:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Brain farts, AWAYYYYY! (Katie)

All right. This is supposed to be about fear and conquering said fear. Only, I'm afraid and not afraid. My biggest fears, like social conflict, are things I don't really know how to tackle. Have a grueling round of holiday party small talk where not once do I say, "Oh, that is so interesting! I read this study once that...."? I do not know how to use sarcasm as a joke. I do not know how to respond when people say passive aggressive things to me. I do not know how to act as if an inside joke is not an inside joke. I am not suave. I can stick to weather, and until we get to the real meat of a conversation that is all I got, so I hope you like talking about how nice it is that we have sunshine this time of year.

So, because of all those, "I am not's" I am routinely paralyzed by the social dynamics most people are comfortable with. And when I say paralyzed I do not exaggerate. I once went to a Christmas party hosted by a colleague where I took the guest list for granted and that it would include only our small circle of people I work with daily. It did not. I knew when not only the superintendent of the district I am employed by, but also the superintendents of the neighboring districts started showing up that I was in trouble. After accidentally offering the (clearly and obviously) pregnant wife of the principal at the high school a beer, I spent the entire 4 hour evening playing with our host's dog. With my husband by my side giving me wildly questioning looks indicating his total incomprehensibility at how I was acting. We beat a retreat as soon as it would not look like I was running out of the house with my pants on fire, and I tried not to hyperventilate as soon as we slammed the car doors. Upon which my supportive husband turned to me and said "you're really bad at that. We should never do that again." I was, and still am, in total agreement. Social situations cause me such anxiety that really, it is most helpful to everyone involved that I skip them.

So, what does that leave? There's plenty of things I am afraid to try, but mostly because of fear of actual bodily injury. I'm not a risk taker in the physical sense of the phrase. No one would classify me as an adrenaline junkie, although my husband would dearly love it if even a LITTLE bit of the time I was. Somewhere along the way I have become cautious with my physical person.

But I don't want to confuse "adventurous" with "adrenaline junkie." Because I do feel that I am adventurous. At 22 I backpacked in Scotland and England for a month, and then turned around and took the geriatric tour of Germany with my then-78 year old grandmother a week later with a bus full of other similarly aged people for 3 more weeks. (And wasn't THAT a treat! Don't mistake me, I love my grandmother dearly and it was a fun trip, but to be the only person younger than 65 automatically designated me as the suitcase schlepper, destination finder, curb spotter, and dinner-table-saver for the duration of the trip.) I worked for two summers at a camp for behaviorally disturbed 5-18 years olds in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota. I worked in Maine for the same reason. These experiences shaped my career path in that now I work full-time with behaviorally challenging kids. I applied (and was on the way to, had I not met my husband) to work in Scotland as an educational psychologist. If I find something I have an interest in, I don't have paroxysms of insecurity that prevent me from pursuing it.

But, I think there's the problem. I find it SO easy to talk myself out of being interested in stuff that involves effort and planning with the potential for failure. Am I interested in physical health? Sure, enough to eat right *most* of the time and to take walks with the dogs. But enough to actually get to a competitive level in sports? Nah. Do I like photography and enjoy taking pictures? Well, sure! But enough to put it out there and take criticism for it? Not really. Do I want to have a closer relationship with my only sister? Definitely! Enough to do the work? Sometimes.

I hate that good enough has become my philosophy. I am so averse to feeling anxiety and stress that I will go to amazing lengths to avoid it. My psyche craves equilibrium, and when I feel anxiety and stress my coping mechanisms aren't always the healthiest. Most often I eat. But, in the recent example of my wedding in June, I lost 20 pounds and was probably the most fit I have been in 5 years. However, the entire driving force behind this weight loss was the not-uncommon fear of looking like a whale who puked up a bolt of taffeta. As soon as that fear was gone, I went back to my old habits and quickly gained 12 of the pounds back I had (PAINSTAKINGLY, EXCRUCIATINGLY, EXACTINGLY, OBSESSIVELY) lost.

By the way, to lose that weight was an awful process. It took 6 months to lose 20 pounds and I counted every calorie in and every calorie out. My nature is not detail driven for the most part. "It'll be fine" is my rallying cry. It was exhausting, and more than once I wondered if I was a thin bride-to-be trapped in a body meant to survive Arctic winter on nothing but grass roots and reindeer hooves. However, I am now faced with the reality that my ass is spreading and my underwear is not fitting properly. This is distracting in meetings.

So. (Rein it in, Katie). Here's the challenges I have for myself. I have printed, matted and bagged 19 photos I have taken in the last 4 years, and am getting ready to put them up for sale at a local (very small) craft fair. I don't know where this is going to go, if anywhere. No one will call me Ansel. But, I guess I want to see if anything I have is marketable. Here is one:

I took this in New York, in April of 2007. My husband hates it and says it's not a real photo (I don't know what that means because clearly it is), but I like it and have included it anyway.

My second challenge to myself is to get my rear back in gear. I know how to do it. I did it less than 4 months ago. But it's SO HARD. I don't want to put a weight loss goal on it, but more of a fitness threshold. I want to swim 50 meters in 35 seconds (I'm at 47 seconds now). I want to stick to a workout schedule. Period. That's it. I DO NOT want to talk myself out of being fit.

So.... I guess onward and upward.

Stay tuned!!


Stephany said...

Oh, Katie... how much we have in common!!!
It is too stinking easy to talk ourselves out of wanting or trying things that may not result in overwhelming successes... it's also terribly wasteful that "good enough" is the mantra by which we go about our lives!
Yes, ma'am. You spoke my language, paid in my currency, told my truth!
I absolutely cannot wait to watch your journey unfold, to get to know you better, to DO this COFFEE thing with you!
Awesome post!!! Thank you!

Tanner May said...

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I am the best absurd reasoner in the world to get out of things. I loved reading this and also found myself thinking "so awesome, I'm not the only one who does that," or "ha! I'm way more awkward than that!". I also giggled at the beer offer to the pregnant lady. Of course, back in our parents day, I believe a beer was on the list.

I am so excited to watch you succeed! Which, by the way, congratulations, your success is well ahead of the game. :)

patresa said...

hehehehe. you said farts.

axel is one funny german, but i hereby denounce his opinions related to art and/or literature! clearly, that is a photograph. CLEARLY!

and i read 2 novels over my vacation and neither one had a single unicorn.

i think you are a great writer, and a great artist, and a wise woman and excellent friend. and i covet your flip turns.

heave ho, mac daddy.

Wendy Jans said...

Katie, I loved this and I think your photo is really cool. I always feel like I'm a giant dork in social situations, too. I've found that an effective way to counter an attack of the insecurities is to shift your focus from your own social awkwardness to other people's awkwardness. Sure, it's not very nice and could be considered "judgemental", but it works because people are generally weird!
Also, I liked "the...fear of looking like a whale who puked up a bolt of taffeta" You crack me up, Lady.

Katie said...

Thanks all! Holy crap it's scary to put that stuff out there! Who knew!?!

Stephany - I totally agree, "good enough" is just plain wasteful. We all have talents and drive, but it is so easy to bypass them! No more!

T - so glad you could relate! Social crap makes me literally think in circles - and the absurd reasoning gets to crazy heights!

P - well thanks, lady. And I'm glad to hear of your no unicorn reading status. Axel will be pleased.

Wendy - any strategies are welcome. Screw judgmental! I just need something to get me through that won't give me the cold sweats!

Whew! Thanks ladies!!

amy said...

Oh, Ms. Katie. I do empathize on the social front. Currently, what I do is bring Melissa with me when I have to be somewhere social--she's as good as petting a dog off in a corner. 2 year olds are into everything and this makes one look really very busy, too busy to make chit chat.

(I don't know what I'll do when she's, say, 8. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have a girl who's a social butterfly to the max and will do all the chit chatting for me...to the point where we'll leave a social situation and people will go: wow, that little girl was so friendly and precocious! What was up with the MOTHER though?)

I love that photo. That's the kind of photo I would totally buy at an artist's market if someone matted it real nice and sold it for a nice price. I would hang it in my guest bathroom for all to see.

And I'm glad I'm not the lone person pushing herself at COFFEE to do something overwhelmingly fabulous with body movement. Hooray! It's good not to be the only one. (I'm not good at social situations, yet I like to be part of a group. I'm sure there's a clinical psychological term for me, but I have to go trick or treating right now, and don't have time to google it.)


T-Free said...

"I hate that good enough has become my philosophy."

What an excellent description of our motivation for taking part in this project. That could be the COFFEE Project mantra. Perfectly said, Katie.

I am paralyzed by social dynamics and conflict, too. I considered making that my fear to tackle, but I couldn't think of how I would fix it without therapy (and making innocent strangers really uncomfortable). It seemed insurmountable because I'm so ridiculously shy. I could completely relate to everything you wrote about social fear.

I love your photo. The grays, blacks, whites, and textures of the fore and background are strikingly sharp and electric, while the content is soft, soothing and maternal. Great contrast! Great eye! Great shot! I can't wait to see more. I'm excited to watch you progress toward your fitness goal too. You can DO it! :)