Two posts in the same week, whoa.
I had a major idea strike my brain last night-- an idea that's a giant "duh" moment by anyone's standards, but completely gobsmacked me nonetheless-- that I'm not actually a Type A personality. I'm the child of a Type A personality, and was raised according to those standards, but I'm actually a creative type. I've been judging myself a failure because I've been trying to fit a round peg into a square hole; I can make it work, but not for long, and it exhausts me and makes me unhappy and I have to stop before I self-destruct.
Discovery: other people are not my father, and they do just fine-- they get stuff done, have lives, raise children, do their jobs, are successful and enjoy their lives. I can be one of those other people. I can do this differently. I can relax and go at my own pace and "goof off" by doing things that are less practical than enjoyable. Operate as a creative type, accept that there are some parts of my personality that don't work the same way as my dad's Type A style, and that this is okay. He just didn't know how a creative type works, so he was trying to make me work well, and the only way he knew how to work was the way he works, so he taught me that; it just doesn't happen to be applicable for me.
Over the past two years I practically stopped writing and singing, my two main creative venues. Canary in the mine, there: if there was a sign that I was headed down the wrong road, that should have been it. If I'm not creating-- worse, if I don't feel like it or don't feel like I can-- then that's a sign that I'm under a great strain. Can't have that.
I think the main thing, besides that, is that I need to change my filtration process in terms of how I deal with other people. My therapist pointed out that I tend to want to be able to only get positive responses from people, but it's not possible, so when my situation changes in such a way that sharing a certain subject would elicit a negative response, I lie, or avoid the subject entirely, or turn it into a joke to try to keep the other person in a good mood. That's my current filtration process; that's my form of control. The problem becomes that then a) I don't trust the positive response, and I figure that the person likes me but they're wrong because they don't know me for real, so that takes away a lot of the affirmation of positive responses, and b) I become deeply paranoid that they'll find out the bad stuff, which means that I overreact like mad to negative responses. Worst of all, this doesn't really control anything, because I honestly have no real control over other people's feelings toward me. I'm trying to control something I can't control. Madness.
My therapist suggested a different filter: choose the subjects. If I think of each subject as a door, I've been trying to keep all those doors going only one way-- positive response. A more useful way of controlling things would be to choose which subjects I was comfortable with having open between me and the other person-- subjects that I could deal with having go both ways, positive and negative.
I added another layer on that, which after some discussion she agreed was a good thought: to practice, as I had that control, being more honest about the chosen subjects, so that I can lessen the paranoia of "oh, they don't know what a big fuck-up I am about this, if they find out I'll be in big trouble."
Also, regarding negative responses-- I'm re-working my response to those, based on her question, "What happens if someone is angry with you? What do you think, how do you feel?" My old response was that I thought they didn't like me, that I'd fucked up, that I was bad, that I had to fix it; I was scared. I'm trying to re-do that now, and think of annoyance and anger more as part of a natural relationship (family, marriage, friendship, even business relationships)-- the sort of thing that crops up every once in a while because of the closeness. That it's not a sign that a positive relationship doesn't exist; it's actually a kind of sign that a positive relationship does exist. That the bad stuff is transitory, and not a catastrophe.
By accident, the other night, we had a minor breakthrough. My Hub was in a mood; he got quiet and subdued and didn't really feel like talking. I left him alone-- and, more, I just figured that he was grumpy and that he'd get over it if left to himself. Son of a bitch, it worked. He got over his funk naturally, and in a lot shorter time than he would have if I'd been pressuring him by trying to fix his bad mood, and then he explained why he'd got that way and voila, we were fine. All better.
Partly, I think I managed that so well and felt so good about it (and not anxious at all! rock on!) because a few weeks back my therapist told me about a study someone had done about successful couples, where the guy had concluded that as long as both couples take the same communication mode when they have a conflict-- fighting it out, discussing it, or avoidance-- as long as they're both speaking the same emotional language, and not using corrosive behavior or language or completely walling each other off, then the relationship is operational and good. My Hub and I both avoid conflict, so by nature we'll both avoid the subject while we're angry and then work it out later, when we're not angry. I had this very quiet idea in my head that I hadn't ever articulated, not even to myself, that because we weren't dealing with conflict by discussion or actual fights, that unless we learned to deal with conflict one of those ways then the marriage was DOOOOOOMED. When my therapist told me that no, we were actually using one of the working techniques and would probably be fine, I was so relieved that I burst into tears. (And I hadn't even known that was bothering me!)
So I'm relaxing. Bit by bit. I'm starting to trust myself and not treat my personality and my body as though the only thing keeping me from going on some kind of horrible rampage was my pure strength of will. The more I relax, the more I realize that my life will not come apart if I unclench. I'm relaxed about exercise, but I'm still doing it. I goof around in the morning and drink coffee and snuggle my Hub and then, sure enough, I wander off to jog or do yoga... no pressure. I stopped pressuring myself to drink water and yet I find myself going through several 20-oz bottles every day just so I can keep hydrated. I've given myself permission to eat what I want-- I'm not tracking it-- but I find myself uninterested in fatty foods, only mildly interested in desserts, and mostly choosing tasty good-for-me stuff. Granted, at first that was really not what I was doing; I had a few Dorito attacks and entirely too much Halloween candy, I had a number of days where I skipped exercise or really low-balled it, and I practically stopped drinking water for a few weeks (only to eventually realize that my sinuses and skin get all screwy when I do that). But over the past week or so, that sort of behavior and those foods have just seemed kind of pointless. I think I may actually be entering into a zone where I can actually eat the way I see "normal girls" eat-- where a little ice cream once a week is enough, a candy bar once in a while, chips at a party, but mostly solid, healthy foods. Drink water because it makes me feel better. Exercise because it's what I do in a morning to start my day. No pressure, just kind of what I do. It's like I worked very hard at learning all this stuff, and I'm just now realizing that I have it imprinted on myself enough that I can finally relax into it and truly make it part of my life instead of making it always feel like it's something forced on me.
I feel like the grown-up version of myself is going to be different than I thought it would be, more relaxed and go-with-the-flow in terms of time and organization, less rigid limits and more natural wave patterns. And it's okay. It's not what I grew up with, and that doesn't make it bad, it just makes it me. I can look back on my whole life and see all the times when I made decisions to do things that felt right to me, that my family wouldn't necessarily have done, and these things all fit the "creative type" pattern and aren't a sign that I'm a screw-up. I'm doing okay. I'm fine. I just need to find my natural pattern and work with that, and trust my own worth-- both to myself and to other people-- and I will be fine.
I need to lose a little weight, but at this point it's more about fitting back into clothes than being a big self-esteem issue. I'm hoping that my new relaxed way of going about things will get me back to the point where I'm eating what I need and exercising enough and the flab gradually melts off. Knock on wood. I'd like it if what I do naturally would be good for me.