Lessons Learned From a Tough Year.

I’ve had the most difficult time putting words on paper lately, which is really weird for me. It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’m hoping this will inspire me to write a brilliant memorandum for my legal bibliography class.

Admittedly, 2010 was one of the most difficult years of my life. I haven’t experienced this much turmoil and heartache in more than a decade. I was quite unprepared for it, but then again, all of life is a series of surprises that you must choose to deal with properly. Here are some lessons I’ve learned the hard way this year.

Lesson #1: I’m not every woman.
I learned this year that I have a difficult time handling multiple issues, people, responsibilities all at once. I’m understanding more and more about how my mind and body operate, and they do not enjoy being “on” constantly. It’s a frustrating thing, because that is what a modern-day woman is all about: mastering the art of hat-switching, plate-juggling or whatever metaphor you choose to equate with having a lot going on. I think this is why newspaper journalism wasn’t the right fit for me – I do not thrive under pressure. In fact, I can only handle small doses of it just to make it through the day without feeling like I’m falling apart. My life works best as simple and as uncomplicated as possible. It took a lot of effort to pry myself away from the things in my life that tended to only create negative stress and drama. I think I’m almost there. I’m not ashamed to admit now that adding two paralegal classes to full-time work and an increasingly smaller “social” schedule was pure madness! It is an error I will not re-commit in the future.

I can’t say enough how much it amazes me that women can pile on the responsibility, especially (my now infamous phrase among girlfriends) “The Big 3” – house, hubby and kids – and still manage to walk out the door with eyeliner. Eye makeup?! That is amazing. Worthy of applause, I say. I can’t even properly apply eyeliner on a good, stress-free day. If I can remember (or simply have the stamina) to wash my face every morning I’m doing great.

Lesson #2: It’s okay to ask for help.
Over the years, I’ve realized how easy it is to lose yourself when you’re a people-pleaser. You think you’re doing okay until a mere acquaintance asks you the casual, “How are you today?” And instead of just giving them a “Pretty good” and a small smile, you tell them how you are really feeling. This is a sign that it’s time to let go. Take the time to vent — to yourself in a journal, a therapist, a pastor, or a friend who doesn’t judge you when you have a pity party month instead of just a pity party day.

This summer, someone referred to me as a “selfish, self-centered bag of wind”. Of course, such vile and immature language was said mainly because of a poor self-image and quite a bit of jealousy. And even though my loved ones insist that isn’t who I am, it did give me pause. Often, I stop taking care of myself in order to be there for other people – the antithesis of a selfish person – but in doing so I found that eventually, it was difficult not to think of anything but myself. In being there for everyone, I had left myself behind. And the resentment from such behavior begins to seep out in ways that felt narcissistic. I had to step back and look at how and why I did the things I did – what my motives were. Was I doing certain activities because I really enjoyed them? Was I really doing enough for the people who care about me? Or was I going through the motions because it was comfortable or easier? I am taking more time to ask close friends and family how they are doing, instead of being caught up in endless self-reflection, as introverts tend to do.

Lesson 3: Accepting oneself isn’t a one-time process.

Being an introverted perfectionist means constantly looking at my words and  behavior and re-evaluating them in a way that’s probably done me more harm than good. But at the same time, I’ve learned that all of the things that make me who I am: all of the awful qualities I’d like to change, and all of the good qualities I want to see more of, require I remain in a constant state of self-acceptance.

I will always get frustrated with my foot-in-mouth disease, my terrible long-term memory,  my tendency to goof off when it’s time to work hard, my delusions about romance, or my stubborn attitude when it comes to principles. Yes, it’s mildly frustrating at best and devastating at worst that I haven’t stumbled upon the right man who has truly accepted all of my quirks and old-fashioned tendencies. But in those moments of frustration, I should never remain angry at myself for being who I am. Somehow, underneath all of the ways that aggravate me and others the most, my loved ones find qualities about me they find endearing. It is indeed time I more frequently remember those qualities myself.


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