This might not be the best strategy.
Last weekend we went to Dapper Day so I could take pictures, and I caught a bug that makes me shaky and tired and utterly useless... until about 4AM, when I am wide awake and shaky and utterly useless. So I've been lying in bed a lot, stewing and sighing and - ug - thinking.
You know those feedback loops our brains get stuck on sometimes? How come those are never about nice things? Like, why can't we endlessly obsess over that perfect trip to Disneyland? Or the way our favorite person looks when s/he laughs? But noo-oo. It's all, "Oooh, you shouldn't have said that thing last week!" Or, "Surprise! You forgot so-and-so's birthday and now they secretly hate you." Or, "Hey, remember that time ten years ago when you got fired? WASN'T THAT AWFUL?? Let's go relive allll the tiny details in slow-motion and with color commentary from your inner self-loathing again. And again. And again and again and again!"
This month I learned a family member thinks I don't work, and is disgusted by it. She thinks John and I are independently wealthy (hoo!) and sit around making costumes all day. She's never been to Epbot, and brags to others in our family about this, because ew, blogs.
We see her all the time, by the way, and talk about Epbot pretty often. So, I was a little rocked. I mean, I'm fine, and this *does* explain why she glazes over every time I say the word "steampunk," so it's actually kind of funny.
Or... bah, maybe I'm not fine. Maybe I'm a people-pleaser, and relatives more so. Maybe I fret for days before posting personal, anxiety-related things, and rely on you guys to assure me it's OK that I do. Maybe I pour my heart and soul into my photos, my projects, my proud cheer-leading of the things I love. Maybe this blog is the one contribution I make to the universe that I feel actually matters from time to time.
Maybe I'm just a little "peopled" out, a little sick, and need some quiet to recoup.
Cats and/or stuffed animals always help.
I'll never blame folks for thinking I don't work. I get to do things I love, and a lot of times I get paid for it. That certainly doesn't seem like work. I'm surrounded by joy and creativity and support, and most of the time I don't have to wear pants. If that's not the American dream, then heck, let's all move to Ottawa and eat Beaver Tails. (The pastry, I mean, not actual beaver tails. [Those wouldn't taste nearly as good.])
But I really do try. I put me into the things I do. Then I agonize over whether those things are good enough. I take too much time, I stay up too late, I neglect John. I lose sleep, I re-write 'til it's memorized, and I fret over readers who tell me their pain, searching for just the right words to lessen it.
I feel less when I'm not working. Useless. Unfulfilled. Like all I've done 'til now was for naught, and all that really matters is my next post. I can recognize that's not entirely healthy, but on the flip side, when I really nail a post? When I've written something I'm proud of, or show you something new I love, and think you'll love, too? Best. Buzz. EVER.
And when John brings home letters from the PO box, saying I helped? When I look at Fans of Epbot, a community that's doing its best to lift each other up, and come together, cross divides, all grounded on a foundation of commonality I helped spark? When I get e-mails and fan art that show I do have an impact?
(A reader named Jim drew this after my Panic Victories post... and I love it.)
Or when a reader gets tongue-tied or cries, because of meeting me? Me, the girl who got fired that time. The girl who says the wrong things and who will forget your name. The girl who messes up, who's ashamed and uncertain and just, you know, trying.
Those things aren't a buzz. They're a reason to keep trying.
I'm a people-pleaser. Always have been, always will. But I hope, with your help, I'll aim to please the right people, and learn to care a little less about the ones who will never be impressed, no matter how I try.
As I lay staring at the wall this afternoon, I thought again about my favorite quote from Maya Angelou: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel." I closed my eyes, and thought about how *I* feel around each of my closest friends and family. The answers actually kind of surprised me.
I realized some of the people I most want to be around are the ones who make me feel less, inadequate, uncertain - even ashamed. I realized these were the ones I was forever trying - and failing - to impress.
But other family and friends, well, just the thought of their presence made my shoulders loosen, made me feel relaxed and confident and creative.
We rise or sink to the level of those we choose to surround ourselves with. I've always known that, but this was the gut-check I think I needed. Because I need to be around that second group of people more in my life. And I need to tell them that.
So my challenge to you - because heck yeah, let's make this a challenge - is this: Close your eyes and imagine each of the people in your life, one by one, sitting in front of you. Think about how their presence makes you feel. You might just be surprised. Then orient your life, best you can, to be more around the ones who make you the best you. More importantly, tell them they make you the best you. I can say from experience, there is no greater compliment.
And now I'm going back to bed. Hugs, high fives, and I'll see ya on the flip side.