First, the business of checking in.
Like the past two weeks, I’ve written 4 out of 7 days. My goal three weeks ago was to write 5 of 7 days each week. Rather than continuing to say that I’m “falling short” of my goal, I’m going to take a page from Ryan King’s blog and change my goals to represent a range rather than a single goal.
My minimum, good-job-CJ goal will be writing 4 days of 7 each week.
My middle-of-the-road, way-to-stretch-yourself goal will be writing 5 days of 7.
And my super-awesome, wow-wee-wow goal will be writing 6 days out of 7.
I’ll try that for a couple of weeks and see how it fits. I hope this will relieve some of the nagging sense of failure I get when I only write 4 days a week.
Now the bit that only tangentially relates to my writing this week.
I don’t know where I got this notion, but I realize that I’ve always sort of had the idea that I possess some latent awesomeness that will be released with much fanfare and fireworks and perhaps a flock of doves when I just find the key to unlock it.
Each week, I find that my writing facilitates new revelations.
My big revelation this week: I am not awesome.
I possess no inherent awesomeness just itching for release. I’m just me. A human being muddling along the best I can. I have ambitions, but there’s no guarantee of success at these ambitions no matter how hard I try, and there’s no guarantee of happiness and fulfillment even if I do succeed at publishing a novel or hiking the Appalachian Trail or attaining enlightenment. Actually, I guess if I attain enlightenment, the happiness and fulfillment will kind of take care of themselves, but since enlightenment is something on which one needs to sneak up rather than pursuing it openly, it probably ought not to be lumped in with my list of ambitions anyway. The key is, I might achieve something awesome, but this is not reflective of my internal awesomeness.
It wasn’t just the writing that led me to this not-awesome conclusion. This week I began the active portion of two volunteer activities I’ve been planning for these past few months.
First is facilitating a small discussion group at my religious fellowship. Our group of six meets once a month to do readings and discuss a set topic. Our first meeting was this Thursday night. It went well, and we had some wonderful, deep participation, but I found myself focusing on whether the other group members liked me and thought I was doing a good job, which totally isn’t the point of the group. The connection between the group’s members is the focus, not the performance of the facilitator.
The second is co-leading a Girl Scout troop with another homeschooling mom. We had our first meeting—a parents’ information meeting—this Friday. There it quickly became clear that my co-leader possesses much more charisma than I do. I can present information to a group in an efficient manner and even joke around a bit, but there’s an ease to my co-leader’s interactions that, even at my drunkest, I’ve never been able to replicate. (Not that I spend that much time drunk in general, and I’ve certainly never been drunk at a Girl Scout function regardless of my role. That’s just the time when I feel least self-focussed in my social interactions. It’s also the only time that I will attempt to speak Spanish.) I’m trying to just feel grateful that I get to partner with a more charismatic person, but I still find myself lamenting my lack of ease in interpersonal interactions.
I once witnessed a pedestrian get hit by a van. Trained as a first-responder as part of my office job back in the day (the biggest thing I did was distribute bandaids to people who’d gotten bad paper cuts, but we got all the training, nonetheless), I jumped out of the passenger side of our car, cell phone in hand, as I told my husband to pull the car to the curb and wait for me. There on that California street corner I knew just what to do. I was confident and calm in my interactions with the woman who had been hit, with the driver of the van, with the 911 dispatcher, and with the emergency workers who were quickly on the scene. My role in the whole event was soon over. As I walked back to my husband and toddler daughter in our car, the woman who had been hit thanked me and waved goodbye.
If there’s a woman in labor, I similarly know what to do to help her through her contractions and feel confident and capable as a birthing woman. As a doula, I easily respond to what she needs. I don’t waffle and worry and stumble through unnecessarily long monologues. In that situation, it’s easy for me to recognize my role as a supporter in something much larger than myself; the thought of how I’m doing or how my client sees me doesn’t even enter my mind (well, at least until the sleep-deprived drive home when in the quiet the doubts begin creeping in).
I want this level of confidence in all of my interactions. I want to find a way to not just recognize the fact that there’s nothing special or awesome about me that I need to add to the situation, but to not even care whether I’m charismatic or not. I want that sensation of loosing the “I” of myself, and being completely present for the people around me.
Now, I wonder how I can achieve that at a Girl Scout meeting or in a discussion group or in any other situation that involves neither fire trucks nor amniotic fluid?
2 Replies to “ROW80 Sunday Check-in: I Am Not Awesome”
Hi, CJ. I think I get where you’re going with this post. We don’t have to be rock stars or the center of attention to be a part of the group, but you do have characteristics and experiences that are unique to you. It may not be that one outstanding ability, but you have a unique combination that only you can bring to the experience.
I’ve worked with students in the past, and I found myself clicking with people that I would have never expected because of common characteristics. I wasn’t the star of the show by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to build relationships with some people because I could specifically relate to them whereas other leaders couldn’t.
So, I agree and disagree, I guess. You don’t *have* to be awesome, but you are.
Thank you for your comment, Michael.
I definitely agree with you about uniqueness: no one else in the world has the same combination of genetics and experience as I have, but that is true of each of the 7 billion people on the planet. Saying I’m not awesome, I don’t mean that I’m lesser, but rather that I’m as ordinary in my uniqueness as the next person.
I remain hesitant to identify that uniqueness as inherently good (or awesome, in this case). There’s a danger in binary definitions (good/bad, awesome/pathetic, light/dark): evidence to the contrary must either be ignored or must cause the definition to flip to the other side. I’d just prefer to focus on a non-judgmental way of looking at myself—and everything. I like to observe and appreciate the uniqueness without saying, “That’s great,” or “That’s awful.” I guess the closest I can get is to admit that there is an “awe”-some quality in the uniqueness of each person, including me. But I think recognizing the awe-inspiring aspects in myself is not as valuable as recognizing it in others. Being self-focused isn’t a great quality for a writer (or any compassionate being) because it carries the risk of turning away from the world. Self-aware, yes. Self-focused, not so much. At least that’s how I see it, although I think I didn’t get that through in the post.
Not sure where keeping a first-person blog comes into all of that, though. 🙂