Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Puttin' on my diapers.

Don't mess with me- I have skills.

Striving for balance
I have to say that if ever I had a goal towards a healthy (thinking brain, here, not body) life, that goal is to achieve balance. I do work towards it. I yearn for it as the answer to all that is wrong in my life. I know that balance is an essential ingredient in any person's makeup but for me- I need it. Now, working towards it doesn't mean I have it. Needing it doesn't mean I am guaranteed it.

Problems almost always involve fear-
When I have a fear I force myself to ask the question- is that a reasonable fear? What is the worst thing that can happen in this situation? Sometimes the worst part of the situation is that yucky feeling I get from being afraid. So if I can solve that part of the problem with a little tough love directed at myself then I'm on my way. Being someone who trained themselves to think "worst case scenario" (a device I created as a way to predict any and all possible outcomes so to prevent or circumvent trouble) I realize I have created a device that can quickly turn into a monster. So when my heart starts to pound harder in my ribcage and my breathing feels tight I force myself to ask another question- is that envisioned, disastrous result likely to happen? And most often odds are in reality that the problem won't go that far. It's at that point I have to tell myself- "Settle down! This fear doesn't help you solve the problem! So how's about if we skip all this yucky fear and get to solving the problem." That's what I refer to as putting on my big girl panties and being a grown up. You can get a lot of useful advice off cocktail napkins and that's where the phrase "big girl panties" came from- a package of napkins in the grocery store, who knew?

Feeling yucky is yucky-
I don't think I am right all the time. That certainly does not seem realistic or balanced. I like to think that when I am wrong I can figure out what to do to make things right. One thing that I am terribly bad at is saying I am sorry. Probably why I try so very hard not to do things I have to say "sorry" for. I'm polite. I'm respectful. I'm thoughtful. I'm also just o damn clever that I am obligated to share my thoughts and opinions. But sometimes my cleverness might just be perceived as sarcasm. Sometimes, I realize I need to apologize. Sometimes, I just think I might have offended someone and I worry about it. Then it becomes this big thing in my mind. And pretty soon its all I can think about and its such a huge weight on my shoulders and dark cloud about my head that I know I will have to apologize because its the right thing to do and I am all grown up now so I should do the right thing. But saying "What I did was wrong (bad) is hard. Saying "I hurt your feelings" means "I'm a bad, bad person" and it feels- yucky. Literally I am not a squeamish person, but I would rather throw up than have to apologize.

A balanced approach would be to acknowledge that I am human, I am awesome but I am far from perfect so I make mistakes. And, repairing a damaged friendship builds a stronger bond. And, apologizing to someone can make them feel so much better which in turn makes you feel really good about yourself-good medicine all the way around. Probably why people hug after making up. Not apologizing just leaves the hurt behind to fester- on both sides. The other party feels wronged and resents you and themselves for not being bold enough to demand an apology. You know you are wrong and resent that you are so weak that you have to hide behind a false front of denial. Neither solution is easy but one leaves you feeling stronger about yourself. The other erodes at your self image and undermines your personal code of ethics. In the long run it is easier to do the right thing up front, right away. In the short term it takes guts and courage. I hope it gets easier but somehow for me I don't think it will. Maybe...I should just try to never make a mistake...I'll let you know how I do on that one.....

So, we have established that I have fears. But I know I have fears and do not, for the most part let these fears shape my actions. I decide, based on how I want to live my life, what my actions will be. That's pretty balanced right? We have established that I am aware of my short comings, and believe you me, there are plenty of shortcomings. But let me also tell you that I have a strong healthy ego. Basically I think I am wonderful on a regular basis and I enjoy being me. I get that I am pretty dang talented at a lot of things. And I like it that way. But, realistically, its a good thing I am talented at these things or else I would be pretty frustrated as my interests directly correlate to the things I am good at. In other words, I hate football. I suck at anything to do with football and its torture to even be in the same room with someone having a conversation about their favorite team. Really- who the hell cares? It's the same game its always been, two teams, one wins, one loses, how interesting could it be? So for me- my talent is not that impressive. I am result driven in my art and my own worst critic. It's pretty hard to be overly impressed. I would much rather be challenged and inspired by other artists than look at my work. Yep, healthy ego grounded in the reality that many other people are better artists, better designers, better mothers (do we not remember the last daycare incident?), much better wives and lovers but I'm OK with that. I am doing my best most of the time and you can't expect much more.

She can't take criticism!
I have a way of skating out of the harsh spotlight of criticism. I hide a lot more than people realize. I keep myself very busy. Never too long in one spot. I'm here, I'm there, I'm gone again. People know of me, they don't really know me. I like the polite conversation but am not really sure how to carry on past the niceties. You can hide that fault when there is an agenda to the conversation, say, like- as in teaching- I can talk for hours. I can have a lengthy conversation with a client at my firm-after all, its all about them, right? Basically I have learned the right things to say. If I am not sure or quite comfortable I can always use my technique of turning the conversation towards the other person and therefore giving them the difficult position of being on the platform. I just nod at the appropriate times. Feel free to use the technique, I didn't invent it- some other talented but stunted individual did.

So you might see how it is hard to criticize a moving target. And for the most part, I do try to do well at every endeavour I might be held accountable for so its not like I am being criticized often....

So forgive me for whining!
In the process of teaching a class fairly new to me and rather challenging I received a comment. I was made aware of this comment by my superior. In a kind, appropriate, direct, non-anything manner my superior told me a student had made the comment that they did not find my class very challenging. And why should they? We were in a review period, I explained. My purpose of that review period was to catch every student up to the same level before moving on to new material. I also explained that I was considering shortening this period and inserting a new assignment in the spot created. Sounded appropriate, she thought. She also recommended that I consult with one of the other professionals teaching this class. The ARCHITECTS. (arghh, I am a designer, I know different things than they do, what if they find me woefully inadequate and reveal how woefully inadequate I am therefore turning me into an inadequate failure!) Yes, I said, that would probably be a good idea. Now I should also reveal that this was the second time I had received the comment, the first was in a student review from the first session and at that time I had been the one to bring up the comment to my superior, spiritedly disagreeing with the student. Now that we'd heard it twice I wasn't feeling so spirited. BUT WE ARE IN A REVIEW PERIOD!

So my nose was out of joint.
Of all the comments- that one echoing the other comment? But the first comment was at least towards the end of a semester! This one was clearly a student taking an opportunity to share how superior their intelligence, skills and talents were. Unfortunately, evidence or what may appear to be evidence can throw a bad light on someone, even someone with the best intentions. There I was, in the bad light. The big bad spotlight, forced to defend myself, wounded ego and all. Which I did, I think. I pulled upon all my acting skills to not visibly appear anything less than cool, calm and collected as I gave due consideration to the comment in front of my boss. I knew it was important to handle myself well, I wanted a good score in the category of accepts constructive criticism. I want to be hired back for future semesters. Mostly, I just don't want to leave as a failure!!!

But I was miffed.
I have had relatively few negative comments. People like me. I make sure of it. And, I deliver what I say I will. So had I failed? Maybe, but not yet! Nope, this was someone just being a stinker. And I didn't like it. It didn't feel nice at all. I wanted to hide. At least until I could wrestle this situation around to a side I liked. A side I could handle and well, manipulate to come out to my advantage. But, I just couldn't see how I was going to do that, I had been wronged! And it wasn't fair. And I didn't like it!

Well, I sure didn't like this petulant, spoiled little brat that had erupted from my balanced, centered ego very well either! I gave myself several stern talking to's. Did I really think that I could get through life with out being called out on the carpet for my performance? Did I think I was that perfect that I could set the standards to which I was held? I should use this as a growing experience and learn from it! I should put on my big girl panties and deal, right?

Well, several days later I started to realize why I wasn't feeling any better. I had put the "situation" aside, thinking that I would get over it all. That is a technique I use quite often to deal with "things". Put it aside and see if it looks different on a different day. Usually this works well for me as I am a pretty balanced individual and realize that what may not occur to me day of, eventually will.

What started to occur to me was the question I kept asking my self- why does this hurt me so much? Why does it bother me what one person thinks? Am I really that fragile? Is my good self image really false? Can I not handle it? Who am I?

But self (self is a good friend of mine who quiets the shouting voices) said to me "Settle down! Even balanced people get hurt feelings! It wouldn't be balanced if there weren't two ends of the see-saw! You have a strong ego, that doesn't mean it can't ever be wounded. So maybe for a little while you take off your big girl panties and put your diapers on and suck your thumb. It's alright to explore your hurt. Get to know it, understand it, acknowledge it. Its part of you, but only one part. You'll move on, you always do and anyways, it sure isn't fun here, so why stay?"

Man, self is smart. I followed her advice. I put on my diapers and played with my toy blocks. I stuck out my tongue and gave that person, and their comment, all kinds of raspberries. I feel better now. I think I will tuck my diapers away in a dark corner in case I ever need them again. They came in handy. As far as "that" person...they like me now, I made sure of it.

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