Actors and Acting and Eyeballs and Bulldogs

I reached a point in therapy that has been utterly mind-blowing and I can't wait to share it with everyone. Not everyone, just you guys.

1.) I am an introvert. I actually came upon this while reading the book "Quiet." I am an introvert stuck in a brain that doesn't think being an introvert is okay. I am a bitter introvert.

2.) Because I want to be perfect, I have tried to be an extrovert my whole life. And now I'm starting to understand why and how I'm going to give that whole thing up. Plot twist! I'd rather do crosswords and read a book and have a glass of wine with a few friends than go to the bar or a large party or generally interact with strangers or acquaintances. That stuff makes me drink too much, which in turn, turns off any uncomfortable feeling, leading to a good time. But if I have to drink a lot to feel comfortable in those places, maybe I should leave early. And I think I'm getting to the place where that's okay.

Part of my childhood was made up of my mother regularly citing two historical figures: Beethoven and Shakespeare. The white marble statue of Beethoven was carefully perched on the right side of our walnut-colored baby grand piano, his sheet music draped over the front, but never used as my mother had committed all of it to memory. She showed me "Farewell to the Piano" when I was five and I will never forget how to play it. Shakespeare was more of a joke. Mom loved making fun of pretentious "thespians" but truly loved the stage. When she needed us to laugh, she would recite this certain part of "Macbeth" over and over again until my brother and I knew it by heart. It was never serious and she always recited in a very comical, theatrical Laurence Olivier voice:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Ah, her Shakespeare bit was the best. My mother was never without a story, a bit, a joke, and it never failed to draw people in. She was a fantastic story teller, artist, musician, the life of the party, and even made friends for me by starting a club in my neighborhood growing up. It was called the "Good News Club" and she invited ALL of the kids around our house, even the sketchy Faulkner brothers who we all knew did questionable things when Mr. and Mrs. Faulkner were both at work. The Good News Club was when my mom showed us how to make an owl out of clay and while that was baking she showed us this game where we had to become a toilet paper salesman to win. It was magical and the neighbor kids loved her (even the Faulkners). And I grew up wanting to be just like her.

This want to be like my mom turned me into an actor. Buut I don't like attention in big crowds or when strangers are involved and being around a lot of people drains me. I used to sit in my room for days and just read a wagon full of books. That's what made me the happiest. I was social, had friends, was invited to parties and sleepovers which I enjoyed, but didn't need. But being perfect does not involve reading books by yourself unless you're learning something that is making you more perfect. So from junior high on, I decided I was going to make myself an extrovert. I was going to conquer being shy and not liking crowds to doing Shakespeare bits to strangers at parties. I was going to pretend to be happy about trying to be social all the time.

This basically just turned me into a self-loathing anxious baby.

For so long, I thought there was something wrong with me. Why don't I like to always be around people? Why can't I give a presentation to anyone, even people who I know very well? Why do I turn red at every meeting that I have to lead? The agony of feeling like I'm failing because I'm not who I want to be is pretty devastating. Being perfect is exhausting. And seeking perfection means I want to do all of this and I have to be everything, perfectly, all the time.

Let's be honest, okay? Doing Shakespeare bits to strangers at parties sounds great, but the reality of it is all these eyeballs staring at my head. Eyeball staring is thee most draining thing ever. It feels like it literally sucks my energy out of my body with a straw. Which is why I avoid eye contact with strangers because it costs too much. It's too hard. Too many eyeballs. I have a limit and when it's filled, I need four naps. But I wish it filled me up like it filled up my mom and made her happier.

We were driving home from lunch on Saturday and Paul looks out the window at the car next to us.
"You ever look over at the car next to you and see the driver look like this?"
Insert exaggerated frown face.
"No ... I'm usually looking at the road. But what's your point: there are a bunch of bulldogs driving around?"
"No, everyone just looks so unhappy."

I'm totally a bulldog when I drive. And it's not because I'm terribly depressed or a big meanie that purposely frowns at strangers to ruin there days. It's that I'm tired. I've forgotten how to accept myself for who I am right at this very moment, instead of waiting to love myself when I'm worthy of being loved. It's like I'm dangling this perfect carrot in front of my starving little face and won't let myself enjoy it until I deserve it. Until I earn being good enough. And I have no idea when that is or what that means. I have reached the point where perfect costs too much.

So here is what my inner voice is now forcing out.

There are things that are not okay.

  1. Being a jerk on purpose
  2. Not looking for your guinea pig when it runs away (that just made me sick writing that...)
  3. Rape culture
  4. Daniel Tosh
  5. Windows 8
  6. Toenails
Things that are okay:
  1. Saying something weird at Starbuck's. Example. Lady at Starbuck's hands me my beverage. She says: "A nonfat venti caramel macchiato. Enjoy!" And then I say, "You too!" (Except I'm the only one with a beverage to enjoy.) BUT it's okay to say weird things. People are weirder than you.
  2. Not being the life of the party. That's a lot of work that requires 2-4 naps.
  3. Doing crosswords on Saturday nights. Because words recharge my brain and make me talk better.
  4. Talking to my guinea pig instead of humans. He makes me laugh a lot and gets so excited to see me that he kicks his back legs like a little mule and sticks his tongue out when he wants more parsley.
  5. Loving myself for who I am, not who I'm going to be. Not contingent on how I look, what I do with my life or how many things I can get done on my day off. Loving myself immediately. At this moment. Without conditions. Try it: it's a pretty good idea.

Now you should make your own list. And be okay with turning red in front of people. Stop kicking yourself for saying something stupid and agonizing over the fact that you aren't who you think you should be. The version of yourself today is lovable and capable. Not any size smaller, or with more charisma or witty toasts to recite at the bar. Right now. I'm trying to get to all of these places, someday. Join me.

I hope that your "It's Okay" list is 10 feet tall. And that you feel taller than the bully in your head who says you're not good enough. Shut. That. Dummy. Up.