Sunday, June 30, 2013

There are no ordinary days. 

Mr. T. doing his thing on an Extraordinary Evening.


I bet you're wondering how in the wide blue sky am I going to tie up the loose ends of that last schizophrenic rant of a post, dueling voices in the head and all.  I'm not even going to try.  Que sera, sera.  I just hope this post provides some sense of a satisfying resolution and/or a couple of good chuckles.  That's the best I can do today.  I'm running on fumes and I've been crying most of the morning about a childhood cancer called DIPG.  Facebook. What are you gonna do?

So, the voices, yeah. These voices are the disembodied single phrases (or sometimes even soliloquies) that we either heard from others or said to ourselves that somehow got stuck in our craws, if you will.  They sat without an exit or perhaps very little competition and sort of took on momentum and volume.   I think of them as the hand sanitizer of the thought world.  They kill all potential pathogens except .01% of the strongest and most virulent strains. These freaks of nature can then reproduce and spread without the mitigating influence of their natural (and some could say) symbiotic rivals.  Some such that I have wrestled with my entire life include: "I am not good at math," "I'm a flake," "I'm not ____ enough, smart enough, interesting enough, accomplished enough, etc."  BTW, questioning one's fundamental worthiness basically ensures the list will be infinite. 

Do you have any floating around your head like free radicals just tearing the place to shreds?  Do your kids?

Really what perfectionism does is that it shuts out hard work as a strategy for improvement.  So your stuck in sucky town.  Hell,  if you're defeated going in, there ain't no point to killing yourself with a great deal of effort now is there?

I'm just starting to really, deeply and seriously question a lot of information that precludes me from having a nice life.   I'm taking to task a bunch of memes that I carry around.  Like only pretty is good. Only smart is good. Only the best deserve good.   Real crap.  Seriously.  The reason I share this private stuff so freely is that I know I'm not alone (and not just because of all the company inside my head).  I have noticed that as I do this and write about imperfection--in my imperfect and grammatically murderous way---I spark ire (unintentionally) in people who think that I am writing about, to or at them.  I assure you, I am not.  I am writing about my experience of being human, kind of OCD, a little broken, a lot lost---half a bubble off plumb, as they say in the trades.  But I can always tell when I hit a nerve because the critics come out swinging.

So, anyway, when I spark ire of any kind, I always want to first ask myself if I did it subconsciously somewhat intentionally. If the answer is 'no', then I ask, 'what really got at the people?  What was the rub, the sliver, the poke, the irritant? Where did it catch them?'   Most often the reactions happen when I hit people square in the "ordinarys."

The war on ordinary

I want to make it okay for myself and others to just be myself and themselves. I would like to offer up a space to be ordinary.  I know when I read that I think ech ordinary. That sounds like fake vanilla pudding. (But have you ever had fake vanilla pudding with nilla wafers? Delish). Everybody wants to be extraordinary and everybody seems ashamed to be plain.

I saw a beautiful sight last evening in the parking lot at Plum Market. It reminded me that there is no such thing as ordinary, not really.  There were these two women, tallish, big boned, late 50s early 60s.  They were talking by the cart return area out in the middle of the parking lot---really talking intently.  I watched them from my side view mirror before exiting the truck because they were incredibly beautiful! Yes I said it.  Two large-boned, heavy set, unadorned, unmade-up women of a-certain-age were stunning and exceedingly compelling to behold.

They both had longish mostly silver hair.  One wore it up, the other down.  One had a skirt and one some capri pants.  One had a turquoise purse, one had broken-in turquoise crocs.  The other had a deep red purse plopped down in the little seat of her cart.  They looked as if they just came out of their respective gardens as they chatted over the one lady's shopping cart.  Perhaps it was about the football sized dahlias they had found at the farmer's market or the day lilies about to bloom.  Only they know the subject.  The color of their clothing coupled with the colors in the sky and the colors in their cheeks told a refreshing story that our culture of boobs, bikinis, billboards and Kardashians so often overlooks or drowns out: The story of ordinary beauty of people going about the ordinary business of ordinary lives.

It hit me that you can't really be extra-ordinary until you master the ordinary.

And that is no mean feat.   

Friday, June 28, 2013

"I wanna go fast!"

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1Kings 19:12

I was seized with an acute perfectionist attack recently.  Details on that to follow maybe some other day.  Let’s just say that in the reviewing of this "attack," it struck me that I’m just like Ricky Bobby in the movie "Talladega Nights."  I blame my attack on a bizarre adherence to the (deeply flawed) fundamental precept of the movie:

"If you ain't first, you're last!" 

Ricky's incredibly high, absentee, stock-car racing father slurred this doozy during his dramatic exit from career day at school.   Rather than take this crumb of anti-wisdom as the meaningless, drug-fueled, vacuous, metaphoric rant of a dumbass, Ricky took it to heart and built a life around it--a life that eventually unraveled.  Of course, that's when the movie gets really funny, but I digress.   

So often we take these crumbs of anti-wisdom to heart, we sensitive perfectionists and then we build giant life structures around this misinformation as if it were somehow scientifically absolute.  I'm not really interested in the why.  It's a wholly unsatisfying question, 'why?' with no real answers.  We can't fill in the gaps created in childhood (or the womb for that matter); those that make us susceptible to this kind of error-filled sophistry. We can't therapy our way to "doggone it, people like me!" either.  Trust me on that one. You can only get so far in a shrink's office.  The 100-lb. sacks of grain I have to unload await me in the back of my truck. This is a Higher Power job.  Sorry to those of you offended by the Jesus/God thing. But it's true for me.  That kind of heavy lifting cannot be done by man alone. In my case, I need a "dolly Lama," if you will. 

I'm finally (at 48) learning to first listen to the still small voice inside rather than the voice that tells me "there's a kilo of Colombian Bam-Bam taped to the undercarriage of your '69 Chevelle and I called the cops!" I wasn't always so willing to listen to that quiet, sweet voice.  The still small voice of my childhood was indistinguishable from the myriad other internal critical voices. All were asking me to do things I was too afraid, unprepared or unwilling to do.  

I was paralyzed by nearly all of them.

Reese Bobby, Ricky's dad, is the epitome of the severest, most obtuse, fickle, arbitrary, critical voice inside all of our heads.  This is the voice that will malign a sweet elementary teacher in front of her students.  The voice that belongs to a person who bestows upon his son a beautiful, vintage, muscle car--but puts a cougar in the front seat. The voice that can turn lovely family dinner conversation at Applebee's into a tear-filled run down the double yellow of a two-lane highway on a rainy night.  

When questioned by Ricky about the "first/last" comment during this very scene, Reese just looked at Ricky like he was nuts.  He said, "What are you talking about? That don't make no sense at all. Oh Ricky, I was high! You can be second, third, fourth, hell you can even be fifth!"   The protagonist's emotional scaffold crumbled in that scene.   It's cool because the background music is Steve Earle's "Valentine's Day," one of the saddest songs ever written about addiction and love and the impossibility of it all.

The thing that struck me about this was that Reese Bobby changed his whole story, changed his mind, changed his ethos without so much as a backward glance or a postcard. He didn't feel compelled to inform his son.  He just let Ricky continue to believe that he had to be first and never nothin' but first so help him God.  That first/last meme burrowed into Ricky Bobby and took root.  It rearranged his molecules and made him different.  Hell, what am I talking about? That same meme burrowed into me and 95% of the women I know and about 75% of the men. The big problem is that our critical voices—like Reese Bobby's--have no conscience.  These voices are unencumbered by social convention so they can slice through a life at will, without regret or responsibility.  Worse, they drown out any contradictory input.

You'll know the critical voice because it's generally sarcastic, funny, cool and sort of alluring.  It sounds very convincing and vaguely philosophical until you actually listen closely to it and realize that it’s full of just pure unadulterated horses**t. 

And it's mean as hell.


(to be continued--maybe)

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Highly Sensitive Person

Funny, I Googled "highly sensitive personality type" and there were no fewer than 10 pages of reference material.  There was even a sensitivity questionnaire which was developed by a husband and wife team of psych researchers.  I scored 24/27.  Uh, I think I must be missing a few layers of epidermis or something.

I don't know about you, but I actually feel bad about myself because I cannot watch violent or suspenseful movies without crying and becoming physically ill.  I thought I had a wiring problem. Apparently it's not just a wiring problem.  There is an actual clinical term for it: "Highly Sensitive." Now why they couldn't come up with something with more teeth or like a nice acronym or something, I have no idea. They need to work on it. Because if I'm going to be something, I want it to be at least cool sounding.  Hey If they can take Irritable Bowel Syndrome and turn it into IBS, then they can surely do something with Highly Sensitive. IBS sounds like it could be a multistage rocket. HS sounds like High School.   Anyway, moving on....I just thought it was "wimpy" or "lame" because I just could not watch zombies eat brains or Dexter's blood spatters or The Wire.  Ech. The mention of them just creeps me out. We Sensies don't understand why on earth people find the depiction of the degradation of other human beings "entertaining."   Hell, I can barely get through the early rounds of American Idol! 

For those similarly afflicted, it's just like watching it happen to us or somebody we love. Fo REALZ.

I've been like this as far back as I can remember.  My sister is even more sensitive, I think.  People like us (and apparently between 15-20% of the general population) have the same set of qualifying characteristics: sensitivity to noise, bright or flashing lights, strong smells, odd textures, other peoples' moods, general atmospheric or barometric shifts, vibes coming off people and even seismic activity:

I kid you not. Seismic activity. That is bad-ass.

The world and all of its blinky input seems overwhelming to the lot of us. The constant cold, wet, gray days here in Michigan sure don't help me.  This winter I actually experienced cold as pain.  It made me wince in visible agony.  I had never experienced that before.  It appears the older I get, the more sensitive to cold I get.  No big surprise when you look at the demographics of the state of Florida, right?  Perhaps I'm just getting comfortable with myself and not constantly trying to change myself into something I'm just not ever gonna be: Molly Mason, Tough Business Woman, Feeler of No Pain, Bearer of all discomfort. Nope. Doesn't fit. I'll never be able to just "suck it up and tough it out" unless that was a directive from God, on high, himself.  In fact, the mere mention of those two exclamations makes me bristle with a low grade rage.   To be honest, as any parent will tell you, there are those middle of the night "mom I threw up in my bed" calls that require that response. We suck it up and tough it out a lot around here lately.

In 1999 when I was going through a divorce from my first husband, I was painfully thin and experiencing the normal stress response from divorce: generalized anxiety, weight loss, stomach upset,  inability to sleep, etc. (It was NOT his fault....just for the record. Divorce just sucks the life out of you. Period).  I was working as an insurance salesperson in Miami, FL at the time. I went to my primary care doctor and he wrote me a slip for some anxiety stuff and bed rest but I was to go home to Michigan to be with my family.  I didn't want to go on bed rest or any other kind of rest. I wanted to get better.  He insisted that I needed to get out of the office and get home to my parents for a few days of relaxation before I could hit the reset button on my life.  I was painfully skinny from 2 months of chronic diarrhea (of idiopathic origin, yeah that just means stress), that I needed to go somewhere to put on some weight.  So anyway, I had to go talk to my boss with my suit pants tied up with a small bit of rope because no belt I owned had enough holes. People asked me if I had cancer. It was awful.  I mustered up the strength to go into his office, doctor's slip in hand, and just lay it on the line.  That's when he said,

"Oh, no, you can't do that, you just have to suck it up and tough it out!"

I don't think I weighed 100lbs. at that point and I'm 5'5 1/2" tall. 

My then therapist (and now friend) Gilza said to me, "Where is your indignation?!!" That and a few cuss words come in handy every now and again.  Because sometimes the people in charge of us just don't know what the friggin' hell they are doing or talking about.  It's not personal and they're not bad people. They're just projectile barfing their own insufficiency rather than actually seeing, listening or hearing anything. I quietly removed myself from his office and drove to the airport.  I sent an email to the HR director outlining my conversation with my boss and why I wouldn't be returning to work there (I had been offered another job already).  I got calls from the President and Vice President of the company while I was resting.  They were solicitous and apologetic.  Shortly thereafter, my boss was relieved of his position.  It wasn't because of me--entirely.  The guy never sold one policy the entire year he worked there and cleared $120k, basically for golfing (as well as telling people to suck it up and tough it out).  I think they even sent me a severance check and I was the one who quit.  I'm sure it was because they were afraid I would sue on the grounds of having been subjected to an insensitive boob for a boss.

According to the married psychologists that I mentioned above, the Drs. Aron,  sensitive people are generally more introverted and even neurotic. Hmm. Bet you didn't see that coming!  They may comprise only 20% of the general population but they make up way more of the clinical population.   According to the article I posted above, we looney/sensitive people do bring to the table an evolutionary advantage along with our hosts of other kookiness.  Apparently,  it's good to think, feel, consider others' feelings, and mull things over before rushing off half-cocked,  I mean, generally speaking.  Suspend that in case of kitchen fires, hand grenades and tornado sirens.

Take heart all you Sensies, my "friend" incredibly successful blogger Glennon Melton posted this a few days ago.  We are not alone!  It's hysterical.  I think I was born without a few layers of skin, but she thinks she may have been born without a left brain.  Scroll half way down.  The title is "Dharma and Craig."

Anyway, I posted this today, yes, for 1) the sensitive folks but more importantly for 2) those with normal nervous systems who have to interact or worse LIVE with us.  We can't help it.


God Bless you All.  We really do wish we could watch Dark Knight Returns past the opening credits without having nightmares.

We really do.