Today I tried to make a list of everything that’s bothering me – things I haven’t dealt with because of feeling bogged down, intense and overwhelmed.
Top of my list – and keeping me awake at night – is all my unanswered emails, texts, facebook messages, requests, tweets, blog comments, phonecalls, etc. Things I perhaps have been expected to say or do for others and I haven’t. There are so many I don’t know where to start. The fact that my head gets so in a whirl sometimes that I have to ignore people makes me seem incredibly rude. I’m just not always sure I have an answer, or the right words. Silence seems better than blathering, stumbling or saying something I’ll regret. You only have to see how little creative writing I’ve done recently whilst juggling a sick child, a flash-fiction anthology and the final weeks of my degree to see how in a whirl I’ve been.
Being a perfectionist means I get my head in a zone – like a forcefield – that’s difficult to slide in and out of because I want to concentrate on what I’m doing. I can’t let something else take over my thoughts in case I can’t get back into what it is I am trying to do so well. If the phone rings when I am writing a story, I feel as if answering it will break that story. Something else that demands my brain and uses it in a different way takes me off the productive or the creative track and onto the problem-solving track or the sociable track which somehow seems faster and more powerful. The made-up, fake societal expectations of appearances and of being a parent and running a home can take over your life completely and I suppose I fear that constantly. Expectation is sucky. Expected behaviour, expected ways of doing things, and the assumptions that what is right for one person must be right for others exhausts me. Social constructs about what is right, and the done thing in general also often involve the word ‘polite’.
I turn down favours because I know I can’t repay them – I’m only too aware that there’s always someone ready to label you a freeloader if you don’t reciprocate.
I see or hear comments from others when they haven’t received the desired outcome from people: ‘I did a, b, c for them, therefore I expect x, y, z in return.’
When someone requires a reaction from me my solution is always to shut my eyes tight, hold my breath and wait until I’m thinking clearly. Or thinking in the right direction. So this often results in long silences.
It’s hard to explain the brain direction/track thing, the anxiety thing, the perfectionist thing, the overwhelmed thing because it’s just who I am and to me it feels normal. I expect very little from other people and when I find other useless, unreliable people who simply like me for who I am, we always get on very well. There’s a tiny handful of people who I hardly ever see or speak to and it doesn’t matter. When you care about someone you shouldn’t expect anything of them or from them, should you?
And yet people do and the expectation weighs heavily on me.
I was watching bees in the garden yesterday. Different bees liked different plants. The honeybees, with the higher pitched whiny buzz, liked the escalonia hedge and had a group-thing going on, the solitary orange-bummed bee liked hugging the chive flowers and humming in a low voice and the stripy bumble bees liked the apple blossom and they sounded almost angry if I got too close. And whatever bee was in the aquilegias was squeaking with delight! That they all had a different mission, different way of doing things, made a different noise and had different taste and yet they were still all bees made me think, we wouldn’t expect a bumblebee to suddenly start hanging out with honey bees and making honey. He’d struggle with the social expectations for starters
So I guess what I’m saying is that for those of us who are solitary bees squeaking away inside an aquilegia flower, trying to behave like a honeybee is exhausting. We do try because it is expected of us but it’s not easy and it’s not natural. I’m sorry if I seem rude but I’m not actually being rude. I’m actually working quite hard to bee (groan) something I’m not a lot of the time.