Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm an Overacheiver - Just Shoot Me

This was titled "The fallout from Dream Group" but I need to have a good rant. So here goes.

I often wonder why I subject myself to the torment of dream group. I know it's good for me, but like a spoonful of cod liver oil, going to the dentist, not picking you pimples and orthotics, it's allegedly good for me, though the pain it can cause sometimes appears to outweigh the benefits. Sometimes it takes a bit to work out what it is that I need to look at and try and fix. Or if not fix, just be aware of.

It was my turn to give a dream last week. On the scale of dreams, it certainly wasn't a bad one. I was in a resort, I was in luxury accommodation, though I though I should be in the mid-range accommodation. I'd come here to go to the funeral of an old college friend, a guy I'm still in contact with - the quintessential nerd made good - he's somebody I greatly admire - a great bloke. I went to the place where the funeral was being held, saw it was a small place, saw the family there and thought the better about hanging around there - though it was a lovely, light-filled space it was too small for the people I was expecting to be at the funeral. Traveling down the hill I met up with a heap of my college compatriots, who all nodded in acknowledgement. We went on to the funeral. I looked around the crowd for this guys old girlfriend, thinking she might be there, but knowing her pride would not let her attend. The group of us went up the hill to say goodbye to our old friend, but I wondered if any of them really knew him, especially after he transformed.

So what does this mean for me? A bit of me, a bit of my animus has died away. The dorky, fledgeling, unseen, unheard post-pubescent boy in my psyche has come good and died off. And what will replace him? I dunno. And this is the thing that is scaring the hell out of me. 

The talk on the night centered around a lot of things. A lot about me being an over-achieving cow who's mega-competitive. A person who lets my pride get in the way of life in general. Somebody who has never really got over the fact that I saw myself as the ugly, fat, stupid silent for most of my life. the persnickety perfectionist who can't be loveable, because who would love a person like this - overlooked, unacknowledged, under loved, stupid and useless.

So all of this crap has been running around my head for the last few days. And it is crap. But I finally feel like I'm getting to the bottom of it all.

The thing is, I know that this isn't me at all. I'll admit to being an over-achiever - but it's ingrained in me like brushing my teeth twice a day.  

I'm competitive with myself, I don't demand people compete with me - I like to do my best, but I don't need to be the best. I enjoy running in timed runs - but what I like more is the training behind going on these runs - the loping around the Tan on a sunny morning going at my own pace - love it.  (I'm getting increasingly snarkier at people who voice criticisms to my exercise routines. Why should I stop doing something that I enjoy, makes me feel good, keeps me healthy, stops me from getting depressed, keeps me eating well.... Like stuff you all and give it a try - you might find you feel better for it too.)

Anyway. Deep breath. It's been a week of reflecting on all of these sorts of things. Hard things to deal with. A lot of me wants to turn my head off. The other part knows that once this is processed I can get on with things.

So knowing that this awkward, per-pubescent fool has died off how am I meant to see myself when it comes to some bigger life issues. The stuff that got broken over twenty five years ago isn't there.

This old stuff isn't hurting me any more.

Case in point, I visited my parents over the long weekend. They're staying up in a bed and breakfast in the Yarra Valley for the week with my 'Uncle' - a family friend who has been like a father to me for most of my life. My uncle's daughter, Tori,  and her fiance came to visit too - and we all had a lovely lunch.

A lot of the conversation was around Tori's pending wedding. She's had a very hard year. She lost her mother in May and she's just getting over breast cancer. Wouldn't wish that on anybody. Tori is two years younger than me and it's her first wedding. Her fiance is nice enough - a bit of a tosser in my view, but she appears very happy, so good on her. We got to talking about the dresses, the reception, the honeymoon etc, etc. All I could do is not politely and put in the odd salient point and "Oh, that's lovely" type interjection. That and I said I'd look after her cat when they were on their honeymoon.

My mother was sitting next to me, and I got the odd wistful look from her. Have I yet again been a disappointment for not marrying or breeding? The way I see it, up until a few years ago I'd be too damaged, too broken to do either life changing event. I'd only f*ck up a child - and I'm yet to meet anybody I'd want to share my life with - nor has anybody found the same in me. Too broken for either to come near me.

I don't ever remember talking about marriage with my mother. The last time I brought a boyfriend home to meet my parents I was sixteen. The only thing my mother has said to me about children was, "Don't get pregnant." I think I was in uni at the time.

So now, what am I thinking about all this? Am I wringing my hands forlornly bemoaning the non-existence of Mr Right? Acknowledging the non-existent children and feeling sorrow.

Nope. I feel nothing. It's okay. I'm where I'm supposed to be at the moment. Do I want to meet somebody special. Yes. Do I want kids. If that somebody special was willing to raise them with me, then fine, but I'm not doing that on my own. No way. I've always said this and I'm okay with my reproductive ambivalence.

Marriage and kids have ever even featured in my life. Just like home ownership has only just started to plague my mind. Never even considered this sort of thing until a few years ago - and the though still freaks me out as much as huntsman spiders and red belly black snakes. Why? I have no concept of what a happy family looks like. Why would I want to buy a home?

Crap, eh...

So with this roaming round in my head, we come to the second of the charges laid against me at dream group.

Competitive A-type bitch. Not their words, but I'm playing this up. I'm on a rant, and rant I will.

I've been in competition since I was a young kid. Being the 'ugly' sister to a pretty blond, perky sister, apple of my parent's eyes, competing for attention became ingrained. My folks fawning over my sister's average grades while my straight A's got a , "That's nice, dear," was just the tip of the iceberg. I never felt good enough as a kid and a young adult. So this competitive thing drove me on. I soon realised I could never be the best, but I could do my best - and my best is what I tend to do, regardless of what I'm doing.

These days, I cut myself a lot more slack. Okay, I have a bit of a type A job - I'm a consultant by day - but I look on this as survival mode. Nobody is around to look after me. Nobody is there to pay my way - been doing that since I was fifteen or so. If things fall to crap, I only have myself to blame, myself to look after and myself to pick me up and dust me off. There is no emotional safety net. Lived like that for the last 25 years too. It's how I've done things.
So part of this person has been killed off. Again, I wonder what's going to replace him. Maybe this insular, fiercely independent person will soften. Maybe.

And as for the fat, ugly, stupid person I believed myself to be. Nup. That belief has gone out the window.

I remember when every thing that was ever said to me felt like a harpoon to the heart.

Case in point, the "Hunt a Grunt" story. It still haunts me - not as a bad experience, but how badly low-self esteem and confidence and destroy you.

A boyfriend of mine told me about this game him and his friends used to play at clubs. They would have a competition to see who could chat up the most unattractive girl.

"You mean girls who look like me?" In shot back at him.
"Of course not. You're not even in the grunt league."

But I KNEW I was. I was that ugly, that unworthy, smelly, stupid, ugly.... I knew that I wasn't in this guy's league of attractive women seen as sport for the laughs of his mates. Cried for days over this. I slowly closed myself from the guy too. Knowing I was 'unworthy', we broke up soon after. He was too good for me - well, that's what my broken self thought some twenty odd years ago.

All crap and nonsense really.

Looking back now, I can see that the Hunt a Grunt game, as awful and insensitive as it is, was a post-pubescent boy doing what some post-pubescent boys do best - that being complete insensitive imbeciles who will grow up one day hopefully, into decent men - most of them do - some don't.. My reaction to the whole thing - a legacy of that awful pride and hurt that kept me upright for all those years. If I was to meet "Hunt a Grunt" guy now I reckon he'd be okay - probably highly embarrassed by the behaviour of his twenty-year-old self.

And my over-reaction to all this - quite natural for somebody who at the time was so broken.

So where does this leave me now - a week after dream group.

Well for one, I know that I feel purged for the flaying. All the navel gazing introspection over the last week has made me feel somewhat better about things. I know I've grown and changed. I know that I am worthy. I know that I'm not who I was twenty years ago - far more secure, far more confident, happy to be acknowledged for who I am as well as what I do.

Will I remain an over achiever. Probably - I'm a Leo - that's what Leos do (though I do wish somebody would latch on to the fact that Leos also love having their necks stroked and that lying in a sunny spot is the best thing ever! ONe day somebody will provide me with an appropriate sunny spot.)

Will I remain competitive with myself - probably - but I know I'm a lot gentler on myself - and there is room to fail and room to try again.

Will I remain proud. Of course - but I can laugh at myself - and I do this often.

There is still the fear about what the new animus will be like. I've managed to kill off so much of the old me.

What the new will bring can be seen as exciting - and this is what I have to focus on from now on.


Elisabeth said...

Wow, Pandora, what a rant. There's so so much here, so much that hurts, alongside all the courage and perseverance you display to keep you going on.

It seems to me so many of us women operate at either one of two extremes: either we're beautiful and loved only for that, or we're ugly and despised. There's not much in between.

I was part of the ugly and dumb brigade, but I'm beginning to realise now how false that was.

If only we did not need to measure ourselves by our appearance, by our performance and by other's perceptions of us. But we do and it goes back a long way to infancy and childhood, no doubt.

At least Pandora, you can write - and oh boy can you write - and to me that's a fantastic compensation for all the pain of the past.

You can put it into words and others can share it with you along the way.

Jackie K said...

The beauty of being in yor forties - unfortunately it takes this long to realise and shed some of the crap from our youth.
You have well and truly surpassed your past - I admire you for that, that competitive spirit has served you well even if it has meant you have been too hard on yourself on the way to now.
As for that Hunt a Grunt game - I'll tell you what that's really about, is insecure boys not believing they can score a girl they like, and so falling back on an "easy" option and pretending to each other they're doing it for laughs. Revolting but revealing.
Oh, and there is nothing to criticise about your exercise regimes - it's all good, those people are perhaps a little envious?

Kath said...

There's been a bit of this self-flaying stuff going about in cyberspace this week.

NONE of us were ugly, stupid or overlooked; we just allowed ourselves to feel like that.

I said to my twelve year old last night that I can see and understand her feelings of general dorkiness and awkwardness but, as we sit in the car park for a few minutes every morning because we're too early, we watch other kids go by and I'll say, "See, every person who passes us is filled with some kind of dread today and every day, convinced that we're all laughing and judging. What they don't know is that we're too busy worrying about ourselves to give them more than a nanosecond's thought."

Those precious few minutes every morning allows us both to reflect on a few things that bother us and as she crosses the road into school and I head back home, we both breathe a little easier.

Thank you for sharing, dear Pand. And remember, despite the horrific name of the game (it was also referred to as 'Pull a Pig' or 'Grab a growler') he said that you *weren't* in that league.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I wondered where my soapbox had got to - now I know :-)

Being an overachiever isn't a bad thing - I sometimes wish I was one.

BTW Mrs PM and both of my sisters are Leo. I don't really believe in horoscopes but there really IS a similarity between all three of them. All strong driven women with a purpose and a drive to achieve. Maybe there is something in it after all.

BTW you can borrow my soapbox any time.