“Stuckness” is what I think I’ll call it. The state of being stuck.
I haven’t been waxing philosophical about my spirit work lately — not because it isn’t in progress, but because some of it is intensely personal or it is of no meaningful interest to most people. So, I just keep it to myself.
I have set myself some tasks based on my meditations. One of them is to sever the status quo of my life a little, be disruptive and do things I have not done for a long time, or ever, at all. That is, in part, how the weaving came about — trying to do something outside my comfort zone and break the cycle of same old/same old habits. Now that it has stopped raining all of the time (or hovering mere degrees above freezing), I intend to jump back on the bike and make that another one of my habits (there is also the whole: prepping for a birthday party for a teenage girl who only wanted a few friends over, but the grandparents self-invited themselves to that seemed to be all-consuming these past two weeks).
A week ago, my dishwater died. This is the third dishwasher death in the 15 years I’ve lived in this home and I groaned and moaned at the thought of dropping yet another $500+ on a new one. Then I saw it as an opportunity. After securing family member buy-in, it was decided not to replace the dishwasher and migrate to handwashing all the dishes. It was proposed as “an experiment”, but I’ve already largely decided it is the new norm. Instead of a sink full of dirty dishes waiting to be washed after the dishwasher is emptied from the last set of dirty dishes — the sink is mostly empty 95% of the time and the dishes are cleaner than when they were machine washed. Another new opportunity to sever the status quo.
That said, I am still struggling with being stuck on one of my other tasks that came out of my reflections. I used to be obtusely confident about everything I did prior to back to school to learn chemistry and get my forensic science education. About two months into my junior year (third year), my schooling in humility and humbleness began in earnest. Learning had always come easy to me, almost as easy as having a strong opinion about nearly anything. Suddenly, I was surrounded by about ten younger students who found learning even easier than I did and who left my understanding in the dust. Plus, I had a few professors who saw some chemistry courses as gate-keepers to the higher courses. Suddenly… shit got hard real fast and I was the slow/dumb one. By the end of my junior year, I lost all of my confidence when it came to learning — something that lead to higher alcohol consumption to assuage my ego which, in turn, made learning complex subjects even more difficult. Still, I managed to eek through thanks to two professors who took pity on me — one who saw the heavy brain-sweat, but low test scores and knew I had zero interest in getting my doctorate in chemistry; and another who saw something similar when it came to advanced calculus. Both gave me a passing grade in their respective courses, and I’m not entirely sure I earned those credits. It was two C’s that I needed to graduate with my chosen degrees.
Then I got back into the real world and, although I felt duly chastised, I ended up working for a company that has a disproportionate amount of extreme talent that I worked alongside. I tried to return to my high-confidence self, but was battered back down and put in my place quite quickly.
I ended up with an extreme case of imposter syndrome. For nearly two decades, I’ve suffered from chronic doubt about almost anything because of these experiences. I don’t trust my knowledge about anything. So, aside from the occasional bouts of seeming confident here, I am the quiet guy in the corner who has reverted to his pre-adolescent extreme introversion.
During some of that spirit work, I came to the understanding that I needed to overcome that feeling of feeling like an imposter. “Regain my confidence, but with moderation,” was the task that I set for myself.
Why the qualifier, “with moderation”?
Aside from making it easier to get along with people when you’re not so confident in yourself that you become an arrogant ass, I’m bothered by the unreasonable need to be right all of the time that used to fuel my confidence. Even when I was plainly wrong — I’d just bully people until they either accepted my being right, or they walked away with their arms thrust up to the sky in frustration. I was a really big jerk about being “right”. If I couldn’t be right because I actually was, I would use linguistics to confuse the issues and toy with logic until people saw how right I was. Lacking in any kind of confidence, I have grown to appreciate not striving to be right anytime, let along all of the time. I’m quite okay with leaving that trait outside the door. Not feeling the need to be right is liberating.
Where did that come from?
If anything, the pandemic and going off in “pods” with the family at the exclusion of the larger family, gave me a new understanding about things.
It was my father.
The last couple of times my parents have stopped by for outdoor visits with the kids, I inevitably get wrapped up in conversation with my father. After deciding that I’m okay with not trying to foist any opinions on anyone as part of my reflections, I began to realize that any assertion I’ve made in the past few months around my father has lead to him correcting my understanding — even if it is just a technicality or… he doesn’t happen to like how I said things even if he agrees with the core thought.
I reflected a bit on that, and realized that it’s always been that way with him. He always has to correct minor turns of phrase or point out something that could have been done better. The most recent example was at my daughter’s birthday gathering, where one of the relatives wanted to see my first woven scarf, so I brought it out to show her. He looked at it and had to say that the weave seemed tight and that sometimes scarves are warmer if the weave is less tight. Did he feel it looked good for a first time project? No. He wanted to make sure I understood he had criticisms of the work, implying he could have done better if he had bothered to try (he’s never done anything like weaving on a loom).
This is just the most recent comment I’ve noticed. He also took the time to critique my grilling of the hamburgers and hot dogs I was make for guests that same day. Always… he knows more and he’s better.
Does this bother me as much as I might imply? No. He won’t and probably can’t change, now that he’s in his 70s. But he taught me how to be that kind of person, as I looked back at all the times he and I sparred over trying to be the most right.
I don’t want that. I can change it.
But I’m a bit stuck. In my reluctance to continue to emulate that pattern of behavior from my past (and his), I find it hard to be confident about the things I do without succumbing to the arrogance of being better than everyone or “right” about everything I am confident about. I want to reclaim some of the ability to say: hey, I know something and I’m willing to share it, but I am also willing to accept that you might know more or even just have a different idea altogether that is equally valid.
I don’t want to pass that trait on to my kids. It’s not easy to like yourself when you realize that you’ve probably earned the adjective of being an asshole.
So I’m a bit stuck before I can tick off this box next to one of my “changes”. I need to figure out how to appear confident without the arrogance or the need to be right.