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I'm a writer, a freelancer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, a journaling junkie, an introvert, a chronic-pain-sufferer, an idealist, a geek, a TV-lover. Welcome to my corner of the web!

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Don't be the lowest common denominator of yourself

The last more-than-a-year has been really hard. The last almost five years has been hard, too. It's been a rough long while in which I dealt with health problems, unemployment, depression, stress, moving too many times, living out of storage while parked in other people's corners, and this continuing feeling that I'm not living up to my own goals and expectations of myself. All that endless trouble--trouble just to survive, let alone actually live a life--wears on you, you know? It wears and it wears, until you get to where I'm only just starting to get out of: the lowest common denominator of yourself.

You know how when a show has been on for a long time, or a book series has, like, ten or more books in it? How the characters start to sound like broken records and how things just keep getting worse, and the characterization can fall flat and depend on too much short-hand?

I think that's what extended stress does to us--that's how we start handling ourselves. Like lists of traits. things to tick off to be who we are, but without the space to actually feel like ourselves.

See, I had this moment a while ago. For years, since I lived in communal bliss in the dorms of my undergraduate school with my LobbyGirls*, I've been drinking tea every day. Usually, I'd make a pot and nurse it for hours, and take those few minutes at the beginning of the day to wait for the water to boil, to choose the tea, to wake up and center doing something quiet and meaningful to myself.

But lately, I haven't been doing that. The last year, and probably a lot of time before that, I don't know how long I was doing it, I've just been making my tea by the cup, one at a time in the microwave, and just grabbing whatever was the cheapest and most abundant tea closest to hand, without making the choice of what tea to drink. I realized that one day as I put another cup of tea in the microwave, and I suddenly felt like I'd just noticed something vital was missing. I'd defined myself as someone who drinks tea, and I'd been so stressed out that all I was doing was the bare minimum that could count as drinking tea.

It was the lowest common denominator of myself.

And it was symbolic of how I'd been living my life--a friend suggested I call 2015 the Cup-By-Cup Year when I told her about this revelation.

Now, the question is, what do we do about it when we've realized that we're shorthanding ourselves?

Here's what I'm doing:

I'm looking for the things I used to love, and seeing how I can bring them back. It's hard. It's stupidly, frustratingly hard, and some of those things no longer apply, but others are still there, still wonderful, just waiting for me to remember them. Like reading books. And painting things. And doing my nails. And braiding my hair. And perfect eyeliner. I already published three books, a novella, and a book of poems, and when I'm done prepping for the Fair, I'll be working on getting my next two novels out. And I'm back to making a proper cuppa, at least part of the time**.

I'm looking for ways to make my actual situation, the framework my life has to sit inside, better--I'm thinking about going back to school again, if I can swing it. I'm looking into ways to build my business so I can use it as an actual income and not a hobby. I'm learning how to promo, and slowly starting to use what I learn. I'm talking to people. I'm easing into putting myself out there--like going to the GeekCraft Expo as a crafter with a table full of pretty things to sell. I'm researching escape hatches and stepping stones. I'm trying to talk about what I want so other people have the chance to help if they can.

And in the meantime, I'm trying to be mindful enough to notice when I'm falling back on shorthand. It shouldn't be so hard to just be myself, but the last several years, everything has been hard, and I'm having to relearn who I am and how I fit into the spaces around me. There's been some hard lessons in that, I won't like, but lessons are there for a reason, and I'm where I am because I didn't pay attention to them.

So now is when I start making the life I want, not the bare minimum I'll accept. I'm done waiting around for things to get better on their own. I'm tired of the world not looking out for me the way I want it to, and I'm going to start looking out myself. I'm tired of a bad situation standing in the way of the awesome life I want.

And if I can do it, so can you!

Have you had any moments like this? What did you do about them? Are you there now?

*They have a reputation. They also were the most comfortable in my skin I have ever been, when I belonged there.
**Sometimes I'm drinking tea that doesn't need that much fuss, but at least I'm drinking different kinds and taking note of the tea I'm actually choosing each morning!


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