The gift

I really hate this monthly mood swing bs.  This month anxiety is the major player with depression and self-flagellation playing only a relatively minor role.  In other months depression and mental self-abuse are overwhelmingly the main characters.  It seems I can feel down or barely functional anywhere from a week to almost two weeks on most months.  And my energy level is almost nonexistent.  I also tend to forget little things like…forgetting my gym shoes at home as I am on my way to the gym, mixing up parts of a typical daily routine, and I have even been known to put hair gel on my face.  I don’t know what triggers it but I have a sneaking suspicion of what causes it.  Most of the time it is not absolutely debilitating.  I can mostly suck it up and plow on, oftentimes with a nap or two, but it certainly makes it difficult to function sometimes.  In contrast, this is also the time of the month I tend to feel the most insightful, introspective, and creative.

Like I said, this month anxiety is in the forefront.  We have this project to do for class that involves spending art making time with a child.  It is our responsibility to set this up and coordinate times and places.  I have a hard enough time doing this when coordinating projects involving my classmates and now I have to call a person I don’t know to set up something I have little idea of how and what to do, be assertive and confident in my directions and requests, and do this in a timely manner.  I will have to go into a new environment to interact with people I don’t know and be responsible for taking the lead in our interactions.  It makes my heart pound and it makes me want to cry or whine just thinking about it.  But there are times when I feel relatively okay with it, times when I am comforted by the fact that these meetings mostly have a structure to them and comforted by the fact that my family has taken part in this exercise in past years.  But I am still very nervous about interacting with these people and setting up times that are convenient to both of us.

I find myself wanting to talk to someone about my fears and having to force myself to confront the boundaries of my comfort zone or otherwise face the disapproval of the professor and probably failing the course.  I somehow want someone to make this better for me.  I imagine talking to Mom but in the past talking to Mom about my reluctance to do certain distasteful tasks like jobs I’ve had, homework I’ve had to do, or social events I’ve been invited to, has proven to be less than comforting.  Sympathy was only nominal, if it was there at all, and more often than not, lead to me feeling even worse about my situation.  A particular kind of inflexibility lead me to feel isolated and inadequate because I couldn’t just “suck it up” and do what needed to be done.  Solutions were almost always along the lines of, “just do it.”  I felt/ feel so alone with my feelings.  And that I’ve heard and read is what is at the base of many forms of depression.  And so my anxiety sits with me…and I’ve got no ally to lean on.

I wish I knew a way to make this assignment more comfortable for me.

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The Truth Will Out or Say it and Mean it

This morning a friend of mine (mostly I life long friend of my mother’s) posted on Facebook a quote that I have heard and read many times and in many different forms.  “Life isn’t about how you survived the storm; it is about how you danced in the rain.”  I impulsively responded to her post this morning by asking, “What if the storm originates with someone you love?”

In the past I have felt that my Mom has had a very short temper and I have repeatedly referred to her episodes of anger or frustration as explosions or volcanic eruptions or as walking on egg shells.  Being the highly anxious person that I am and the highly anxious child that I was, this is how her frequent outburst seemed to me.  They were something to weather.  And what confused me when I was younger was how she could be erupting one minute and then turn around and be calm and sweet the next. Anyway, I had not thought about or experienced one of Mom’s explosions in a while and being away at school, I have not experienced the fear and anxiety associated with them.  So it was very curious to me that I posted back the question that I did.  I do not know what compelled me to do so.

My friend responded by saying that it still applied and that it requires loving them where they are and not trying to fix them.  She also ended her response by typing “LOVE YOU LAURA!”  Loving a person where they are saves a lot of stress and distress but it still hurts in a way.  Another quote I’ve read applies here, “Just because a person doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they have.”  For as long as I can remember, and I mean that quite literally, I have felt as if I have not been loved the way I felt I needed to be.  Oh, yes, I knew my parents loved me but it was more of a fact than a feeling.  Parents love their kids, period, end of story, just like the grass is green and the sky is blue.  But to really feel it, is still incomprehensible to me.  Unconditional love s still a very great novelty to me, as is the realization that I don’t really have to try so hard to make people like and love me.  It is like trying to really get the feel of what life might be like without an arm.  You can imagine it all you want but you would never be able to actually know what the experience is like.  I think this is why genuine kindness and appreciation and declarations of love are still so surprising to me.  Believe me they are not received without a certain about of suspicion and skepticism.

I felt “love” was often said in a more obligatory manner than with any real feeling behind it.  You just simply ended a conversation or an e-mail, or card, to Mom or Dad with, “Love.”  Phone calls to my Dad’s brother, whom I talk to fairly regularly, aren’t ended with “love.”  It would feel weird and awkward, and embarrassing to do so.  The same with calls to my sister.  To me the value in saying it comes from really feeling it.  There are certain people I say “love” to and really feel it.  My favorite Aunt being one of them.  And it boggles my mind that some people have picked up the habit of saying it to practically anyone.  “Love you, sweetie,” or “Love you, girly,” or other similar things are said between girlfriends (of the non-sexual nature) and I cannot help but wonder if it loses its meaning when used so casually.  Is it really felt in these instances?  And so I cannot be sure when messages or conversations are ended with, “Love,” whether it is really meant or…not.

Favorites

Motivations, not just in terms of being motivated to do chores, but in terms of ones actions in cultivating relationships with others.  This morning I remembered a book about drawing I have.  I doubt I’ll ever use the book so I thought of giving it to a coworker to give to her daughter who also likes to draw.  This coworker, however, also happens to be my boss.  My original split-second impulse was that it would please my boss and that, in turn, would make me happy.  I like my boss and I want her to like me and I think she does.  Thinking more about it my thoughts turned to what effect this “gift” might have on my boss’s favor.  Would her opinion of me increase?  This would certainly be a happy side effect, a bonus.  Perhaps she’d give ever so slightly more attention to any requests for time off I might make.

Another of my coworkers, a girl hired not long after I was, has proclaimed that this boss plays favorites and I think perhaps she is right.  In certain situations I think that this is practically unavoidable.  We are constantly assaulted by first impressions and sometimes you are just “attracted” more to certain people than others.  Yes, even parents or other relatives have a favorite.  There are people you encounter in everyday life that may or may not develop into a lasting relationship, whether that relationship is an acquaintance, a friend, or more, and many times unconscious decisions are made to pursue these relationships based upon the impressions you get from those people.  These impressions may or may not be accurate but they effect our interactions just the same.  And you are just bound to be drawn more to one person than another.  Ideally, when a person is in a position of power, a teacher or a boss or law enforcement, this factor should not effect their judgement or dealings with others.  But really, to a degree, this is impossible.

These subtle influences in relationships are usually not quiet as pronounced as biases and hopefully not as exclusionary as an “ism.”( Racism, ageism, classism, ect.)  When it comes to jobs and education policies like “affirmative action” have been developed.  Recently I have been trying to match up what we have been learning in our Multicultural Therapy class with aging affirmative action policies.

In Multicultural Therapy we have been learning about the influences a client’s culture has on their thought and emotional patterns.  We have been learning to value these differences and have been learning how to deal with these differences when dealing with a client’s mental anguish.  We are learning to honor the differences in how people live and die.  I have an issue though when studying affirmative action policies (for Ethics) because these policies are meant to overlook the unique differences in a person’s background.  To me these strict guidelines meant to, in many cases, prevent lawsuits, seem unethical.  A white Western culture raised man and an Eastern Asian man both apply for the same job. Qualifications are similar in both candidates.  The job involves a lot of independent work, self starting, a lot of assumption of responsibility, and frequent isolation.  A Western man (or woman) is much better suited to this kind of work because of how he/she was raised.  An Eastern man is from a largely collectivist society where hierarchy is important.  An Eastern man would be much a better asset to the company when involved in team work and a structured chain of command.  But because of affirmative action, a round peg is forced into a square hole.  My example is very simplistic, yes, but there are many more characteristics beyond where a person was born and raised that would influence the suitability of people for certain positions.  When it comes to education I believe, in all but the most exceptional cases, that the qualifications should be the same for everyone.

How does this relate to my original anecdote?  Impressions, biases, perhaps even unfairness is unavoidable.  A certain amount of survival of the fittest.  Yes, maybe my boss does play favorites and yes, it may be unfair, but it makes sense when it comes to team cohesiveness, the confidence of the boss, effectiveness of employees, and a harmonious environment.  Societies are based upon in groups and out groups no matter how we work to eliminate them.  Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and need them to find their fit.  To be a truly “blind” society is unrealistic at best and unethical at worst.  It would be more ethical to me to consider what makes us who we are.  That said to make the effort to accommodate every variety of student or employee is impractical, at least in Western societies.  Favorites will be played, sometimes to the benefit of those involved and sometimes to the detriment.  

Do what you have to, not what you want to

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A lot of people I know cannot stand those automated messaging systems that answer nearly every customer service phone everywhere.  I, however, love them.  God forbid I should have to talk to a real live person as soon as my call goes through.  If I can do/ fix/ find out information for myself, awesome.  If it can be done through e-mail even better because it means I don’t have to explain myself and go through the hassle of making myself understood coherently.  I’ve gotten better with this sort of thing though.  There was a time (and still are times) when I would write out a script to follow for something as simple as calling the pizza place to order dinner or even when calling an acquaintance to leave a message on their voicemail.

In one of my classes we are supposed to experience time with a child while they/ we are engaged in art exercises.  There are a number of parameters that the volunteer child has to meet.  But even seeking out a volunteer makes me nervous.  Spending time with him or her for a required assignment makes me even more nervous.  I dread the last half of the semester because of this project.

Another assignment I am dreading worried about is an assignment for my Multicultural class.  We are supposed to interview someone culturally different than we are.  It has to be a face to face or at least a phone call interview.  We have to be able to hear the interviewee’s immediate reactions to the questions we pose and participate in any resulting conversations.  I am not looking forward to this either.  In posing questions I feel awkward and I am afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, not asking the right things, not reacting the right way, etc.  I don’t want to be too pushy or not pushy enough.  I know I will be nervous.  I hate feeling uncomfortable that way and so I tend to avoid situations that make me feel uncomfortable.  Hence, my preferall of e-mail, letters, or automated answering services.

It is for a similar reason I do not like group projects.  We all have different ideas, drives, and motivations for how something should be accomplished.  It is a collaborative task but I’d much rather depend upon myself to complete the project to my satisfaction.  I have yet to feel satisfied proud of or confident in any group project I’ve participated in.  I’d much rather write an extensive paper than put together a presentation, group or otherwise, to be given in front of a group.  It only helps slightly if I am thoroughly comfortable with my topic.

They say that the best way to confront these kinds of feeling is to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen?”  I don’t know.  I do know that I hate feeling nervous and uncomfortable and that is often enough for me to avoid certain situations.  What makes it worse is that I am uncomfortable and it is something I have to do.  I hear over and over again that people should do one thing every day that scares them.  I can see the reasoning behind this statement but my emotional response is often, “Why?”  If it is something you do not like to do and you do not want to do, then why should you have to?  Mentally I know all of the reasons why but still…  I don’t wanna and you can’t make me!

What is the worst thing that could happen?  People could see that, I am not worthy, I am not competent, I do not have what it takes, I do not know what I am doing,  and I really am mediocre and really should not even be bothering.  Who do I think I am to aspire to anything?  I live with those fears, those thoughts, every. single. day. every. single. minute.