Sunday, February 1, 2009

In Search of Self and a Little Stocking Wrecking

The North Carolina State Legislature is back in session (as of January 12, 2009) and my time is no longer my own. I'm not complaining, well not seriously bitching, because I like my work and my co-workers. Besides, in the current economic crisis, I feel fortunate to have a job.

There are so many things that I want to write about but this entire weekend has slipped away like a wisp of smoke on a summer breeze. As usual, I've spread myself far too thin, agreeing to take on tasks without taking a personal inventory as to whether or not I have the time, energy, or inclination to complete the task. I'm on the board for a nonprofit organization that opposes the death penalty, an issue that I fully support. However, I've also committed to working with another small nonprofit in administering a dropout prevention grant. I wrote the grant a year ago and the organization was awarded $82,000 to run a pilot dropout prevention program for one year. The only problem is that the director of the program is very skilled at working with children but she has no skills in administration and management of the business aspects of the grant. When I agreed to write the grant, I thought that was going to be my primary role--to write it. I support the efforts to lower the dropout rate, so now I find myself taking on more and more responsibility.

I have a need to be needed that has caused me to become overextended once again. I've been doing this my entire life. I swim out way too far from shore and then I realize that not only do I not like to swim, I'm drowning.

One of my resolutions for 2009 is to be honest, to tell my truths in a way that I haven't done before. I'm not certain if it's a by product of being the oldest child or just a quirk of my own personality, but I have always found it difficult to share who I am with anyone. I've gone through life hiding pieces of myself, carefully making certain that no one has a complete picture.

I think that I am afraid that if anyone knows me, really knows me, they won't like what they see. My life has been rooms of darkness with the occasional period of light. There is no need to worry about me. I am able to write this because my mind is clearer than it has ever been and I'm choosing to live in the light. I'm done with hiding.

I don't have any big secrets; I haven't murdered anyone or robbed the 7-Eleven. I've just led a life of half-truths. I've created a persona for every occasion and sometimes, even I can't tell who is the authentic Sheria.

My time in California was therapeutic. I was relaxed and happy. No one expected anything of me and simply accepted what I had to give. I laughed a lot, slept well, and didn't worry about what expectations others had of me. I want to feel that way all the time.

I realize that I've got to peel back the layers that I've been using to protect myself. I have to be willing to disappoint others, because I can't be everything to everyone, and no one should expect it of me, least of all me, --especially me. I want to be happy.

Over the years, I've mastered the illusion of happiness; sometimes I even fool myself. I insist that I like being busy, the thrill of the work, the excitement of deadlines. There is some truth in that, but I also get bone-weary tired of the responsibilities that I take on, professionally and personally. I want to be irresponsible sometimes. There's a Joni Mitchell song lyric that goes, "I want to be strong, I want to laugh along//I want to belong to the living. //Alive, alive, I want to get up and jive. //I want to wreck my stockings in some juke box dive." I've often felt that Joni was writing my life in her songs.

I don't know where this journey will take me, but I plan to write about it here from time to time. I'll leave you with a poem by Stevie Smith that has always spoken to me.

Not Waving But Drowning
by Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

13 comments:

Miss Ginger Grant said...

When you "cut a rug", your stocking are sure to be history, but sometimes that's just what you gotta do! God knows Miss Ginger goes through stockings!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Sweet Sheria, please take the time to slow down and enjoy you. I think that is one of the balances that Beth and I have found, we stop every weekend and smell the roses. May you find a sweet fragrance soon.

Yasmin said...

Glad work and your activities outside of work are keeping you busy.

I got a chill when I read the rest of your post, you are talking about me, I'm learning but it's taking a longtime, it's almost a compulsion to put myself last and when I do say no I feel guilty...sighs

Take care

Yasmin
xxx

Northwest said...

As the eldest, I too share that high sense of responsibility that causes us to focus more on activity than relationships, and which leaves us unknown to many, and half-known to others.

I think this is a first-born-child trait. We come into the world with the mantle of the family fully on our shoulders. No negotiations on our part can shed the sense of obligation, which in turn makes it easy to "dig tunnels" to our realities to get the work done. Then we come up for air and remember we have left the rest of the world out of our experiences.

I share with you the desire to "belong to the land of the living" more often. Let's hope we get there more often this year than last.

Beth said...

You and Northwest may have something when you speak of the eldest child "trap." As the youngest, I've always been more of a free spirit (although very responsible when it came to my job and finances) and a bit of a party girl. Ken (also the youngest!) is right--take time to enjoy the journey. We don't get a second chance.

One of the greatest things we can learn to do for ourselves is to learn how to say no, and not feel guilty about it. It's okay...really, it is. :)

Love, Beth

cw2smom said...

Oh another one of your post to which I relate!! I'm also the oldest. A perfectionist and the adult child of alcoholics, drug addicts with some mental health issues thrown in on top of it!! It's made it difficult to know who I am half the time because I was always trying to fit in, be liked or loved. Now..as I am older, I am trying to go with the flow..peel back the layers as you said and create the person I want to be. That entails being open, honest and vulnerable. I am liking that part of me a whole lot more every day as it makes me a lot more loving and accepting of the flaws and humaness of others I encounter on this journey! Blessings, Lisa

Sybil said...

Oh My Dear, I don't know about being the eldest child. I am the youngest and have to wonderful older sisters... However I so relate to your words "Over the years, I've mastered the illusion of happiness; sometimes I even fool myself". "I also get bone-weary tired of the responsibilities that I take on, professionally and personally I want to be irresponsible sometimes."
And so these words are mine as well. One day though we will be free...free to just do and say whatever we want..without hurting people ..I would hope...
I so enjoy reading your words of wisdom Thank You
much Love Sybil xx

Marc said...

I hope you experienced some of the relief writing this that I did reading it. See? You put yourself out there and nothing blew up. No one dislikes you for finding out that you are full of fear and doubts about your choices, about whether you know how to be happy. Instead you deliver a new level of authenticity, which is attractive in you as it is when you see it in others.
I'm quite proud of you, actually. Keep it up.

warrior scout said...

i think we may have been on a similar wavelength this week. this is what i have been reading to my groups:

"I think that all of us are like eagles who have forgotten that we know how to fly. The teachings are reminding us who we are and what we can do. They help us notice that we're in a nest with a lot of old food and old diaries, excrement and stale air. From when we were very young we've had this longing to see those mountains in the distance and experience the vast ocean, but we somehow got trapped in the that nest, just because we forgot we knew how to fly. We are like eagles, but we have on underwear and pants and shirt and socks and shoes and a hat and coat and boots and mittens and an Ipod and dark glasses, and it occurs to us that we could experience that vast sky, but we'd better start taking off some of this stuff. So we take off the coat and the hat and it's cold, but we know that we have to do it, and we teeter on the edge of the nest and we take off. Then we find out for ourselves that everything has to go. You just can't fly when you are wearing socks and shoes and coats and pants and underwear. Everything has to go."
from "start where you are" by pema chodron.

maybe you are remembering, too.

~Rebecca Anne~ said...

I'd like to believe that through your words and the words of your commenters that the disassociation you've felt within yourself is something a lot of us struggle with. I think I once wrote that I feel like a person with a clown face, perpetually smiling, painted on when my insides feel nothing like the impression I give on the outside.

I think it takes work to let ourselves off the hook and the first step is admitting we aren't actually Masters of the Universe....but being a dominatrix of our own making isn't such a bad idea either. I love the word as well (grin)

Thinking of you and appreciating your entry very much.
Rebecca

chefkelly25 said...

I think you wrote about how many of us feel stuggling with responsiblity. It is so important for many of us to feel accepted and liked but few admit to it. I myself have found that through the years, the only true reward is that of those that love you for the person that you truly are. I am curious and have wondered why many people are against the death penalty. Of course taking a life should not happen on any level, but times call for drastic measures. I just feel that when a person commits brutal multiple crimes such as murder they should not be given a life sentence but be put to death. The reasons being that one the prisons are over crowded creating hostile situations, the early release of small time criminals due to the lack of space in prison, this takes up more police and court time since they are right back on the streets committing the same crimes, the lack of money, the failed ability to rehabilitate, and the negative example it sets that crime is okay you'll only do so much time. I would like to hear other views on this to get a better understanding of what people are thinking. Wow, this was long I know-sorry. Just remember we all have our secrets and flaws and are not any less valuable due to them. kelly

Leigh said...

I don't know how I missed this entry.
As an oldest child myself, I understand. In my own introspective times, I find that I have a great deal of trouble putting myself first. It's not the way I grew up, or lived my adult life, living up to the expectations of others, burying the authenticity. I can tell you that some of the discovery process is amazing...I hope it will be for you, too.
I look forward to discovering more about your journey.

Hugs to you! Leigh

p.s. you have some extremely insightful comments here! :)

Robin said...

Don't drown. :)

I found it helpful to have some introspection and reevaluation of my life and activities after my father died. Granted, most had been put on hold for well, a long time, or dropped, but would I now have time to go back to them, and, would I, should I?

It's good you're reflecting upon your place and influence in this world, and understandable.

It doesn't mean that your causes and intentions and abilities aren't all worthwhile, but more how to best balance your own life w/ those good things. I hope the woman w/ the grant can get a volunteer business manager on board (internship??? something???), or otherwise release you for more time.

Shedding, et al.

No one is saved from dropping out, if you drown. :)

Hugs to you today! Morning has broken, like a new morning....... (yes, singing Cat Stevens). Every day is a new chance.