Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I have recently heard at least two people --I think possibly more than that-- cleverly quote an unknown source by saying "the definition of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Each time I heard it, I shifted uncomfortably, vaguely aware that I could probably apply this to myself but uncertain as to why.

Well now I think I might know at least one reason. I think I have finally reached the point --again-- where I am close to having a meltdown due to overcommitments, personal drama, and stress at work. If I had a dollar for everytime I've reached this point in my life, I could probably comfortably quit my job and travel Europe for a year. It is dumb, it is unnecessary, and it is evidently hardwired into my psyche.

I have been kvetching all summer about my something-planned-for-every-night-of-the-week-and-all-weekend schedule, but I've really been grateful. I mean, none of the stuff I'm doing is odious to me. It's fun, and it generally involves lots of people that I really like and some of whom I actually love. I am particularly grateful for the writing workshop, which, ironically, I bailed on tonight because it was clear to me that I was going to start crying hysterically at any second if I didn't go home, have a beer, and do jack-shit for an evening.

Honestly, lately this is what I envision every time I think of everything I have to do...

When you get to this point of tiredness, everything starts to be a drain and a really big deal. Enter several hundred brand new culture shocked international students, most of them Indian and most of them acting like they're still elbowing their way through the streets of Hyderabad. God bless 'em. I get it, really I do. When you're freaked out by a new environment, one way to cope is to maniacally try to get control. I have a recollection of doing that in U.K., and a very kind advisor saying to me "I do hope you get a vacation soon. You always seem so terribly harrassed"... which of course utterly shocked and somewhat offended me because it implied that I didn't have everything perfectly together. Sigh.

So it's not like I don't understand, but it is almost physically painful for me to be around so much stress, irritation, and panic right now. I have lost my Zen. For the last two days, multiple people at work have been asking me why I'm upset. All of them thought they did something to make me mad. That bothers me.

So tomorrow night a Wedding Guest for my friend Bethany's wedding is going to come and crash on my living room floor for two nights. This did not seem like a big deal when I agreed to it... but I am now contemplating Said Wedding and my Bridesmaidly duties, and looking around my apartment, which I love but which is very me --that is, full of books and CDs and papers and cat fur and incense and candles and knick knacks from other countries and one dying plant and just general friendly disorder-- and having a little itsy-bitsy sense of resentment in anticipation of this Wedding Guest's judgement of my surroundings.

I'm also wondering if I'll be able to breathe in The Bridesmaid Dress, which is gorgeous but is all cleavage and a little tight up through the rib cage. I'm also anxious because Bethany is a Wonderful Person and knows a ton of Wonderful People and this really will be the Most Beautiful Wedding Ever and right now I feel like Pigpen with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

and let's not even get started on the Personal Drama... blooooody hell. Suffice to say that it is also me doing the same daggum thing over and over again, and that if you are a praying person, I could really use prayer about it. Thanks.

Ok, so tonight, I obeyed my instinct to have a beer and do jack-shit... and it was indeed lovely. I can see that I'm really going to have to force myself to enjoy life. This is another one of those Things I've Got To Accept About Myself. I've always thought that this was a passing thing, that once I finished my masters, or got another job, or made more money, or found the right church, or the right relationship, the right friends, or whatever else yadayadayada, that I would be able to relax... to just appreciate what is without twitchily contemplating what Might Be all the time. and without feeling like such a failure, which I do. A lot. I think everyone does in a little corner of themselves... and that everybody reading this who says "not me" actually feels it more than other people and is just lying really loud to keep themselves from feeling upset. I think feeling like a loser really is at the root of a lot of my constant nervousness. If I don't perform, then I've lost, then I really am a failure, then I really have wasted my talents.

And at the root, of course, that belief IS a failure... a failure of faith. I'm not feeling chipper enough to go deeply into that, but basically God isn't in a hurry about ANYTHING, and seeing myself where I'm at now and declaring myself a failure is not only short-sighted but probably sin... and maybe a leeetle bit of self-idolatry, putting myself at the center and not giving God cred both for what He's done and what He's going to do.

So... all that to say that I need to intentionally, methodically... chill... and to bring a little chillness to my day-to-day or risk losing my ever-loving mind.
Hugs to all.


Mojo said...

The quote gets attributed to Einstein a lot, but I haven't been able to confirm it for sure.

Anonymous said...

Your self-awareness on this blog so often reminds me to take better care of myself and practice more mindfulness and peaceful contemplative prayer. Sounds like your job requirements might be better served from a daily "centering" space in nature to concentrate on positivity and stability and just realizing balance and how the way natural surroundings do it is how we can also do it.

that's just what I remember helping me in your circumstances.

Oh and boy do I remember hounding college staff over unbelievable screw ups that occurred over 3 years there!

Your job sounds stressful. Good for you to chill. And maybe just excusing yourself from being highly entertaining or gregarious toward your guest will help too. :) Just be honest with them.

Erin said...

Hey Amy--

I can relate to this a lot. I actually crashed into deep deep depression when I was in grad. school and pretty much stopped doing _anything_ (except school) for awhile. It really forced me to face how much of my identity was built on trying to be good at everything. I think that might be why my favorite Anne Lamott quote is "Perfectionism is the enemy. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."

Of course now I've found something new to worry about--am I being too selfish with my time because I so, so don't want a repeat of that experience?

Ken Tennyson said...

Amy, thanks for the openness in your posts, we all go through such inner struggles, I appreciate your courage in sharing yours.

Oh, and the quote about insanity can be attributed to Einstein as mojo monkey suggested.