I’m a Taurus by birth, and sometimes by my actions too. And occasionally I stumble into a china shop.
While in my private life I struggle to find the energy and motivation to get even the most basic things done, when I get out into the world, my energy and behavior can be a bit explosive. In high school it made me seem quirky and strange. As an adult, it’s a mixed bag. My personable nature can go a long way towards making people feel witnessed, it can brighten a stranger’s day, and it can assist when getting tasks done. But sometimes, it gets me into trouble. I can hurt folks, and I can go too far. A product of both my energy and my insecurity combined. When I’m feeling of little value (which, regrettably, is much of the time), I end up overselling myself, and in blind pursuit of recognition or a feeling of camaraderie, I lose my sensitivity to other people. Most times I can read the energy of a room – but when I’m in the vortex of my own tumult, I can’t.
When, oh when will I grow up?
The other day I dropped in on the hair salon that I’ve gone to since I moved here almost fifteen years ago. I do this every now and then; I’ll grab a salad across the street and pass a half hour in between appointments, chatting with the women there. It’s got a great, relaxed vibe, and the company there takes the place of the in-person friendships which are almost entirely absent from my current life. The salon chair has a special role in a person’s life; there is an intimacy one shares with the hairdresser, and the chat that passes back and forth brings a certain comfort.
Until I bluster in, that is.
Last week, I popped by for a visit, and settled into a chair with my lunch. I proceeded to share my story to the patrons as if it were a pre-vetted group of my closest friends. This has gotten me into bad situations in the past, and although I thought I’d begun to make some progress on that front, that day, apparently, I had taken a few steps back. I went too far. I wasn’t sensitive to the way in which I’d tossed someone’s opinion aside. And I went on to enthusiastically discuss a topic that was important to me, not realizing how it was affecting a patron. I remember sensing something to have been off, but I didn’t slow down enough to take it in. The women were polite, and the smiles continued. But still, I missed some shit I shouldn’t have. I’m disappointed in myself to think that I still don’t have a handle on it.
My mother is certainly not responsible for my behavior, but I can see where many of my tendencies come from. Mom had a knee replacement three weeks ago (and she is doing very well, I’m happy to report), and while visiting her at the rehab facility and subsequently driving her to appointments, I’ve had the chance to watch her interact with a fair amount of people. It’s been insightful. I’ve been able to spot a few of my own characteristics within her actions, some good, some not. She’s very personable, and she stands out; people like her. She is not the ball of energy that I am, and she is a consummate rule-follower, which I am not. She wears a default smile all the time when with strangers (I find this inauthentic and annoying) while I am almost always guilty of bitchy resting face. But aside from all of this, I noticed something in particular which intrigued me: my mother talks over people, and rushes in to finish their sentences. She also adds so much more story than her audience really wants. Crap. I believe myself to have inherited these very habits.
“Elizabeth,” my friend Debi had said to me over three decades ago, “you are an interrupter.” I remember distinctly the darkly lit Italian restaurant, the red and white checked tablecloth. I can see her finger, as she, in frustration, pointed it directly at me. Many times through the years I’ve played that moment in my mind, and used it to shush myself, to hold myself back from excitedly adding more than anyone needed to hear. But sometimes I forget, or I just don’t realize I’m doing it again.
There are also times when I’m exceedingly aware of the energy around me. When I’m listening to a friend, when I’m sitting with an elderly person. And, there are times when my confidence and sensitivity are purely second nature. When I’m singing, when I’m playing music. I’ve made a concerted effort to bring this awareness with me in my everyday affairs, but sometimes I lose it. Like the other day. I was dismissive and hurtful and hadn’t realized it.
Kudos to an individual who was present for bringing it to my attention.
I received a stinging text message from this person – it seemed to come out of left field. But she was still bothered by the experience, so the situation needed to be remedied. It reminded me that I’d grown lax again, and I needed to be humble and learn from it. The situation was definitely not pleasant to face, and my system was flushed with adrenaline when it was all over. But I held out, continuing the conversation to the point where I could get some insight. To a place where I could learn from my actions and stood to improve my sensitivity and behavior. I believe things were left in the best way possible. I can’t know entirely, but I at least I apologized. All I can do for now.
Personally and professionally, the last twelve months have been a doozy of a year, from extreme highs to brutal lows. Over the past year I’ve lost a good portion of my hair due to stress. I’ve dropped the fitness gains I’d made earlier in the year, plus I suffered a couple of herniated discs which continue to make movement tricky. To top things off, I went up a couple of dress sizes due to a lot of self-soothing through food and booze (a mechanism very familiar to me). But I’m trying to get it together again. I am.
Before I exit this plane, I’d like to become a bit wiser in my actions and behavior, and healthier in my lifestyle. And I readily admit to losing patience with my mother; I’m a long way off from my goals on that front. It’s the supreme test of my abilities to apply discretion with her, to let things just be and choose to say less than I’d like – a test which I almost always fail. But every day is another opportunity to work on it. Definitely not there yet, but I’m putting forth some effort.
Where I choose not to say less is in my writings. I can’t. I won’t be here a whole lot longer in the grand scheme of things, and what I have to express might resonate with someone, sometime. For this reason – the present and future connections and assurances I might provide for others – I can’t censor myself too rigorously. There is possible insight to share, and I have nothing to lose – as long as I’m not combative or hurtful to others. I will be careful not to betray anyone here. After some less-than-favorable reactions to a few pieces I wrote this past year, I have learned not to cite anyone in such a way that they can be recognized. So, progress made I suppose.
The bull is back in the pen for now.