Monday, February 20, 2017

In a loop

No, I guess I haven't fully recovered.

I'm feeling unhappy again this morning.

Part of it is, because of time constraints, I had to let something slide a bit in terms of the effort I normally go to (writing an exam) and I know it's not as good as it COULD be but I have other things I need to attend to (this manuscript, for one).

Part of it is, someone I know apparently had a really GOOD weekend, they are going around talking about how much fun they had AND how the research project will probably make them famous, and I feel very much like Big Mac before he made the decision to dress up as Cousin Orchard Blossom before the Sisterhooves Social: the feeling that I don't matter that much, that all I really do is work hard and in obscurity and no one really cares.

Part of it is thinking about the 'thank you' we received. I know they were pressed for time and didn't know who-all was doing what, but in the packets we got? There was a pre-printed certificate of participation where we were supposed to fill in our names. And that does nothing for me....because all these things are worth nothing other than the emotional boost they might give. (They are useless for things like post-tenure review packets, because anyone could grab one and fill their name in on it).

And yeah, I know: looking for outward validation of your existence is a sure way to be disappointed, but this is one of the ways in which I am broken. Too many years as a high-achieving student that the other kids didn't like*, so I looked to the teachers to "like" me, and the way I got that was by earning high grades and being tractable and being willing to take on extra work. And of course that doesn't mean that people will really like you, if you're willing to do thankless tasks: a large percentage of humanity will just exploit you.

(*And if I'm really being honest: a lot of the time I didn't like myself all that much. Maybe I still don't.)

And then I get annoyed at myself because really, doing good work is what you should care about. That everything I have ever been taught in church since I was a wee sprog was that you love others at least as much, if not more, than yourself, that the needs of the community outweigh your desire to shine or be paid attention to or whatever, and that human validation shouldn't matter anyway, because we're all both horribly imperfect and incredibly loved. It's just....that love seems so abstract sometimes, and one of the ways in which I am broken is that I really WOULD still like that gold star or that Hello Kitty sticker or even a hastily-drawn smily face on my work once in a while, so it feels like I'm not shouting into an abyss. At my best I can get past that but lately I've not been at my best.

But yeah. There is somewhere still in my psyche that 8 year old or 11 year old or whatever that is dancing up and down from foot to foot, going "notice me! like me!" and then feeling like she doesn't matter when the more popular or talented kid (because there were few kids LESS popular than I was, and it felt that there were too many who were more talented than I was) got noticed instead.

And the problem is, intellectually, I know that (a) I shouldn't feel this way and (b) I should just say 'no' to some stuff, and if people don't like that, fine, and if no one else steps up to do it, maybe it doesn't get done. But the pattern of me going into Golden Retriever mode to try to get people to like me is such an old and well-worn pattern that it's hard for me to break.

And yes, I know: why do you want people to like you so badly.

Ask my inner 9 year old, who is eating her lunch alone in a dark corner of the lunchroom. She can tell you. I suspect being rejected by peers as a kid leads to one of two things: Total Misanthropy, which I've never been able to manage, or sort of a desperate doglike need to convince people that you really are okay after all, because maybe if you convince other people that you're okay, you can convince yourself that you are.

(One of the saddest, and yet most-relatable-to-me Peanuts strips ever, was the one where Charlie Brown talks about how he lies in bed late at night, hoping for a voice crying, "We like you, Charlie Brown!")

You know? Lucy really was an awful person in a lot of ways. Yes, I know she was insecure, but still.

A lot of this is two non-weekends talking, and feeling a little bitter at all the people who don't have to work today and so are sleeping in or watching old movies while they eat a bowl of cereal sitting on the couch, or who are sitting in a cozy chair with a book.

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