Fear Itself

I’ve been making a few sad realizations of late, most recently last night.  It’s actually thrown me off my game today, and I’m having trouble figuring out what to do.

So I’m currently doing next to nothing.

I just can’t focus.

I mean, I’m also hella tired and it is crazy hot outside.  Brody and I went to Pet Valu earlier and I’m not sure which of us was more over the heat by the time we got back.  He got to see some of his favourite people, though.  They make such a big deal over him there.  I love it, and naturally, he does, too.  Also, there’s no shortage of treats, and today we met a dog as big as a pony.  Bless.  Munchkin.

I have so much to do, and I thought I had a plan, but I can’t remember now, and I’m too distracted by sadness to sort it out.

Actually, no, it’s not even that.  I think rather than sadness, it’s more a tentative resignation.  I’m not sure…like, I feel like a few days ago, I had a certain confidence in my choices and the path I was following.  I don’t feel that same confidence now.  I’m not certain that it’s wrong, but I’m no longer sure that it’s right, either.  I feel like I keep making decisions now, and then second guessing myself.  THAT makes me sad – on top of some of the things I’m realizing – but the uncertainty isn’t caused by sadness.

I think it’s more likely caused by fear.

What if I’m going the wrong way, after all?

Officially Amazing

According to my Facebook memory feed, it was one year ago today that I first learned I was officially a Guinness World Record holder. I started to cry pretty much immediately. Tears of happiness, relief, vindication – a myriad of emotions went through me in the moments following that message. I had to read it twice to be sure that it was real; that I had actually done it.

I actually had.

I needed to confirm a couple of things for them, and even then it would be a few days before the website reflected The Mind Reels’ official amazing-ness, so I decided to only tell a couple of people right then, and make it all more public later. Tim and I created an announcement video to thank those who had donated to our crowd-funding campaign prior to the event, but the majority of the celebration would have to wait until after visible proof was available.

I got home from work that evening and cracked open the bottle of craft beer that one of our lovely guests had gifted to us at the event. I’d told her that I would only open it once I’d heard back from GWR, and drink it either in celebration or to drown my sorrows.

Naturally, I drank it from my Guinness glass.

I’ve had mixed emotions about the whole thing all along, really. It was almost exactly a year between the time I came up with the idea to attempt breaking the record, and receiving the notification that I’d been successful. It was a bittersweet success, however, because I’d also learned a lot of hard truths along the way, and the toll it took on me – on every level – is still affecting me even now.

All the stress and anger and frustration and just staying awake for 55+ hours wrecked my body, of course, but it also did some damage to my state of mind, my heart, and my spirit. I learned that I am a terrible leader, in that I do not inspire confidence nor action in anyone else. I learned that things would likely go better if I just set out to do them myself from the start, because depending on anyone else to step up and help will only end in stress and failure. Most heart-breaking, though, was learning that I’m unable to get others to see my vision and work towards helping me to make it a reality.

That whole thing was intended to be an event to pull the entire channel together, raise our visibility in the public eye, and propel us all forward as a team. Instead, it ground everything to a halt, and even a year and a half later, we are still struggling to get started back up again. Those of us who are struggling at all, I mean. Most just seem to have stopped all together.

I couldn’t even get local media interested, even though I was trying to shine a light on Canadian talent, among other things.

Learning that we are no longer the official record-holders made me want to take another run at it – to make it bigger, stronger, better – rather than feel defeated by it. I have SO MANY ideas for making the attempt epic – even more so than the first one was envisioned to be – but it would require a lot of teamwork, and I do not have the ability to inspire that in others. I can’t even get my own little show going again, let alone something on that grand a scale.

And this isn’t me being down on myself, really. Maybe a little, but I feel like it’s mostly me being down on everyone else, and just trying to be nicer and more polite about it than I actually feel much of the time. Since the GWR attempt elevated my awareness of how things are, I’ve been constantly torn between asking for help to make other visions a reality, and just doing things myself/not doing them at all. Even small things require effort, and while I am no stranger to putting in said effort, I recognize that I can’t do everything myself. Not well, at least. So I’m not sure whether to focus and do one thing as well as I am able (despite my admittedly mediocre talent or ability), or do a few things half-assed, or accept offers of assistance, even though I no longer believe in anyone’s ability to follow through.

That’s pretty much the crux of it, I think. I don’t know what it is about me that makes those closest to me not believe in me, as I’ve proven time and time again that I am stubborn enough, at the very least, to do what I say I’m going to do. From where I sit, it’s everyone else who is falling short of the example I set. From a relatively young age, I’ve tried to lead by example, in fact. Yet for some reason, however, no one follows. It often makes me frustrated and angry, yet it’s an impotent anger – the kind that lets me cry and yell and stamp my feet and even slam the door…but still go to my room.

Maybe it’s time for me to focus on finding the source of that disconnect; the reason that I don’t inspire the confidence in others that I feel in myself – that I start off feeling in all of us, until I am let down yet again. I think I need to figure out what it is about me that holds people back from believing in me, and also determine why I keep giving out second chances, hoping for different outcomes, and whether or not I should continue to do so.

I broke a Guinness World Record, guys. Just imagine what else I can do – and how much more we could do together.

Because I imagine it all the time, you know. And it’s amazing.

Sometimes I even feel sorry for some of you, because you can’t see it, too.

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Trigger Event

I love talking to writers, talking about writing, and creating things in general.  So the fact that Tim and I get to cover the Toronto Screenwriting Conference each year is kind of amazing.  It seems to get even more incredible every year, too.  Today, my brain was full by lunch!

During one session, we were challenged to come up with a pilot sequence of events for our own lives.  This process included the need for a trigger event, also known as an inciting incident, for our protagonist.  For ourselves.

One jumped immediately to mind, probably because it’s recently come to the forefront in another post.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a slightly closer look at it.

Back in, like, 2002 or so, I acquired a strange kind of confidence somehow.  I wasn’t happy, exactly, but I felt in control of my life, I guess.  I believed I could choose my own path.  I got off the phone at work one day after etting a client know his order was in stock and would be shipping out to him shortly.  He was a teacher, and was so thrilled at the thought of how excited the kids in his class would be once they product arrived.

When I hung up the phone, I marvelled at how incredible it would be to be that passionate about your job.  I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be excited about work.

That was the day I decided to go to teacher’s college.

I didn’t think in terms of trying to get into teacher’s college.  I simply believed I would.

I started doing research – which programs I would apply to, which area of focus, what kind of criteria I needed on my application, etc.  I planned it all out, completely confident in my abilities.  I knew what kind of teacher I would be, and was certain that my years of life experience contributed to my future success in ways that wouldn’t have worked out the same way if I’d applied when I was younger and in school the first time around.

When I met Tane, I told her I was planning to go to teacher’s college.  I was even pretty sure we’d start dating.  I felt like I could have my pick, and I chose her.  As our relationship grew, that factored into our plans the whole time.  It was never a question or in any way uncertain. I planned it as though it was a foregone conclusion.  I got my application together, I went to the interview.  I took all the required steps, and worked with my partner to prepare for all the big changes that were coming our way.

As predicted, I got into school.  I’d only applied to one, so confident was I.  I quit smoking, which I was also certain I could do.  I worked out a scenario with my employer to keep me on part time, but in a different position.  A new one, which I would help create and define.

I was the shit, everything was coming up Sue, and I was on top of the world.

Then the cheating started, and the lying, and everything I thought I knew was turned upsidedown.   Self-doubt came roaring in, and suddenly everything I had been certain of began crumbling down around me.  I moved out of the home I’d made, I started drinking more in lieu of smoking, I started school but couldn’t focus.  Forgot to even take a pen it’s me the first day.  I froze up inside and couldn’t find my footing.  Everything was uncertain.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  All I knew was that I had been wrong.

I was not the shit.

And if I could be wrong about some basic qualities of my perceived self, then it seemed possible that I could be wrong about all of it.  My sense of value and self-worth was destroyed; my confidence irreparably shattered.  I became a different person, and the only thing I was certain of was that I’d been so wrong, about everything.  I was not a good partner, I was not a good friend, I would not make a good teacher, and the fact that I barely graduated only seemed further proof of that fact.

Wherever that odd sense of confidence had come from, it was gone.  Even now, I can’t remember what it felt like.  My sense of certainty and self-assurance feels like I watched it happen to someone else, yet the sense of worthlessness exists in some form or another to this day.  That loss of believing in myself changed everything.  Changed me.  I’m hidden away now, not to protect myself from the world, but to protect the world from me – from my arrogance, from my misplaced confidence, from my complete presence.  I walk upon the earth much more softly now, as though I carry an apology I can never truly make.

I’m sorry.  I was wrong.

 

On Waving Back

Walking to the subway this morning on my way to work, I passed a man and his dog. As I approached, the dog looked up at me all friendly like we knew each other, so I said, “Hi puppy dog” and left my arm dangling at my side as I walked by. The dog stuck its muzzle up against my hand, and gave me a quick lick in greeting. Made me smile.

Then, getting off the subway on my way to work, I watched the usual hoards of other passengers – all of us making our various ways to our various destinations – shuffle right on by the little kid in the stroller who was waving at them.

Not one of them waved back.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I hate people as much as anyone, if not more. But even I am not above waving at a little kid who’s waving at me. It’s just not done. It’s practically an automated, instinctive response. Little kid waves, you wave back. So I waved back.

And he didn’t see me.

So, here we have a number of interesting scenarios and the effects of each:

Dog sees me, I see dog, we interact for a split second – day made for at least one of us. Moment made for both.

Kid sees a bazillion people, waves at them, none see him so no one waves back. Or rather, one sees him, waves back, but he doesn’t see it, so it may as well not have happened, from his point of view. To his mind, no one waved back at him. Watching his little face register the realization of his own invisibility among the morning masses was actually kind of sad. He’s too little to feel like that, and yet, even if I projected most of what he might be feeling or thinking, the little hand faltering and his smile falling away as it became more tentative and unsure can not be disputed. I’m sure he’ll wave again, because little kids have the information retention of a rubber ball, but I’m also sure that, somewhere deep inside, he’ll remember how that felt, to not be noticed. And it’ll affect him in small ways going forward.

Then there’s me – I’m used to not being noticed. I usually strive to not be noticed. But I felt bad that I didn’t make his moment with a wave-back that he could see, and – in more selfish terms – it would have made my morning even better to have felt like I did something for the little kid, as much as the dog did for me. Like paying it forward, but for how it would make me feel.

And finally, there are the masses; those who missed the wave all together. How much better could their moments have been had they just looked up and given a second to notice the world around them? It’s like we all walk around in our own little bubbles of reality, wherein nothing and no one else exists unless we let them in. It’s a necessary skill to have, to be sure, because the onslaught of humanity’s dark underbelly (especially in cities and particularly public transit) is often too much to bear. But then we miss things that would make it seem less overwhelmingly negative, even just in little ways. We miss hearts, we miss sunsets and sunrises, we miss worms on the sidewalk just trying to reach grass before the sun bakes them where they “stand”.

We miss lots of gross things, too, like hairy ass cracks and piles of vomit on the sidewalk.

But we also miss licks and tail wags from doggies, and confident, friendly waves from little kids. We miss some of the things that could help shape us into better people. We miss things that could make our lives suck a little less. We have to find a way to strike a balance between things that we do notice and interact with, and things that we don’t. It’s maybe impossible, though.

Because sometimes, those things also miss us.

Lacking Confidence

I hate looking for a job.

I don’t think I used to dislike it this much, but I guess a lot has changed over the years.  I’ve changed.  Once full of cautious confidence and an abundance of dreams and goals to aspire to, I was able to find not only a decent work-life balance, but also felt a sense of pride in my work, even though I was performing pretty simple tasks.  I did them well, and I was pleased with my abilities and how I felt about myself each day. I felt competent, no matter what I was doing.  And I felt like I earned every step of forward progress I made, no matter how small.

If I decided I deserved more, I went out and got it.  I had no problem chasing the next job opportunity.

Then I went after something completely different, and made more money than I ever had up to that point.

And sucked at it.

To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong, really.  I thought at the time that I didn’t get the support I needed to succeed, but at the same time, if I’d really had the required skills, I’d have been able to work with more autonomy and forged my own success.  Instead, I was constantly questioning what to do, and would end up doing it wrong, anyway.  Or not quickly enough, or well enough, or whatever.  I still don’t really know, and therein lies the real problem.

For the first time, I was doing something I wasn’t suited to, and it was a disaster.  I couldn’t make it work.  And it wasn’t rocket surgery.  At all.  But I don’t have the right…mindset.  Or attitude.  From the outside, it all looks very simple.  When it’s done well, it seems effortless.  But the people who are good at administrative tasks and assisting executive types don’t generally get the kind of respect their abilities deserve.  And for people who are NOT skilled in those areas, it’s even worse.

It looks from the outside like the person doing the assisting is less specialized.  Less skilled.  But I think that people are just adept at different things.  Maybe the excutive needs an assistant because he CAN’T do the things his assistant can do.  Maybe he’s totally disorganized and can’t remember when he has appointments or craft intelligent and well-worded emails.  Maybe he doesn’t know how to create a spreadsheet or a strong PowerPoint presentation.  Everything can be taught and learned, but it can’t always be learned to do well.  Like doctors and nurses.  Many think nurses are nurses because they CAN’T be doctors, when in reality, doctors could not perform their duties nearly as well (or often at all), without the support of nurses and the rest of their medical team.  Everyone has a part to play in the team’s success, and when one can’t play their part well, the whole team struggles.

I was let go at the end of my probabtion period, because it wasn’t working out.  Not for them, and not for me.  I’d never tried so hard to do something but still failed so miserably at it.  It was frustrating because it had seemed so easy before I actually tried it.  It was pretty humiliating.  And it was scary, because suddenly I wondered what else I couldn’t do well.  What other simple tasks were beyond my comprehension and/or skill set?

I was unemployed for a month and a half, relying on friends and family to feed me and help pay rent.  Then I finally got a job with my current employer – and while the woman who hired me was concerned that I was over-qualified, I was relieved to have a job I could hopefully do – and there I remain, for better or for worse.

I did attempt to enter the teaching profession for the better part of a decade, but had zero success in that area.  And I think a large part of my problem now is fear.  Fear and uncertainty.  I don’t have the same confidence in my abilities as I used to.  And I am terrified of losing or leaving one job and being unemployed three months later if I fail again.

I think that’s why I hate looking for a job more now.  I have four little lives – in addition to my own – counting on me to keep us fed and a roof over our heads.  My mind and body don’t work the same as they used to, and I have an even lesser sense of what needs to be done.  I’m not in the same position I was when I was younger.  I don’t feel like I have the luxury of failing.

And that’s crippling to me.

If I don’t try, I won’t fail.  So now when I look at job openings, I imagine what the daily life of each would look like, and apply if I think I might have a shot at succeeding, or more often if I think I’ll have no shot at even landing an interview.  I feel like applying alone is still accomplishing something, even if it’s just a feeling inside.

But the truth is I really have no idea what I am capable of outside of my current workplace, and I only have a limited knowledge of what I am not capable of, because it’s been over a decade since I ventured to try something different.  Pretty much everything I know about myself an an employee is based on this one employer.  It’s a bubble I’ve existed in almost exclusively for over 15 years.  Largely because I am afraid of what will happen if I fail anywhere else.  Yet now I am failing inside my bubble, too, and I have no idea what to do about it.

It appears I’ve put myself into a trap of my own making.  It’s scary and disheartening and yet still kind of exciting, in a way.  Because if I actually control the trap, maybe there’s a chance I can dig myself out of it.  For now, I’m still just window shopping, because I’m far too afraid to make a move.  But the time is fast approaching where I will have no choice but to make some kind of change, be it a new apartment or a new job.

And I love my apartment.

I can’t wait to see what I end up doing.