friend, or face ageism, or racism, or misogyny, or all that other crap that REALLY TRULY EXISTS.  Simply putting on my ruby slippers, clicking my heels, and breathlessly exclaiming “everything is wonderful, everything is wonderful, everything is wonderful” DOESN’T MAKE EVERYTHING WONDERFUL.

One of the hardest things to learn is that there are many, many things I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER, regardless of how much work I do on myself.  I still have to deal with bad dates, difficult co-workers, aggravating family, and a world that seems like it’s going to somewhere bad, really fast.  It’s not helpful to keep blaming me because bad things happen to me, in my life, and in the world.  In fact, it’s that message – that I can somehow magically control everything in my life that has led to bouts with anxiety, depression, and shame and guilt, all things that add to the already heavy burden of being human.

It’s true – I do need to do my work, address my issues, and be the best person I can be.  It’s true that I do need to check in on my expectations, ask for feedback from friends  and professionals, and realize that sometimes I do make bad choices.  But sometimes, a bad coffee date or fight with a friend is just that, and blaming me for somehow creating the situation because I’m not an evolved enough person is truly, truly unhelpful.

unhelpful

Today is not a good day

Blergh, It's Personal, Obstacles/Challenges, Rants, Reflection, Uncategorized, Writing

It just isn’t.  It’s been four and a half months of unemployment.  Four and a half months of ambiguity, uncertainty, and frustration.  Four and a half months of finding ways to “explore” my creative self, taking on volunteer projects, planning and preparing for future endeavors, reconnecting with friends, starting to network around the city again, and all the other ways I can milk this time off.

Believe me, I am grateful.

Even though the ending was hard, I am grateful to be out of my last job.  I am grateful to receive unemployment, grateful that I have no dependents, and that I have a gracious, affordable living space.  I am grateful that I had the means to seek help when I needed it, that I have a loving and supportive group of friends and extended family, that my life is calm and quiet, that I am financially able to care for myself and meet my material needs.  I am grateful I have built enough confidence to know that I will find meaningful work, and that I have a rich professional network to draw from when I do.

I am grateful for all of these things and still, today is not a Good Day.

The waiting is making me anxious, and I feel sedentary and stuck.  Positive self talk and forced cheerfulness are not welcome here today.  I’m finding things to nag myself about, and eagerly discovering fault in even the things I’m managing to well and consistently.   My toilet needs to be cleaned, I need a shower, have stopped cooking for myself more than one or two days a week, and can’t seem to make myself write every day.

I have no excuse for these things.  I have no dependents to care for, plenty of time, and few obligations, and yet my toilet goes unscrubbed and toenails go unpainted.  I’m not overly depressed or panicked, I’m doing the things I need to do, even if I don’t always feel like doing them.  But limitless, unbounded time isn’t the nirvana it’s made out to be, especially when there is are obvious ends.  If there were an end in sight, I believe there would be some sense of relief, of comfort in knowing that life will return to normal in 3…2….1….

I’m not looking for cheering up or placation or comforting remarks.  They wouldn’t work anyway because today simply isn’t a Good Day.

It's not your day.

It’s not your day.

Doubting the Reality

Blergh, Corrections, Novelicious, Obstacles/Challenges, Random Observations, Uncategorized, Writing

Recently, I’ve spoken with a couple of former colleagues about our experiences at CCCF and have found those conversations a mixed blessing.  As time goes by, it is harder to remember how crazy I felt, how unwell and frenzied.  It also becomes easier to doubt my experience, to think that maybe I was being hypersensitive and over-reactive, that it wasn’t that bad.  But typing the sentence “maybe prisons aren’t that bad after all” feels like a joke.

Prisons are terrible places.

But maybe they were less bad than I made them out to be?  It all seems so fuzzy now, so distant and small.  I’m starting to question why I ever thought it was bad enough that I needed to write about it – why I ever thought this story would capture people’s attention.  Maybe if it were more horrific, if I had witnessed all kinds of horrible violence and aggression, maybe if I’d been more scarred and torn up – maybe then it would be worth telling.  But it’s not about any of those things – it’s about watching my students struggle against their internal odds, battle their demons and self-doubt, and win – time and time again, they won.  They succeeded in ways they’d never imagined – big and small – and experienced themselves as confident, competent, and valued people.

Trying to write the section about DOC has shaken my confidence tremendously.  Writing only about my experience is proving much more difficult than I realized it would be.  When I went back over the material I’d already written, it sounded like the rantings and complaints of a disgruntled person, an unhappy and bitter person.  But how to write about a system that’s so awful when the immediacy of the emotion is gone?  I’m not subject to that toxic environment every day now, and it’s hard to summon the motivation to be thoughtful in my observations.  I wonder if the rest will be this hard.  I wonder if the rest is worth writing at all.

sylviaplath-doubt