Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ageing Pear

Yesterday I realised something wonderful - I am now officially over 30! The fin de siecle moment of almost-being-30 has been survived, the life-plans assessed and either scrapped entirely or accepted serenely, and now 'the future' is being steadily and maturely worked towards. Most importantly, my age means I can now opine on 'how life is' as if I know what I'm talking about. :) So, to celebrate, a list of just some of the advantages of being beyond youth.

- You no longer try to attract EVERYONE. You've gotten a bit fussy and have no more need to attract the wrong kind of attention. You can fill the niche-market that suits you, and, conveniently, being more yourself pleases that niche best. At 21, I wanted everyone to like me, and all the boys to want me; at nearly 31, I only care if the people whom I like like me, and if the boys I want want me. In any case, anyone who doesn't consider me to be the bees knees clearly has terrible taste.

- You've learnt what you like. There's no need to expend precious spare time and energy trying all the latest things and meeting all the coolest people and desperately testing everything that life has to offer: you've spent your 20s giving most things a go already. Now you can just sit on the sofa if you damn well please, drinking the wine that you actually enjoy, listening to the music that you genuinely want to listen to, and chatting to the few people that you truly love the company of.

- I'm not sure if this is actually an advantage, but I have found that I am capable of doing a lot more than my younger self. These days I can (just about) handle balancing not just 'work' but an actual career, plus study, marriage, friends, family, and still find time for walking and preparing meals and keeping my house (relatively) in order. 21-year-old Anne struggled to cope with a dull job, a group of drinking buddies and occasional breezy flings with non-committal men, even whilst being housed and fed by proper adults. At this stage I'm determined to remember this fact, and have some sympathy for my future teenage and 20-something children... but by then I'll be officially middle-aged and will no longer have to have sympathy for anyone.

And that's a happy thought. The future will bring even more rewards of self-assurance and not-giving-a-damn-what-anyone-thinks. And even better - the older I get, the more authority I will have to tell people my long-held belief that older is better, and young people are bloody annoying. :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peachy Pear

Throughout my life I have been told to toughen up, that I'm too thin-skinned. And I'll admit there have been many times that I wished to know how. I've often marvelled at how easy others seem to find it to let insults and mistakes bounce off them, to take life's little difficulties in their stride, and not break down in a blubbering mess whenever someone suggests they are less than perfect. But I never did develop the knack; I am just as easily wounded, just as open and vulnerable as when I was a strange, teased kid in primary school. Somehow, I never developed the defence-mechanisms that seemed to come naturally to everyone else.

But I've learnt that people are not always as they appear. I've discovered that often the people with the thickest hides are the most vulnerable underneath; indeed they've built up such a protective outer-shell because of how easily damaged they feel themselves to be. They have learnt to keep the barbs out. I've never grown even the semblance of a hide, so the slightest jab penetrates; but I've done something different. Others have developed an external protection; I have built up a hard space on the inside.

I suddenly had a vision of myself as a ripe peach - unbelievably soft and bruise-able on the outside, but made of solid flesh, and deep inside, an almost indestructible solid core. It's a vision that is giving me strength, knowing that there is a part of me that is untouchable. Even if I am completely incapable of showing the public the feisty, self-assured, biting character that I imagine myself to be, I know that that person is real. However I may react outwardly to doubts about my brilliance, I know who I am, what I need, and the things that I know are right.

In some ways this makes me a less 'fluffy' character than someone who keeps their defences at the surface. But over-sentimentality, though I spout it regularly, has never appealed to me; a bit of healthy cynicism makes me feel safe. And it is vital to my survival. If I have to keep a hard rock inside my heart, avoid being entirely soft, then it is worth it to retain my sense of self, and for that self to be capable of being completely alone in the world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Anger Management

In trying to figure out why I get so very angry over so many very little things, I had a revelation. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I somehow I hadn't quite admitted it to myself before.


I'm like Adam Sandler in the film Anger Management - I let people walk all over me without saying anything, my resentment slowly builds, and then my anger spills out in unhealthy pockets of rage and judgement.

I've waited to grow out of, attempted to redefine, and even decided to live with my innate shyness. But while there's no real problem with a sensitive introvert being awkward with new people and a bit quiet, my inability to stick up for myself is troubling.

I'm a bit stuck - voicing my rights would mean leaving my comfort zone, something I'm not too into doing. But as always, knowing the problem is a huge help. I've started to recognise the bubbling up inside and thinking about what to do next. When I get outraged, I now think about whether the outrage is reasonable or not, and then how I'm going to act on it. If I'm not going to act, then there is no point being angry - I have to speak up or let it go. I might not be actually speaking up to anyone, but at least I am making some sort of conscious decision not to.

Probably the very best part of all is that I can blame this all on my mother. According to the pop-psychology I read on the net on the day that I diagnosed myself, my behaviour is a classic symptom of a child who had a domineering, power-playing parent.

It might not be much of a move up from the door-step, but I am proud to have uncovered my doormat status. For now I will take comfort in the words of Jewel, and blame my pain on the world; "please be careful with me, I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shape Shifting

As well as being shy, I am also somewhat of an introvert. As such, I chose to live alone as soon as I could afford it, preferring the risk of loneliness to the risk of being overwhelmed by human contact. I also functioned best without a full-time partner. I didn't want anyone there ALL THE TIME and I couldn’t imagine ever finding someone I liked enough to want that. Essentially I have always required a pretty large amount of ‘alone time’ to function well.

But I have discovered something incredible. Time with my husband now seems to count as alone time. I am still an introvert, I still need regular and extended breaks from humanity, but time at home, with him, seems to give me the same restoration that alone time did before. I only need a break from him and actual alone-alone time a few times a year, the rest of the time my mind counts being with him AS being alone. As I once read in a Monica Dickens novel, being with the perfect person is like “being alone without the loneliness”, and it seems she was right.

But this sweet observation aside, this all raises an interesting point in my quest for independence. If becoming part of this couple has changed me so much - actually shifted my inner sense of what 'being alone with me' feels like - then how independent can I really be? It is like my mind has shape-shifted to accommodate this other person, and they are now part of who I am. I can never again be just me: ‘me’ now includes ‘he’.

And what does this say about what having children is going to do to me?! Is there any point trying to define exactly who I am before I have them, when they are going to change who that is anyway? Or is it even more vital that I have a strong sense of self before such a change takes place? Perhaps if I am not strong enough, they will take over my entire mind, like a parasite that eats the host alive. I begin to sense that this whole project is in part from an intuitive sense that this is the case; that in order to survive and flourish for my own sake and for theirs, I must have a very hardy character which can accommodate ‘they’ within 'me', and continue to nurture all parts of the amalgamated mind that I will then have to live with.

So my determination to be independent continues, but I now carry with it the realisation that I cannot achieve this by holding my mind in a cage, or by forming a perfect, unalterable version of me to work with. Rather I must build up my character like a muscle, so that it is strong enough – and flexible enough – to grow with life’s changes and avoid annihilation.