Escaping My Life


I have been feeling really scattered lately.

I mean, I know I have four small children. I get that.

But I was really rocking it a few weeks ago. Almost whelmed, even.

And now?

Now, I am decidedly tipping over whelmed.

I can always tell when I’m about to lose it. I escape into TV shows. Read books. Play Two Dots obsessively on my phone.

Anything to avoid dealing with my life, making meals, work (self-imposed or not), and my children.

I am even crankier and crabbier than usual.

Gamera calls me mean. She curses me under her breath. Like, ACTUAL cursing.

She’s 5.5.

And even though I know that my 2017 Theme this year is to Suck It Up and act like a grown up, truthfully, I just want this year to suck it.

Which is weird because this year has actually been going really well.

I have been reaching out to do more writing in different capacities, pitching the occasional collaboration or sponsor, finishing my ebook, and generally doing more than I have ever done in regards to writing.

So of course, I feel all my writing juices drying up. Leaving me withered. A husk.

I feel all out of words. Or at least, all the good ones. You know, the coherent ones.

Coherent words are good.

(See? I have been reduced to caveman speak. Words good. No words bad.)

Now that I think of it, it makes TOTAL sense why all of a sudden, I want to dive under the covers and disappear until 2018 or perhaps forever.

I am afraid.

I am afraid that because I have had some marginal success that more will be expected of me. Or required of me. And that I won’t be able to duplicate that success.

(And seriously, who do I think is expecting or requiring this of me?)

That everything up until now has been a fluke.

A complete accident. And soon, real soon, someone is going to realize that I am full of shit and that all my bluster is just that: bluster.

Unsubstantiated.

And for crying out loud. I am almost 40.

I SHOULD NO LONGER BE UNSUBSTANTIATED.

When I look back on my life thus far, there are two things that stand out in my mind that encapsulate how I deal with my fear of failure. Coincidentally, they both deal with musicals.

In my last year of high school, our choir and drama program was putting on the musical, Bye, Bye, Birdie.

I really wanted to be in it.

But I was afraid.

So I told myself there was no way I would get a part because I was Chinese – and there were no Chinese parts in the musical. Instead, I convinced myself I would be fine being in the orchestra and told my choir director that I wanted to be one of the pianists.

I didn’t try out at all.

I took myself out of the running entirely.

Four years later, in my last year at UCLA, I tried out for a musical written by Weiko Lin (music by Christopher Wong).

This one, I had a good shot of getting into – not only because I was good friends with Chris. This musical was about the Tienanmen Square massacre – so there were definitely roles for Chinese people.

So, I sucked it up and auditioned and lo and behold. I got one of the four lead parts.

I was ecstatic. And terrified.

And so, I did what terrified people do. I found an out.

I called my prayer partner up and we did “listening prayer” and I somehow convinced myself that God wanted me to turn down the role and spend more time on my floor to evangelize or whatever.

So, I turned the role down.

To this day, I regret making that decision. Not because I would be some famous actress or Broadway star now, but because I let fear dictate what I could or could not do.

Also, how many other chances would I have to be a lead in a musical now? I’m not saying it’s not possible. It’s just not high on my priority list.

Anyhow, I have told these two stories to Dr. T at least several times, and each time, she suggests that I might fear failure.

And of course, each time, I say, “Noooooo. That’s not true. I’m just lazy.”

But she’s right. As usual.

My laziness is the cover story I tell myself. To hide from myself my abject terror in trying out for the things I want – and want badly.

So, of course, now that I am taking some small, tiny steps towards being a writer, I am running scared.

Self-sabotage in the form of procrastination and laziness.

I escape into realms created by other people. Consuming at a ridiculous pace so that I can perhaps satisfy the craving to create something myself without actually having to create anything.

Well, brain. I’m onto you.

You’re just gonna have to suck it up like the rest of me. We’re going full steam ahead.

Letting Go of “Should”

Lately, I’ve felt so blah. As if I needed a Life Makeover. New clothes. New hair. New makeup. New body. New habits. New life. Nothing particularly wrong with my current life, yet still, I feel unsatisfied.

The problem with any makeover or getaway, however, is that eventually, you go back to your life. Your real life. And even with new clothes, hair, makeup, or whatever, someone, namely you, still have to maintain and live your life.

What use are nicer clothes if you don’t wear them because your kids will just use you as a human napkin anyway? (I cannot tell you how many times I have to repeat to my children, “I am not a napkin.”) What use is my fancy haircut if it’s in that weird stage of growing out and I just have no patience for it anymore but am too lazy to style? What use is all my expensive makeup that I never wear except on special occasions? (And don’t suggest that I wear it on a regular basis because then I will have to also wash my face on a regular basis and that idea is laughable.)

Really, why can’t I just outsource my whole life and only reap the benefits? Can’t someone spend time with my kids but they will still love me and search me out? Can’t someone cook for me or clean for me or work out for me? (I suppose given enough money, I could hire a cook and a house cleaner, but I really don’t have the inclination to do that, no matter how I complain.)

The thing is, I can do all these things, but I already feel crushed enough by an ever increasing list of “things I should do.” And it’s not that these things are even bad things. They’re all good things. Things and activities I legitimately believe will make me feel better about myself and my life.

However. I have realized (finally) that I tend to crumble when it comes to expectations. Some people rise to the challenge. I am not that “people.” One of the side effects of my childhood and the demands to be the best and never quite being good enough, as soon as I get wind of any expectations (no matter how reasonable), I worry about failure and not being good enough or perfect enough. Instead of working ever harder to achieve a goal, I make a bunch of exacting standards and rules and things to achieve and I look at that list and say, “Fuck it!” Because come on! I will never be able to do all of these things so why bother?

For example, when my friend, Fleur, initially floated the idea of spending the summer in Taipei last year, I was game – but I made very clear that I was only tagging along for the ride. She would have to find the preschool, tell me where and when to apply, work out with the teachers, find a place to live, and I would just throw money at her. The thought of me doing anything was horrifying and terrifying and paralyzing. I didn’t want her to have any expectations of me.

And for some bizarre reason, Fleur was ok with that arrangement. What can I say? She’s awesome. (And one could argue that she was going to be doing it anyway, I might as well benefit!)

Well, a funny thing happened. Once there was no expectation of any work from me, I actually did the majority of the research for where we would live and found us a place over a weekend. That’s about the only thing I did though. (Fleur still handled all the applications for the school, found us places to eat, and went to places for us to buy things. I just went along for the ride and negotiated for cheaper prices.)

Without the spectre of responsibility, I had no problem looking for a place. I had no problem conducting actual research (which is normally anathema to me). Go figure!

And that’s the thing: I wanted to be able to disclaim all responsibility in case of failure. Why? Because I take failure personally. As if I failed versus a situation not working out.

For instance when we finally arrived in Taipei and the apartment I rented for the summer (and there was a repeat of the scenario when we arrived at the apartment I rented earlier this year in January), my mother showed up at the apartments and just basically did her Taiwanese mother thing and ripped the place apart. I was livid. I took things personally – as if this were my apartment and my fault. When of course, how was I supposed to know? I could only do the best based on my research.

But nevertheless, I took my mother’s criticisms as an indictment of me as a person. She was baffled (and not more than a little pissed off) that I was so upset and angry with her comments. She kept asking, “Why are you so defensive? This has nothing to do with you!” Except in my mind, she was telling me I had failed and that yet again, I wasn’t good enough. My best was just not up to par.

Of course, there are decades of parent/child dynamics at play here (and my mother is pretty much impossible to satisfy), but in general, why was I so upset when my mother was merely pointing out facts and reality?

There is definitely more to say about this topic, but I am exhausted (and starting this post rather late in the night), so I will table that for another time. Suffice it to say, my therapist, Dr. T, thinks that the next thing that would be good for me to work on is to let things go. To not see statements of fact (or opinion) as a judgment on my worth.

I have to tell myself that it is a “good thing to do” versus another “should.”

It’s a vicious cycle, my friends. Also, I now have Let It Go stuck in my head. You’re welcome. (Sorrynotsorry.)

May you have a should-free day.