Walking my doggies one morning, I was laughing out loud. One of the hosts of my favourite podcast was telling the story of one mortifying moment last week. Dreading parties in general, she was invited to a good friend’s birthday. There was no way out of this without insulting someone she loved, so she confirmed her presence and spent the next month in anxiety about having to be out in public, make chit-chat and appear relaxed and like she was happy to be there. The painful story of anxious introverts.
The day of the party comes, she and her wife get dressed up and go, they mingle, get something to eat, and when it comes time to move into the dining room, she trips on the stairs and falls face down, butt showing, shoes and bag flying in the air, in front of everyone. The room goes silent, in the falling she has also tripped her wife and she just lies face down on the floor, praying to all the gods in the universe and beyond that she is in fact in her bed, sleeping and having one of her usual nightmares. Her wife whispers in her ear: this is actually happening. And helps her up and takes care of her bruised knees. And ego. Later in the week, she goes to see her therapist and tells this storry. As soon as they stop laughing about the whole thing, the therapist says how grateful she is to the universe for pushing her client down the stairs. What a needed blow to the ego – always the backdrop of any pre-party anxiety: we worry so much about how the party will be because we don’t want to lose face. Well, when we are face down on the pavement, we have lost all of the face.
Once I stopped laughing, picturing the entire scene in my mind, I started thinking that … in a way, I am currently flat on my face myself. Professionally. The past half a year represents my professional falling on my face (I did not trip, I pushed myself down the stairs 🙂 ). I applied for several jobs and received more rejections than I ever have. I have been sidestepped in projects that I had either initiated or could have successfully contributed to. I have heard crickets from teams and people who swore I was instrumental to them just a few weeks or months ago. Last night, one seemingly insignificant drop in the bucket sent me flat on my face, into a spinning wheel of thoughts and images, a sleepless night, the whole circus.
As she recounts her embarrasing story, the podcast host does acknowledge ultimately that she had sort of set herself up for the disaster that ensued. Not only did she obsess about the party endlessly (which created a monster in her mind), but she dressed in a way that made her completely uncomfortable and that ultimately led her to her fall (she was wearing stilts, not heels). I think it is human nature, when things happen this way, to look around for others to blame or to just surround ourselves in self pitty and lick our wounds. But if we really want to find real answers, real progress, the only place we should be looking for clues is in the mirror. If I am to be very honest with myself, I need to say that my pain doesn’t come from the rejection or ignorance of others. It comes from my measuring myself by that reaction. I have to recognize the fact that I expect people to be mind readers many times and I am not forthcoming about my needs, supposing that they will simply be easy guesses. I have a whole world inside my head where things make sense just to me and which flavors the world outside and my reactions often times. If I am honest with myself, I need to admit that I am in a constant pendulum between I am all that and I am nothing at all. And that I am getting tired.
Two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. Realizing all of the things above does not make the current situation hurt any less. But it is the best hard lesson for my ego. Balance has never been my strong suit. And yet, I feel that it is the promise land in which my peace resides.
Photo by Nagara Oyodo on Unsplash
Love your thinking, Cata.
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