For years, I have been functioning under the stunning misconception that I am basically a mellow person. In fact, if I weren’t so lazy, I could probably search in the archives of this very site just a little bit and find several occasions where I described myself in some way that seemed mellow.
If you have ever worked with me, dated me, been related to me, or hell, encountered me on the street, you are probably reading this through tears of laughter and disbelief. You might even have accidentally peed on your chair a little bit because you were laughing so hard. I’ll wait while you go get a towel and change.
You’re back? Oh, good.
So I’m confessing it now: I am not mellow. I am not even a little bit mellow. I am so not mellow, in fact, that I have often been accused of not knowing how to relax. I’ve been told that even when I think I’m relaxed, I’m actually still tense, still unwilling to let go, still afraid to lose control. If you’re like this, you understand. If you’re not, let me tell you: that shit takes a lot of energy to maintain. It really does. But it’s so hard and scary to let go.
Seth and I emailed and IMed each other for a few weeks before we ever met in person, and during one of those conversations, I confessed to him that I didn’t like watching horror movies because I tended to get very upset when people died. Everyone else in the theater would be laughing and cringing at the gore and the absurdity of the whole thing, and I’d be fighting tears and thinking about who was going to make funeral arrangements and clean up the mess and go through the dead person’s things and close bank accounts and stuff. Because no one was thinking about that in the movie and someone should think about it and it really stressed me out.
“Wow,” he said. “Sounds like someone has too much responsibility in her life.” And, you know, he was probably right.
These days, he’s pretty great at identifying times when I need to let go a little bit, but it’s often hard for me to take his advice. He’ll notice I’m in hypermanaging mode about something or other and kind of take me off to the side and say, “Hey. You don’t have to be in charge of this thing. Let someone else figure it out.” And he’s right, sort of, but on the other hand, who am I if I’m not being responsible for everything?
Of course part of me thinks nothing will get done right, if at all, if I don’t oversee it. But probably an even bigger part of the problem is that I’ve allowed it to define me. I am the person who answers the question. I am the person who solves the problem. I am the person who researches the best airfare. I am the person who makes the reservations. I am the person who decides what time we’re leaving and whether we need reservations and if you should wear a jacket. And I resent it sometimes. Sometimes I really, really resent it. But again, how am I useful to you, how am I productive, how will I have value if I let you do those things yourself?
Here are my greatest fears: being perceived as dependent, stupid, or incompetent. I am more worried about other people THINKING those things than I am about actually becoming them. And how stupid is that? I can’t really control what other people think about me no matter how I behave. But still I try. I work my ass off, wipe myself out, expend all of my energy to be sure that others see me as independent, intelligent, and above all else, COMPETENT.
I don’t know if I can stop making those things so important to me, but I do know that I would really like to be able to just relax and turn off my worries and, you know, maybe watch a gory movie once in a while without stressing out so much about who’s going to clean up those brains on the floor.