I’m supposed to be WHAT?!

The other day my awesome sister sent me a link to a blog post by a woman who was celebrating her eighth year blogging anniversary. She had a list of “things she thought was supposed to be” eight years ago.

I thought that was pretty interesting so I quickly jotted down my list of “things I’m supposed to be”. I did it really quickly because for an over-thinker like me, doing these kind of exercises quickly doesn’t give the self-editing filters that “protect me from the truth” time to snap into place.

Here is my list –

I am supposed to be married
I am supposed to be thin
I am supposed to wear high heels and dress stylishly
I am supposed to be desirable to men
I am supposed to be moving up the corporate ladder and managing a team of people
I am supposed to have enough money to pay off my mortgage, have nice things and travel several times a year
I am supposed to be happy and attractive all the time
I am supposed to be independent and not need anyone

Holy crap!! Literally!!

Where did all that come from?!

Add to the list that I must do all these things perfectly and it’s no wonder that some days I don’t feel like I’m enough. That I struggle with feeling like a failure. That I want to hide before someone calls me out as a fraud at life.

Some of these messages clearly come from our culture – movies, TV, advertising. Who knows where I picked up the others – childhood, irrational emotional self-defense, other people.

And, while I imagine I probably have things in common with other people’s lists, there are also things that don’t appear on the list that could easily do so – supposed to have children (not in the cards and that’s okay), supposed to own a house (no, thanks, too much work), supposed to be a good cook (ugh, the kitchen). And, none of those things bother me or make me feel like a failure.

So maybe today is a good day to call bullshit on my list. To take the weight of it off my heart and my spirit. To accept that I am what I am supposed to be as I am right now and that it’s perfectly okay to strive imperfectly to be the kind of person I want to be in the world.

The kind of person I want to be; not the kind of person I think the world or my inner gremlins are telling me I should be.

I’d be interested to hear other people’s lists, if anyone wants to share. And, I think I’ll check back in next year at this time and see if my list has changed. I’m hoping it’s at least smaller.

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An attack of the uglies

I was in Los Angeles last week at a conference and I had the worst attack of the uglies I’ve had in years.

It started with the small skirmish of an anxiety attack the morning I left and by the time I got to my hotel and then headed to the conference, it was a full blown battle.

It started on the surface, hating my outfits (all of them), my hair that wouldn’t curl and somehow managed to look frizzy and limp at the same time.

And then the big guns came out. Feeling fat, ugly, out of place, not worthy of notice, nobody’s first choice to be with.

In my head, I know these things are untrue. But, somehow my heart loses touch with that knowledge. And, it just wants to fill that space where self-love used to live with the comfort of isolation and food. King size bed in my little hotel room, warm bread and melted cheese, like a lovers arms surrounding me with safety.

Luckily, being a veteran of these battles, my head knows that won’t work.

And so I slogged through the four longest days I’ve had in many years. I got up, went to the conference, socialized and smiled and met people, tried to keep the food healthy and get some exercise each day.

None of that helped with the uglies. But, I made it. It felt like climbing an emotional Everest followed by a marathon every day. But, I made it.

And, the weird thing is that the minute I saw Vancouver out of the plane window, it all went away. I felt it leave my body and head out the window into the sky (apparently, the uglies can survive at 30,000 feet). And, in came this incredible wave of relief and somehow my self-worth was back. I felt like me again.

People say LA has a weird energy. Too many broken dreams, maybe. I don’t know why the uglies attacked. I suppose that trying to unravel the reason it happened would be worth some time and energy. Maybe something triggered it. Maybe understanding those triggers will leave me better prepared if/when it happens again.

But right now, as the wounds close again and my heart heals, I’m not sure I want to pick at the scabs. Yet.

I do know two things. First, that I am so grateful that I don’t have to do that battle every day. I remember when I used to feel “never good enough” all the time. When I thought that if I could just be perfect enough then I would be worth loving. The days before I knew that there is no such thing as perfect, that I am enough and that love comes from the self.

And second – I never want to go back to LA again.

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Differently happy

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Historically, I have not been very good at going places on my own. I get nervous. And anxious.

I can always tell if I am nervous about something because I immediately start worrying excessively about what I will wear and how I look.

I’m not sure what I’m afraid of. My friends tell me that they can’t imagine me having problems meeting people and socializing. Probably cause they see me when I’m with them!

But somehow I always have this terrible picture in my head of me standing alone, not wanted in the crowd. Doing that trick of pretending I am reading a very important e-mail on my iPhone (cause that’s how important I am!)

Maybe that’s a remnant from childhood/teenager years where I always felt different. And different was bad. Wow, did I learn that. Too smart was bad. Too fat was bad. Too ambitious was bad. Caring too much was bad.

Last night I wanted to go to the open house at the glass studio where I am taking classes (and have applied to join). I could have taken a friend for a safety blanket but I really wanted to do it on my own.

To show up as me, with all my wonderful differences – you know, the things that make me ME – and meet a few people and watch the guest glass artist.

And, that’s what I did. With surprisingly little anxiety. Feeling great about my outfit and my hair – yup, even my hair was good. Feeling happy with who I am. Feeling proud of my differences.

Kind of a cool milestone in this emotional journey. And, the only thing I did with my iPhone was take pictures.

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Reflections in glass

Today’s photo is of my first attempt at making glass beads.  I posted in May about my first class in glass sculpting and about my nervousness and anxiety in trying new things.  And, how much I am loving working with glass.

Now, into my second course and contemplating joining the glass studio – me, an artist?! – I can feel myself relaxing into the flow.  In the first class, I focused a lot on following directions exactly from the instructor and trying to make each piece perfect. Now, as I get a better feeling for the glass and the colours, I am letting each piece take shape as it wills. More of a partnership between me, the glass and wherever inspiration comes from.

And, I am not worried about the “mistakes”. In fact, one important bead is missing from this photo. I was trying something with a bead and it didn’t work. I shrugged it off and said, “well, that was a failure”, dumped the bead and got ready to start again, feeling kinda proud of myself for not getting upset about the “failure”. My teacher’s take? “It’s not a failure, you learned a lot making that bead.”

I certainly did.

Is this seat taken?

Over the past several months, I have started doing more things on my own. Sometimes because there is no one around to do stuff with, sometimes because I am too lazy to call a friend but more and more often because I find that I *like* doing stuff on my own!

I have never been very good about heading out there into the world as a single. I like to share experiences; to talk them over and hear what others think. I process things by talking. And, going with a friend is like a safety net.  In case I end up standing there alone, like the last kid picked for softball.

It started with coffee in my local coffee shop. I would head over in the morning on the weekend, get a coffee and a bagel and read or catch up on e-mail or Facebook. I thought I would be lonely, look like a loser sitting all by myself. I was so wrong.

I love it. I love getting up whenever I want, heading over when I get hungry and not at a specified “meeting” time. I love reading or writing at my own pace. I love the time spent just with me.  In fact, I often go for a walk afterwards.  By myself.

I have always thought I would feel embarrassed (or is that ashamed?) of being out in public on my own. A table for one in a restaurant. Sitting alone in the movies. Being that single person on a bus tour.

Turns out, when I’m not ashamed of being single, none of those things make me feel ashamed! Or nervous. Or sad.

They are stress-free. They are peaceful. They are fun.

And, they make me really appreciate when I do things with my friends. Because when I do, it’s because I really want to be with them. Not using them as a safety net.

Sometimes, I meet people and have interesting conversations.  Most of the time, it gives me time to think. To process my emotions. To write. To ground. To feel gratitude for the many blessings in my life.  Blessings like having the freedom most of the time to do what I want, when I want. Like having great friends who like spending time with me.

I am working towards one day taking a trip all by myself. Traveling without the safety net of a friend. Flying solo, as it were.

Is this seat taken? Cause I’m taking it.

No way out but through

I spent the weekend away with some wonderful women at a cabin on one of the Gulf Islands in B.C.  On Sunday, we hiked along a path that ended up at the top of a bluff overlooking a narrow passageway between our island and the next. The currents through this narrow passage are fast and there was a bunch of kayakers taking a class and shooting the rapid waters. Most of them headed right into the current, whooping as they hit the white water and were picked up and carried by the currents.

And then there was that one kayaker. The one who hung back and was back paddling at the top of the rapids to keep from heading into them. Back paddling but going nowhere due to the current.  Oh yeah, I thought, I SO get that feeling. Seeing the hard path ahead and not wanting to move forward, even as I am slowly pulled towards the rocks and waves.

Also watching the kayaker, one of my dear friends who was sitting next to me said, “there’s no way out but through”.

Ain’t that the truth! There’s no way out but through …

There are so many things in life that I have tried to avoid doing and feeling because they would stir the waters. Keeping silent to avoid conflict, not saying no for fear that people won’t like me, taking risks that might make me look stupid, being vulnerable in case my heart gets broken, admitting when I’m hurt or angry, numbing out with food so I don’t feel the loneliness and the pain and the sadness, letting failure stop me from trying again.  Frantically back paddling and ending up stuck in one place.

But, those things are really part of life. And, there is no way to get out of the pain and hurt but to head right through them. To take risks, love deeply, be yourself, speak your truth, pick yourself up after a failure and move forward armed with what you learned. Head into the rapids and paddle like crazy.

Not an easy thing to do when the pain is so sharp that you think you can’t breathe. When “one day at a time” turns into “just the next 10 minutes” or “just get up and make it to the shower” or “just wait to cry until you’re out of the grocery store”.

I keep waiting to “get over” the pain.  To be back to the way I was before the hurt happened.  But, I will never be what I was before. I have changed and been changed by what I have learned about myself and my world by these events.  But, by heading through the pain and hurt I can slowly moving past it.

And, as hard as it is to head into the turbulent churning of emotions, it’s also the only way we get to experience the thrill of the ride and to whoop with joy. To be in the current of life and not stuck in an eddy.

And, that’s what that kayaker did, too. Headed through the rapids, paddling like crazy, hopefully enjoying the ride, and then relaxing in the calmer ocean on the other side.  I’m planning to do the same.

Meat Market

So, when you’re single and people think you need to meet a man, for some reason they often recommend taking a cooking class.  Are cooking schools modern-day matchmakers? Or, perhaps my cooking is just so bad that my friends are jumping on any opportunity to not have to eat another lasagna dinner.

And the cooking schools people recommend are REALLY expensive! I could go to a fancy restaurant for cheaper than that and not have to do any of the work myself!

But, I would like to learn to cook better. Well, actually, I’d like to be able to have more fun cooking my dinners for one (grilled cheese again, madame?).  So, I’ve taken a couple of classes at a cheaper cooking class (thank you, night school!). They were … okay. Chefs were great; other students were mostly in couples and not really friendly. Let’s just say it was a lot like cooking for myself at home. Kinda solitary.

But last Christmas some of my friends pooled their money and gave me a gift certificate for one of those schools that everyone had been recommending to me. One of those places that I would never have spent my own money on. A place where people recommended to me that I sign up for the “single’s night” classes. Something I equate to being forced to compete in a cross between a beauty pageant and Valentine’s Day at school where you put a brown paper bag on your desk and have everyone see how popular you were.

So, yeah, I’d rather gouge my eye out with a spoon than sign up for that. Although, I suppose I might learn how to delicately sauté my eye and serve it with a side of kale chips. (side note: the “women’s” part of the singles night class was sold out for months. The “gentlemen’s” side? LOTS of space!).

But, browsing through the course list I came across a class where they butcher a hind of beef and teach you where all the different cuts of steak come from. And, then you learn to cook several dishes – including beef carpaccio and steak!  Perfect for me! I have never understood different cuts of meat or how to cook them. I have a BBQ on my patio that a friend bought and used once (they used it, not me). It has sat there for two years gradually rusting away.

I signed up, survived the epic battle with anxiety on the night of the class, and went. It was so much fun!  I met some great people (men and women), had great conversations, learned about cuts of meat, cooked three amazing dishes (yes, my sliders won third prize, thank you very much!), came home and fell into a beef coma.

Maybe you’re way ahead of me on this lesson, dear reader, but I’ll go there anyway. The difference? I went to the class for myself. Even though several friends upon hearing that I had signed up made the very helpful comment, “maybe you’ll meet a man!”

I didn’t. But, I did learn how to cook an amazing steak. And I’m pretty happy with that.

Through the looking glass

I have always loved glass art. The play of light; how it is both delicate and strong at the same time. How when you look at glass you not only see the glass itself, but also the reflection of yourself.  To me, glass seems alive. It has its own story but also tells you part of your story. There is a relationship there.

A few weeks ago, I heard about a new Glass Co-op which was offering classes. Now, I have never considered myself an artist. There was a big part of me that said, “you don’t belong in a STUDIO, you aren’t good enough for that”. And, this was one of the activities that “the ex” and I had talked about doing together.  But, in the spirit of doing the things I really want to do and not waiting  for some mythic future, I signed up.  And, showed up at the class. Two very different types of courage.

Now, three classes into the 6-week course, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s been loads of fun.  There are 5 people in the class, 4 guys and me.  And, I can’t help but think that the guys, while all really nice, seem to fit certain stereotypes (or archetypes?). There is the experienced glass worker who normally works with soft glass (we uses boro or hard glass) so he has lots of technical questions that are way above my head. There is the “engineer/scientist” guy who works with spreadsheets all day and talks about the sciency things he wants to make. He added copper to his glass one week trying to make something, despite the fact that he didn’t know what it would do and the place isn’t properly vented to burn copper. There is the older guy, a Doctor, who has his own fancy expensive special glasses and whose work is beautiful and who makes 2 pieces in the time everyone else makes one. And, there is the teenager, who doesn’t follow instructions, preferring to try to run before he has learned how to walk. He gets lots on one-on-one time fixing pieces. Which are wonderfully creative.

And, then, there is me.  So, where do I fit in this mosaic? At first, I thought I might be the “40’ish divorcee” type who is taking up hobbies with her new-found free time and finding herself. But, since I’ve never been married (or divorced), that didn’t seem to fit.  And, then the other day a friend of mine asked me “Do you always take classes? You seem to be always taking some course or another”.   That’s it! I am the woman who is always taking courses! In fact, right now I taking three different courses as well as teaching one!

I kind of like that. Because I do love learning things. And, I haven’t always felt like that was an okay or acceptable part of myself. When I was a kid, I was teased for being the “smart” kid in the class. And, I still hate to feel like I’m stupid. In fact, fear of appearing stupid can stop me from even trying things (put a quarter in the therapy jar for that piece of insight). I have also had people tell me, “you know, men find smart women intimidating”.  Luckily, I have learned that those aren’t the men I’d need to spend time with and there are lots of men who don’t feel that way.

Now,  just before I leave you with the impressions that I am some sort of mensa genius, I am not.  Last year, it took me 6 months to figure out how to get a new garage door opener that worked. And I needed help to do that! What I do think is that I love learning. And, I find ideas, and discussion, and books fascinating. I love to be intellectual stimulated.

But, this new realm of working with my hands is a place of less security (remember: 6 months, one garage remote).  And  so I am letting go of my fears of not being good. Or good enough. I am accepting that I can feel anxious without letting it stop me from showing up.  I am trying to stop comparing myself against the other people.  Accept that my pieces don’t need to be “perfect”.  Learn to not try to control the glass but rather let it shape and find it’s own expression.

That might be the most fun thing of all. That I can release the baggage around my love of learning. That I can feed this passion like the torch feeds oxygen into the flame and transforms rigid glass into swirls of light and beauty. May it do the same to me, so that my story reflects who I am.