Driving Myself Crazy

They say a coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.  It should be updated to say an imaginative person dies a thousand deaths, a dull person only one.  In neuroscience, it’s been shown that the pain of loss is twice the joy of comparable gain.  We feel loss more.  The problem with an imaginative brain is that you can see all the possibilities and know you get to choose one, or perhaps a few, out of thousands.  The thousand possible roads never taken–weighted or not, it’s overwhelming.

I look at my life and my one main regret is that I don’t write more.  I procrastinate.  I weigh choices, feel the ebb and flow of my emotions, and do nothing.  It is an ongoing regret, but apparently not one I feel keenly enough to do squat about.

This summer, after Sandy’s death, I kept waking up in the middle of the night, scared of my own mortality.  The feeling was, “Shit, I’m gonna die.”  Which is hilarious, because I’m always thinking about how I’m going to die.  I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to die since I was 11.  I made a conscious choice to be Christian at that age to diversify my eternal risk–if there was no god, then I had nothing to lose, so might as well believe in one.

But now I’m at a weird age where my parents are really going to die in the soonish future, anywhere between now and twenty years from now.  I have a teenager who is questioning her purpose her life, her meaning, probably because she’s thinking about how she’s going to die.  (No, actually, I think she worries more about my mortality than hers.)

And you know the regrets of the dying?   At least the ones in the book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”?  I’ve got them covered.  Here they are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

I feel good about all of those points.  I should be ahead!  But I have this desire to make the world a better place by having lived in it, and I feel I’ve let the world down.  What is my meaning?  What is my purpose?  Do I really have gifts that the world needs?  (I sort of hate even writing that because it sounds a little too New-Agey for me)  How self-effacing is that?  It’s a weird mix of “who am I to feel like anyone special” versus “do what you gotta do then to make the world better, so why haven’t done it already?”

You know what brought this on?  I was supposed to write a post for my business group last week, and now it’s two weeks late.  And I just feel so lame.  I had fun doing the exercise, but I have some block about actually writing stuff down.  Woot, I get the prize for being lame.

It’s this feeling that my job isn’t what I want to be doing for the rest of my life X I don’t want to die having nothing to show for the life I’ve lived X the worry that it won’t matter, really, whether I’m great or mediocre or nothing at all.

The feeling will pass, of course, it always does.  (And of course, it will also come back)  I know that in my small circle, my life does have meaning, at least to others.  But it is irritating to me that I still have to wrestle with this stuff.  Does a mind ever calm down?




Three Tales of Social Connection

When I’ve taken the Myers-Brigg tests, I typically come up either as a ENTP or an ENFP.  The Thinking/Feeling part of me (T/P) is always on the cusp, whereas the other parts of me are far more weighted.  And when it comes to the ‘E’ part of me, the Extroverted part, no one now seems surprised.

I do get a kick of starting conversations with strangers that appear interesting. But in the past couple of months, I have felt the extroverted part of me worn thin.  Introvert or extrovert?  As a child, I was most definitely an introvert.  My parents have a picture of me in my 4-year-old preschool ‘graduation,’ crying my eyes out.  I still have the memory of it – my class, sitting in front, the parents exclaiming how cute we were, and I was terrified of walking in front of an audience to get my pseudo-diploma.  I wanted to be invisible.  I was afraid that attention to me would draw ridicule.  In fact, I felt like most people were laughing at me most of the time.  I hated people. When I was young, I could never control my crying.  I would cry if happy, if sad, if mad, if humiliated.  Really, any strong emotion would induce it.

As an adult, one of the things I am most proud is that I am far more capable of controlling my emotions.  Also, that my fear and hate of strangers has changed to curiosity.  In fact, the older I get, the more I realize and can empathize with the fact that we all have our own burdens to bear.  I wasn’t so unique in reality.  I was perhaps more honest, or less able to hide my true feelings – but I know now that we are all vulnerable.  And the greatest treasure I have ever possessed are my friends, my kindred spirits, sometimes of blood and sometimes not–but I love to find that connecting threads that binds our souls.

Because I am still yearn to make a positive difference and I’m not convinced that my mere existence is enough, sometimes I push myself to go out.  After all, I want connection above all else.  Not the false, shallow connections we call ‘networking,’ but the true nakedness and acceptance when people bare their souls.  I know my faults, my guilt pushes me to bare myself constantly.  Yet the funny thing is, the more I bare, the more I find people closer to me.  So it all works out.

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to a bellydance steampunk show.  Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  I dithered about going because I would be going alone, but finally forced myself.  But it was not what I expected.  I expected seats, an actual show at the time they advertised – but it was a concert.  The ‘show’ was supposed to be at 8:00 pm, but there were opening acts and in fact, the headliner was not scheduled to go on until 11:30 pm. On a school night.

I hung around until 10:30 pm and then I decided that I had supported the show with my money and this sort of thing is not my thing.  I don’t like concerts or live music.  I’m lame and I accept that.  I like going to bed on time and I like having conversations without yelling.  But the highlight of the night was a local dancer who not only recognized me, but remembered I’ve been dancing for 10 years and exhorted me to perform at the local hafla.  It’s strange, I’m shy about my dance.  I love to dance for myself – but I am reluctant to perform.  I feel like I’m not quite good enough, but it’s really that I can choreograph in my head and I still struggle to perform in reality what I can imagine in my head.

A few days later I went to a wine-tasting soiree.  Unlike the bellydance-steampunk thing where I felt 20 years older than everyone else, here I felt a decade younger than everyone.  It was filled with professional women in their 30s to 50s.  Single professional men, if you want to meet women, go to a wine-tasting event.  That’s where all the single professional women are, looking for partners.  I felt a bit out of my element.  I love wine, especially red – but I felt a bit stifled, as that seemed the only connection between me and all these others.

I consider myself a single, professional woman – but I like to daydream and I love philosophy that breaks conventions.  I don’t want a conventional, ordinary life.  I want a life that defies expectations.  Luckily, I ended up meeting a couple further along than I (in their 50s, maybe?) who were very kind and struck up a conversation with me.  I also realized that I was one of the few that had the courage to attend alone.  Yes, I knew one of the hosts, but that was it.  I knew no one else and I went anyway.  It was a good night to practice asking questions of strangers and practice my listening skills, but sometimes that is all you can get.

Contrast those to a non-planned connection.  Rowan’s class had a field trip to a local German bakery.  I went only for her, she is so pleased when I chaperone one of these things.  I showed up to school to see about ten chaperones – say what you will, this school system had plenty of parental influence.  I felt like I needn’t have shown up, there are so many parents involved, and I could’ve gone to work and gotten stuff done.  But I especially liked one of the parents.  He had white hair and a British accent, with a tweed cap.  I couldn’t tell if it was my predisposition to love British accents, but I automatically liked the guy.  We ended up talking and he confessed that I reminded him of his step-daughter in my face and physique.

This happens a fair amount.  A stranger will tell me that I remind them of someone.  And separately, I end up liking someone, or feeling a kinship to someone without consciously knowing them beforehand (‘liking’ in this case does not necessarily mean a sexual thing).  I enjoy when accidental connections surprise me.  It was the highlight of my day, and one that is closer to my nature.  So I think the moral of the story is that you cannot force friendship, but you should always be open to new friendship from unexpected quarters.

Thanksgiving 2013

It’s strange to think that 2013 is almost over.  It’s been a good year, getting back on my feet.  The divorce was finalized earlier this year and it doesn’t feel much different as we had been living apart for over a year.  L. and I have been getting along pretty well, though we talk mostly about the kids or his family.  I went to my first steampunk convention and met up with an old, old friend.  I think if anything defines this year, it has been getting back to my roots.  I’ve spent a lot of time with the people who mean most to me, who have seen me at my best and worst over the years and we’re still friends.  I spent Thanksgiving over at my brother’s with him and his girlfriend eating delicious food and doing nothing at all.

The other big news for me is a new job that I’m not in yet.  🙂  I’m transferring into a new position, Product Management, and I’m so excited.  I will get to improve our products, talking to customers and guiding product development.  It’s something I could see myself doing for 10 years and more, because I will actually be trying to improve how we involve our customers in our business.

Because the thing I’m still trying to figure out is how to be useful, for lack of a better term.  I’m not good at being a super-efficient cog, churning out results.  In fact, it was quite the shock to get out of high school and college and realizing that a high ability to learn did not at all ensure success.  Where am I meaningful?  Where can I do good?  I’m not a great employee in the classical sense, I like to know the big picture, I like to know that I could be part of something big and good.  But I am careful in my work – slow, at least slower than some.  And in this world, where is there a place for careful work?  We admire quantity, how much can you get done in your 8.5 hours?  So I am grateful for a chance to prove myself, where my oddity might be useful and not a detriment.