Aug 30, 2010 12

Lingering lovingly on failure

back of head with irregular hair cut, sign reading "oops!"

When does a boon become a curse?

A trick question, of course: as any good Buddhist will tell you, a “boon” is just a thing, a fulcrum upon which other things can tilt one way or another. Like the Chinese Farmer story that’s haunted me since I first heard of it, what is your blessing is your curse, and vice versa.

For example, this ten-year stretch of my life:

I hate my job in advertising (curse) but it’s paid me well enough to transition to something I love (blessing), which turns out to be acting (curse). I’ve already moved to the #2 market for industry work (blessing), but an inability to book lucrative freelance ad work locally (curse) forces me to take a Stupid Day Job at one-fifth the wages I’d been earning as an ad ho (curse).

During the course of this job, I learn humility (blessing) but become so bored (curse) that I teach myself rudimentary skills in graphic design (blessing), which gives me an “in” at a highly-respected theater company (blessing).

Lacking sufficient acting proficiency, however, I grow increasingly desperate for decent roles (curse), the pursuit of which finally causes me to renege on a promise to my then-boyfriend, who subsequently dumps me (curse), exacerbating my health issues by masking the Crohn’s onset I’m unwittingly undergoing as garden-variety, heartbreak-induced weight loss (curse), leading to months of pain and hospitalization (curse) but paving the way for a bloody epiphany (blessing, although technically, more of an E-ticket ride) that changes the way I look at the world forever (blessing).

You can just as easily go through the previous three grafs swapping out “curse” for “blessing,” of course. Even the epiphany itself, which was absolutely the most fabulous 10 – 20 seconds of my life to date, could be looked at as a curse, no less because it made all other highs pale by comparison than because it was a wake-up bell that could not be un-rung.

My point, and I do have one, is this: looking at the why and how of things, keeping score, even a certain amount of anguish and teeth-gnashing, is not only more compelling to me, but in a lot of ways, it’s more fruitful. FOR ME. My blessings, seeing the potential in things, minute and obsessive analysis of my turns in the road, are my curse.

I love figuring things out; I love inhaling scads of information, putting it through whatever filters, then puzzling out how it fits together. And then? I like moving on. I’m not completely obsessive, but yeah, as my shrink has confirmed, I’m on the spectrum. Which is one of the reasons why I pay more attention to what I haven’t done than what I have, to how I fell short rather than succeeded, or however I’m phrasing it in the glass-half-empty way I do.

Are there other reasons? Yes: I’m nuts! And a perfectionist! My compass, she is effed up, probably irretrievably so. I am so messed up and it is so deeply ingrained that the best I will ever do is getting so smart about it that I can, to paraphrase my first-shrink-slash-astrologer, learn to do an end-run around my own nonsense so quickly that it will seem like I am not mightily effed up, that I may even get to (mostly) live the life of someone who is not mightily effed up. You know, that whole lounging-with-attitude ability that normal people have. This doesn’t mean I should not keep trying, nor that I should allow myself to use me as a punching bag. Not at all. A lot of what I try to make public is my process around this change, around seeing what’s messed up and figuring out ways of straightening it, untangling it, learning to put it aside where appropriate.

the author's teddy bearWhich is what brings me to Teddelia. Teddelia has been my personal teddy bear since I was small enough that she was big (in real life, she stands roughly 8″ high, whereas I am a towering 62″). Not continuously, she had many years of rest while the blankets Bunny stepped in, but she came out of retirement in my late 30s, during my relationship with The Youngster; we had a thing about using inanimate objects to act out a lot of drama we couldn’t bear to handle (no pun intended) ourselves.

The relationship ended (cf. reneging incident, above), but my thing for Teddelia stayed strong. She’ll get a breather for long stretches, but when the going gets tough, as it inevitably does, she hops onto my belly and we have ourselves a little discussion. If you can call it that. Usually, she stares me down or makes me laugh or does something else that the soft, fuzzy, oft-ignored, occasionally-steamrolled part of me needs to do to get the hard-ass’s attention. And after the illumination and debriefing, we snuggle up with a book or a repeat viewing of Jackie Brown or some Rohmer flick and put the day to bed.

And the talking to myself is not limited to the times Teddelia is handy. One of my newer habits is to call myself out on my own shit, out loud. I’ll make a mistake, say, letting the milk boil over, which happens far more than you’d think, given how many half-gallons of yogurt I’ve made over the past eight years.

Me (leaping from chair at the sound of the milk sizzling as it hits the range): @#$%! Idiot! I can’t believe you did it AGAIN.

Other Me (gently-but-firmly, as she chases after self-flagellating Me): Hey hey hey hey hey, that’s not how we talk about our friend, Colleen!

Me (irritated, but chastened, dealing with burners, sponges, etc.): Sorry. I know. Goddammit. Sorry.

Fin. Or sort of. It’s a process, right? Sometimes there’s more cursing; sometimes the chastening is (almost) as mean as the self-flagellating. But it’s getting better. It’s a process.

This is only the beginning of unpacking my last two posts on being annoyed with myself for not being able to get my work done properly, and of my problems with finding my “off” switch. I felt it was the most important part to bring to light, though, because if you jump on this blog at any given point, especially a Monday point when the heavy-duty essays tend to break, it’s easy to think that all I do is walk around beating the crap out of myself for not fulfilling unreasonable promises to myself. There’s far more to examine around the word “unreasonable,” for starters, my decision-making process for discernment as well as load capacity. In case I don’t get around to it immediately, yes, I am and have been addressing what should or shouldn’t make the cut based on what I actually want, as well as what’s humanly possible to do.

But if I “linger lovingly upon my failures,” to paraphrase Dan Owen, know that it’s as much about the pleasure and enjoyment I get from figuring shit out and bringing it to light, about figuring this shit out so I can do that shit differently, even if I fail at it as well, as it is some perverted desire to attack myself. I mean, yeah, there’s probably some of that, and I’m definitely not a natural horn-tooter, but I absolutely celebrate the gains.

Maybe not as much as I “should.” Almost definitely not in front of you. But to myself and to intimates, furry and other. Even out loud, sometimes.

xxx
c

Image by rutlo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Posted in: The Personal Ones

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