Saturday, November 25, 2006

Night of Beauty/Dark Night of the Soul

Well, the agenda for the night was that I was going to have a night of beauty accompanied by a night of grading. I graded approximately 1 and 1/3 papers, and it became clear to me that I could not grade tonight. Lord. Why can't they just do what I want them to do? What I ask them to do?

So at any rate, once it became clear that the night of beauty could not be accompanied by grading, all that was left was for me to have a dark night of the soul, which included:

1) wine
2) the movie Bridget Jones' Diary
3) some episodes of Sex and the City
4) much writing in my journal
5) Damien Rice's new cd

The night of beauty included:

1) putting a mask on my face (not a halloween mask, though that would have been most fun, but rather a pore minimizing/wrinkle reducing sort of mask. Not that I really have wrinkles, but whatever. Never too early to start trying to minimize them, I suppose).
2) manicure and pedicure (although I did not polish my fingernails, as it's pretty pointless when I've got a lot of grading/typing to do, as I do now. But my cuticles are all nice and the nails themselves are buffed and awesome).
3) Nice hot bath with lavendar-scented bath oil.
4) Shaving. This is such a pain in the ass, the body hair removal.
5.) Deep conditioning of the hair.

But so now back to the dark night of the soul. (Oh, though I should mention that I polished my toenails red. How good does that make a girl feel?) I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is to want. I spend a lot of energy on not wanting things. Or, rather, on not letting myself want things that I want. This is all part of a grand plan to stave off disappointment, my least favorite of all of the emotions. The theory behind this is that if I don't want beyond my station, that I will not then be disappointed, and thus will not have as big of a hurt as if I wanted to the full capacity of my wanting.

But it's occurred to me lately that maybe not allowing oneself to want whole-heartedly may actually leave one open to greater devastation than if I just wanted in an all-in sort of a way. It's sort of like playing poker. I think I may have a habit of checking on big hands, which ultimately leaves me the big loser, whereas if I'd go all in, I could be the big winner. But going all in - that's scary. Especially when one is fully aware of the odds of such an enterprise. It takes courage. Courage which to this point I've not had, not in any area of my life.

What's crazy is that I know part of what makes it possible for me to try all of what I try (whether it's going on the market, sending the book proposal out, whatever) is that I stop myself from believing that anything good can come of any of it. I don't let myself truly want, and so that somehow makes it ok to do these things. The problem is, I think that I need to truly want. I think that by checking my desire, I ultimately foreclose the possibility of achieving it. But how does one free oneself from that prohibition? How does one stop the superstitious checking of oneself?

On the one hand, one has to make attainable goals in order not to feel like shit all of the time. And in order to achieve anything, really. But I fear that perhaps I can attain more than I think I can. And that my attainable goals have ultimately held me back. Ultimately hold me back.

I wish that I could let go a bit. I'm trying. I want to be able to. But I don't know if I can.

I'm afraid to want all of what I don't let myself admit to wanting. I'm afraid of allowing myself to admit those things because if I actually say those things out loud, and then I don't get them, then what do I do?

Remember: admitting is not only fessing up it's also letting in. That's what makes it so hard - that it means both expression and, I suppose, impression. I don't know which I'm more afraid of. I suppose it's the inward part more than the outward part.

All of this may seem strange, given the ways in which I do put myself out there - take what may seem to be risks. But every risk is a calculated and cautious one. A middle ground that stops short of the thing that I really want to happen. I go on the market telling myself all the while that it's just that I want to choose my current job. I do online dating telling myself that I have absolutely no expectation that I'll meet anybody who's worth more than a date or two. What I think I've decided is that this is no way to live my life. But if I admit to wanting more than the provisional thing - the thing that can't disappoint - and I don't get what I want, then I will have to deal with that. And that's a hard thing to take on.


Anonymous said...

yes, shaving sucks. i wish it was no longer expected of us.

i understand what you mean about being afraid to go all's hard...
good luck with the market stuff, i'm sure you'll do great!

Anonymous said...

Dr. C,

You hit just about every tough thing in the book. And I would have to say -- having read the post about being taken to school in a vegetable truck: you ARE all in, sweetheart, and if you hold back once in a while to protect yourself, you have your own good reasons -- just know everyone else pretty much is doing it too.

And Ill tell you the big secret: there is no big brass ring that somehow you can just grab if you try harder/do more. There is you living up to the things that will make you happy, which includes paying attention to your doubts once in a while and pulling back until you feel ok again.

best to you,

Dr. Radical

Marcelle Proust said...

This sounds very familiar. I found that when I got some of what I wanted, I felt better about wanting more. Even if I can't get it, it's more okay to want it. So maybe it's right to go slowly? I don't have the answers, but I sure recognize the feelings.

Manorama said...

I think our internal rhythms can be really good at nudging us to take a bigger risk when we're ready or needing it. It's good to remember that--that your past cautious and calculated risk-taking were what you needed then, and now maybe you're needing something different. I totally think there are ebbs and flows in this kind of thing, and no one should be the same amount of risky all the time. We are always re-learning how to want, handle disappointment, take risks, etc. at each stage that comes up. No one ever masters it or finds a one size fits all. Your reflection shows that you are self aware and in tune with what is best for you.

Manorama said...

Oh, and forgot to say, this is a great post. I totally identify with the not letting myself want thing to avert disappointment, but the times I've known to just let myself go for it all out, it's been a learning experience, whether I got what I wanted (a good enough amount of the time!) or didn't.

Anonymous said...

I'm also big on the "expect nothing and never be disappointed" attitude. I know I should get more excited, but in academia I feel as if I'm always getting beaten down about something. It does allow me to say "oh what the hell" and take more risks though, so it can't be all that bad.

phd me said...

Hmmm, this sounds familiar. If I don't want things, I can't be disappointed that I don't have them; if I don't expect things, I can't be disappointed when they don't happen - especially when it comes to all that personal stuff. When you figure out how to let go and actually admit to wanting more than the bare minimum, please let me know...

Dr. Crazy said...

PhDMe-not sure if you'll read this, but I actually forced myself to write down the things I want the other night. What's funny is I told a friend from grad school this, and she asked what they were, and my response was, "Well, I can't TELL you!" Clearly I'm not all the way there yet :)

Anonymous said...

On the wanting/not wanting thing: I think you're right. I've found I'm much happier when I let myself totally want something, get ridiculously excited, allow myself to be consumed with the idea of getting something I want (a job, a well-prepared meal, a published article, a good movie, whatever).

Then two things can happen. One, I get what I want and I get this really satisfying "I knew it!" kind of feeling. Or two, I don't get it and I'm devastated, but at least I know I didn't trip myself up (and I try to find a shoulder to cry on if what I wanted was a big deal).

I'm glad you had such a nice evening of beauty. I ought to do that!

phd me said...

Crazy, I actually did read this! I'm impressed that you made your "want" list. I wonder if I could actually articulate what I want on a list; maybe I'll actually try it sometime soon.