The cards float down onto the screen from a magical heaven, and there they are, all laid out before you in orderly disarray, just waiting for you to sort deftly and arrange with a crisp CLICK from your mouse. You start to work, matching and categorizing, strategizing and prioritizing like an executive assistant. Your attention to detail is keen. Your task is accomplished in a matter of minutes. You are a Free Cell goddess! One additional click, and you can begin the process anew, amassing an empire of ‘wins’ and improving your statistics.
Inevitably, your mind starts to wander. “I’m supposed to be finding a job. I’m supposed to be updating my resume. I’m supposed to be generating income.” CLICK. CLICK. Drag….CLICK. Minutes tick by. You are mesmerized by a brilliant shower of red and black and white, diamonds in spades. Fireworks follow. Then you ask yourself, “Have I accomplished anything?”
I am becoming aware of myself. Of my work ethic, my motivation, my skill set. I find routine incredibly easy. I find detail work effortless. And I find them both supremely boring, but somehow, not boring enough to get me angry in the moment. I become perturbed after the fact.
I want to be productive. I want to be useful, informative, inspirational. I want to be honest, authentic, and open. I want good and meaningful engagement with the world. And I keep sucking away my life at things like computer games.
Why am I stuck? Why don’t I begin something BIG?
I am afraid of failure. I shame myself constantly by mental audiotape. “You’re not qualified. You don’t have the expertise. You don’t have the style they want. You won’t follow through. It’ll be too difficult. It won’t happen.” Buzz words from the samples you just read ring in your ears.
“Go-getter. Self-starter. Highly motivated (fill in the blank) SEEKS…”
Is everyone more hard-working than I am? Or just more eager to appear so? Am I highly motivated to help Consolidated So-And-So get ahead? No, I’m not. I’m not philosophically supportive of this capitalistic system at all. I would like to earn an honest wage, live simply (at least by American standards) and physically, and keep contributing to something important until the day I die. Pay me $15,000/year to write passionately about the environment, to teach and inspire a visitor, to file and proofread and make coffee and encouraging remarks, and I will die happy. Each day would be an adventure, and I might leave for serial adventures in other employs, but I think that would be a fine life for me.
Right now, I’m in this dialogue. Free/Cell. Am I free? A jack-of-no-trades? How do I stop playing the game and start living the life?
Today is my mother’s birthday. She is 79. She is one of the most positive, enthusiastic, intelligent, and wise women I have ever known. She continues to inspire me. A week ago, she moved from her home of 36 years into an apartment at The Meadows, the assisted living facility where my sister and I worked as college students and where my father died in 2010. She is having an absolute ball collecting stories from the residents, entertaining dinner companions, playing the piano in the chapel and lobby, and making connections within her collage of life. She says that her Bucket List has been reduced to a Shot Glass List, and she’s grateful and content with all that she has enjoyed. She told me that she doesn’t ‘make’ New Year’s Resolutions, she allows them to ‘surface’. She shared that the phrase that is surfacing for her this year is “Live peace; take joy”. That conversation made me think of what is surfacing for me. What is surfacing is Shame. And I’m resolved to do something about it.
I have been thinking about shame for some time. Listening to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame has brought about some introspective reflection on my history and patterns. I was raised by a very authoritarian father, a devout and dogmatic Christian. He was an intellectual, and my mother very candidly told me last night that although he could understand rationally that our behaviors and social constructs must evolve and change and that they weren’t based in any ultimate reality, he didn’t know how to navigate the emotions involved, and so he would fearfully nail those down into a ‘safe’ corner to protect himself. What he then communicated to me, his daughter, was that we are all fallen creatures, sinners whose nature it is to be not good enough, and that we couldn’t be trusted, so to be saved, we must follow a carefully prescribed path and check ourselves frequently for deviation. Our wills are suspect; God’s will is perfect. My deepest desire was to please my father and to be loved by him, so I became a very compliant child. And I bought the idea that whatever I wanted was probably not good, or good enough, and that I would fail to be good most of the time. My best hope was to be obedient, and so I did that to the best of my ability. I became accomplished in being obedient. As I grew up and my father became less central in my daily life, I transferred that obedience to God, the Church, my husband. Finally, after my husband died, I think I took that authority and transferred it to myself, but I ended up carrying out the same message. Now, I tell MYSELF that I am not good, or good enough, and am likely to fail to be good most of the time. In other words, I have taken over my dad’s role in shaming myself.
Needless to say, this is not freeing me to take risks, be vulnerable, be creative, be self-determinant or self-reliant. Instead, it is keeping me in ‘customer service’ when Steve is itching to make me a full partner in a home business (or series of them) so that we can be self-employed and embody the values and lifestyle that WE find important. How do I make the changes necessary to gain this freedom? First, I have to stop telling myself that I can’t. Or shouldn’t. I have to stop shaming myself. I have to become aware of the times when I do it, and I have to let go of them. Like the bubbles surfacing in my champagne. POP! “So, here comes that shaming bubble. I don’t have to analyze it, give it power, or trace it back to someone to blame. I will just notice it, watch it pop and let it be gone.” That’s my resolution for this coming year. Take a cup of kindness, and stop shaming yourself, Priscilla! Then move on.
I am also posting my blog summary for 2013 today. I want to give big cyber hugs to my Bestest Blogger Buddies – Helen, Stuart, Jamie, Naomi and Elena. Thank you for supporting this vulnerable venture and helping me trust myself to create something. (Something ‘worthy’? Something ‘good enough’? STOP. You don’t need to judge it. Create something. And just leave it at that.)
And here’s a sample of what I’ve created on this blog this year. If you’re new and see something you like, please browse around!