Monday, 28 May 2012

Things I am not very good at: Not being a neurotic nitwit

 I have a long running conversation with my husband Greg that usually takes place after every social gathering we host.
“Do you think they had a good time? Do you think they liked the food? Do you think they like us?”
To which he usually responds: “Of course they had a good time, yes they liked the food and they definitely like me, I am not so sure about you,” (he has a cruel sense of humour).
We had some friends over recently and I was sure everyone was having a good time judging by the amount of chatter, laughter and food and drink being consumed. Plus they all thanked us profusely and said what a great time they had as they left, with kisses and hugs all round.  
“Do you think they enjoyed themselves? Did they like the food? Do you think they like us?”  I asked Greg a few minutes later. He couldn’t even be bothered to respond in his usual loving way, but just rolled his eyes, and went to bed.

This is me on a really bad day
Over the years I have managed to take the art of insecurity to a whole new level. I can feel hurt about almost anything if I put my mind to it. If I don’t get an email for a while from my family (I have a very large extended family) then I think that maybe they are all just writing to each other and leaving me out. If I hear that one friend has been to another friend’s house and I wasn’t included, I am hurt and think it means they like each other much more than they like me.  If someone tells me they really like Greg and think he is so funny, I think that means they don’t really like me and I am not funny. If my children don’t bother to contact me for a while I think they have found a new mother they like better. (OK I may be exaggerating a tiny bit). But I am aware that I have a teeny problem in this area and sometimes ask Greg to interpret interactions I have had with people because my sensitivity radar can just sometimes be just ever so slightly,  off kilter. As he never experiences a moment of self-doubt or inadequacy (some could even accuse him of being arrogant and highly annoying, but I don’t know who those people are!) he can usually provide a much better version of events. For example, say we are out with friends at a dinner and someone says to me; “So Fay, what do you do with yourself all day since you are not working?”
I interpret that to mean; “So Fay, your life must have no meaning and purpose, you have no real  identity and really you are good for nothing and this is kind of what I expected as I have always thought you are a pretty useless person, what on this good great earth could you possibly do to fill your time that would have any meaning and all you seem to do is make small and irritating mistakes.”  
Greg’s version goes something like this; “I thought he meant what do you do with yourself all day now that you are not working.”
Amazing isn’t it? How did he come up with that???

This is one of the reasons I love Anne Lamott, and her books on faith and writing. They have encouraged me to keep writing and praying, have highlighted that there are some people out there who are as neurotic and insecure and paranoid as I am, and as importantly, have made me laugh. She includes this poem by Phillip Lopate in her book Bird by Bird which seems to be written just for me: 
We who are
your closest friends
feel the time
has come to tell you
that every Thursday
we have been meeting,
as a group,
to devise ways
to keep you
in perpetual uncertainty
discontent and
by neither loving you
as much as you want
nor cutting you adrift.
(Added my own 4 lines below as he talks about ex husbands and analysts which don’t apply)
Your priest is
in on it,
plus your extended family,
your children
and your husband;
and we have pledged
to disappoint you
as long as you need us.
In announcing our
we realize we have
placed in your hands
a possible antidote
against uncertainty
indeed against ourselves.
But since our Thursday nights
have brought us
to a community
of purpose
rare in itself
with you as
the natural center,
we feel hopeful you
will continue to make unreasonable
demands for affection
if not as a consequence
of your disastrous personality
then for the good of the collective 

This is me on a good day
 Silly right? Who would really feel like that? And yes I have tried prayer and therapy, and yes my husband is a saint for putting up with me. Talk about high maintenance. Believe it or not, I think I am a little more secure now that I am have become a lady of certain age (ie over 50). But I have come to accept that I will always be somewhat neurotic, and as long as I can laugh about it, I will survive. It has also helped me to be more sensitive to other people's feelings which some at least seem to appreciate.  Greg has even learned a few things from me and he no longer asks someone a question, like how their work is going and then wanders off while they are still talking, leaving them somewhat confused and forcing them to tell me the answer because I am still standing there pretending to be interested (something he used to do all the time when we first got married). And really, when I think about it, if I was stable and secure like him, how boring our lives would be. What on earth would we talk about after everyone has gone home??

Monday, 21 May 2012

Things I am not very good at: Navigating

Glorious Gloria

I have a best friend and her name is Gloria. (Actually Gloria2, I wore out Gloria 1, she literally gave up one day and died from exhaustion, she was muttering something about not being able to take it anymore as she sailed up to GPS heaven). I ignore the people who fail to understand just how special our relationship is, and what a difference she has made to my life. How could anyone not love Gloria?
It took me a while to come out of the closet and admit that I was directionally challenged. I can get lost in a phone booth and if I think the way to go is right, it is almost guaranteed to be left. I had a breakthrough one day when I read a book called Never Get Lost Again by Linda Grekin. The author had done extensive research on those of us without a sense of direction, and I discovered that there are millions of folk out there just like me and that it has nothing to do with my sex or level of  intelligence. Many are even worse than I am as at least I can read a map (even if I do have to hold it upside down and look at my hands to tell left from right). The problem also influences esteem and confidence so maybe this was why I make so many small and irritating mistakes! Anyway, now I can admit it freely, not only because I am not alone, but also because there is help at hand. Now I have Gloria.

With Gloria, I can go wherever I want with a little more confidence. I admit I still have some slight navigational issues and can sometimes turn off the motorway just a teeny bit earlier than she meant me to, which means I have taken the wrong exit, which does tend to raise my blood pressure and I have been known to swear and yell at her, even though it was completely my fault. She never yells or swears back however, and instead of shouting “why did you turn off there you stupid *beep woman? I meant the NEXT beep exit!” (*channeling my father yelling at my mother) she just says gently, “re-calculating…” in that lovely gentle British accent and then comes up with a solution. I love her…no I LOVE HER! Some days I think I love her more than the NZ All Black rugby team and that is saying something.

However, as in any intimate relationship, sometimes Gloria and I have our off days. One such episode occured when I was going to collect a friend from her hotel near the Johannesburg airport. I set off very confidently, but knew something was amiss when I sailed past the airport with another 10km to go. I ended up in a rather seedy neighbourhood with no hotels for miles around, she had the right street name, just the wrong suburb! So I called the hotel and they gave me better directions, which I promptly reprogrammed into Gloria, turned around and headed back the way I had come. Slightly stressed but still coping, and not blaming her at all. 
“In 500 meters turn left,” she said, and I obediently followed without question and wondered why I had ended up in the car rental return car park of the Johannesburg Airport. I was pretty sure my friend was not sleeping in a rental car. So I tried again, driving back out onto the motorway, following Gloria as she told me to take that exit and turn into that road until I was once again back at the airport. I may have just ever so slightly started screaming at her at this point.
Anyway, to cut a long and painful story short, poor old Gloria was still operating under the old motorway system which had been upgraded for the Football World Cup. I eventually collected my friend a couple of hours late, looking somewhat disheveled, with hair standing straight on end, hands clenched around the steering wheel, sweat pouring from every pore and wild eyes darting in every direction. Even though it wasn't really her fault, Gloria was stuffed into the glovebox and I did not talk to her for a week. 

It does appear that a GPS can cause great strife in a relationship. I have a friend who is jealous because her directionally challenged partner thinks the GPS knows the way better than she does. They have a male voiced version because he couldn’t stand the thought of taking directions from a woman. Apparently it sounds just like Sean Connery so maybe she would be better to run off with the GPS/Sean and leave her partner to just get lost! Another friend spends the whole time they are in the car yelling at her husband to throw the poor GPS, who is minding its own business and just doing its job, out the window. Because she is not directionally challenged she is offended by the idea that they need help with directions. Another kiwi friend wanted to murder her husband because he took the GPS away with him and left her with an office spare who was talking to her in Afrikaans and she couldn’t understand a thing it was saying, and got very lost as a result. But let’s face it, most relationships were already rife with arguments over directions and maps and getting lost, so now at least we can blame the GPS instead of each other.

My husband also has a somewhat complex relationship with Gloria, but he has to admit she has made his life easier. Now he doesn’t have to spend ages drawing maps for me, and I have stopped calling him in a great panic because I have no idea how to find my way home. I can still get lost trying to find the toilets in a shopping mall and he has to sometimes come looking for me because I am wandering around on the wrong floor of a hotel, but unfortunately this will keep happening until they devise a GPS that works indoors and that I can strap to my person. Things can get a little tense in the car as he does like to question Gloria every now and then, just to show who is boss.
“Left? Are you sure?” he will say, eyebrows raised in questioning glare even though he has no idea where we are going. This brings up some trust issues
 for me with Gloria  (especially after the airport incident) which leaves me feeling insecure with her and annoyed with him. I hope the day never comes when I have to choose between them because I may have to go with Gloria. How could I leave her? I love and need her way too much...well that is until a younger and more updated model comes along! Now, where have I heard that before?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fay’s Faylures : A small and irritating mistake ponders whether she is about to make yet another small and irritating mistake

To Blog or not to Blog, that is the question!
“Write a blog,” people told me. “You like writing, you like making people laugh, you have lived all over the world, you must have lots of stories, what’s stopping you?” 
“Ok I will!” I said and rushed off to my computer. I stared at the screen for a while. I began to have second thoughts. I really had no idea where to begin or even what to blog about. Even if I did, what would people think?  

“Do research,” people told me. “Look at what others are doing. My cousin writes one, my friend’s mother writes one, my uncle’s dog writes one, just check them out.”
“Ok I will!” I said and rushed off to my computer. I stared at the screen and read hundreds of blogs; personal blogs, political blogs, family blogs, travel blogs, health blogs, relationship blogs, fashion blogs, funny blogs, sad blogs,  blogs on how to blog, blogs on how not to blog; I was soon blogged out. They all looked better than anything I could do, with fancy pictures and doo dahs. I began to have second thoughts.  What if people think my blog is boring? What if I offend people by something I write? What if people think I am stupid and are offended and don’t bother to read it because it’s boring. What if I fail???  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into and decided I didn’t want to find out. After all, what would people think?

“It’s just a blog darling,” my husband Greg told me, after I told him I had decided I didn’t want to start a blog after all, that I had much more important things to do; like working on that world famous novel I was trying to write.
“You aren’t running for President or anything. Why are you so worried about it, what could go wrong?”  
“There are a thousand things that could go wrong,” I explained patiently…well alright, I snapped back. He just gave me that highly annoying look he has perfected over the years which lets me know he sees right through my weak excuses. He can be so irritating sometimes, especially when I know he is right! (He thinks he is right all the time but that is a blog for another day!)
 “OK, I will, even if it just to show him,” I said and rushed off to my computer. I stared at the screen for a while.  I began to have second thoughts. What if people would think it is just another thing that I am not very good at? According to a former boss, who had a PHD so he should know, I was not very good at anything at all, other than making too many small and irritating mistakes. (He will also feature in a blog for another day). While this had not exactly helped my confidence or self-esteem, he had given us a good laugh. (We decided that what he actually meant was that I was a small and irritating mistake, which was right on the button. I am small (5’2”), Greg often tells me I am irritating (and vice versa) and my mother told me once, when I asked her if I had been a mistake since I was the last of 7 children and she was in her early 40s when she had me, that all her children had been mistakes, which ironically, had made me feel much better!.) But what could a small and irritating mistake have to say in a blog that would be worth reading? Better not to even try, that way it wouldn’t become yet another of my Faylures (get it?). It would probably be boring anyway, and what would people think?

 I went to bed feeling relieved that I had finally made a decision, but woke up feeling irritated and dissatisfied.  I was just so tired of worrying about what people think. I was even more tired of listening to the voice in my head that told me that I was probably going to fail. I had been listening to that voice my entire life (it used to be high and squeaky, reminding me of one of my bossy aunts, but lately had developed into the deeper patronising tone of my former boss) I was certainly tired of listening to him! I started thinking about a book called Poke the Box by Seth Grodin, that I had read recently. I was not even sure why I was reading it at the time, as it was mainly about being more creative and innovative in business, which was not really relevant, but he seemed to be speaking directly to me at one point.
“Some of us hesitate when we should be starting instead. We hold back, promise to do more research, wait for a better moment, seek out a kinder audience. This habit is incredibly common, it eats up our genius and destroys our ability to make the contribution we are quite capable of making. Call it hypogo-trapped into not enough starting.”
I was not sure about the genius or contribution part but the rest certainly sounded like…well…ulp…me. Was this a sign from God that I should give it a go? But what to blog about? Seth Grodin didn’t tell me that.

Then it came to me as I was sitting in the hairdresser thinking about how I am not very good at handling hairdressers (for some reason they intimidate me and I always say I am happy with the outcome even if I go screaming home and hide in the cupboard crying for weeks until it grows out) which led to me thinking about my nasty boss, who he had made me want to hide in a cupboard crying most of the time, and it may have been the fumes from the hair dye, but I decided that maybe I should try some reverse pyscology and blog about all the things I am not very good at. Maybe there are other tortured souls out there dying to read about my failures and insecurities so they can feel better about their own, and the rest could have a good laugh at my expense.  Maybe I would be good at that. Maybe this could be my genius and contribution that the world has been waiting for? Or maybe it will just be me making yet another small and irritating mistake. Either way, here goes my first ever blog....but what will people think?