Do something. Say yes.
I don’t like doing things.
OK, maybe that’s not the best way to put it.
When I was growing up, my mother used to get incredibly frustrated with me because I was “lazy”. I was not one for friends, for being social, for getting out of the house and doing things. I liked playing on my computer. I liked reading. I liked shutting myself in a room for hours to plunk away on a (musical) keyboard or to strum away on a guitar — both self-taught, if I may be allowed to feel good about myself for a few seconds.
Running around and being active were never really things I enjoyed to do with my time. So, I could see why, at first glance, the assumption would be made that I’m lazy. I’d been called lazy so much growing up that I just assumed that’s what was wrong with me — and I’m still not entirely convinced that laziness isn’t what’s wrong with me.
If you dissect my interest in doing things that don’t require doing much moving around, though, and dig a little bit deeper than just “oh, you don’t like moving around”, you might see there’s more to it than being sedentary.
When I was a kid, I liked doing things alone. I liked isolating myself and doing things that didn’t require anyone else. It saved me from bugging my parents, playing with my little sister, having to talk, having to behave, having to do things I didn’t want to do, and facing the reality that I just didn’t have many friends. It allowed me to get lost inside my head, to disconnect myself from an environment that didn’t really seem to be made for me. It was ideal. And because the best way to do that was to shut myself away from the rest of the world, which was a lot easier to do indoors, it meant that I didn’t go outside much. (Side note: I often get told I have great skin. I don’t see it, personally, but if I really do have decent skin, there’s one reason: I have not been out in the sun/weather very much. Hooray, I guess?)
As part of this whole Learning About Myself thing that I’m going through right now, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and picking apart and wondering how I became the person that I am. I’m not sure I like her very much, and I’m hoping that by digging through my past, I can come up with reasons why she’s the way she is, and what I can do to fix her — the assumption being, of course, that she’s broken.
I’ve been exploring the idea that with my surgery last year, I opened the door for a bit of a re-birth — a chance to re-invent myself as someone who not only deserves to be a part of this world, but as someone who fits into it. My body shaped how I allowed myself to live, right or wrong, and with the change in my body has come a change in my outlook about life and my existence. This re-birth is something I was hoping for, and is so much more than something physical. I finally feel as though I’m ready to allow myself to be a new person, and that is SO exciting!
But there’s one thing that could prevent me from allowing this to happen right: I have no idea how to be a person.
Maybe that’s a bit harsh, and a lot crazy. I’ve been a person for nearly 40 years, so I’ve been doing the person thing for a very long time, but I don’t think I’ve been doing it properly. (If there is such a thing — yes, I know, we all struggle with that from time to time. Being a human being that is meant to exist with other human beings is difficult.) There are so many things that I never really learned how to do, things that — I think? — are second-nature to most people. And I need to fix that. And, I’m scared. I’ve been doing this person thing very poorly for nearly 40 years — how on earth will I be able to make up that lost time?
Growing up, I was a year younger than my classmates. I started at one school, was accelerated a year (sorta), and was moved to a different school to start grade 3. The school was an ‘alternative’ school, and the classes were small — my class was for students from grades 3 to 6. So, I was a student that was meant to be in grade 2, in a class with kids that were nearing puberty. It didn’t go well, and I didn’t have many friends, and I was bullied badly, and it was terrible. I spent a lot of time in the schoolyard playing by myself. I couldn’t speak in class without being laughed at, so I just learned not to speak in class (or anywhere, really) unless I absolutely had to. I had no idea how to make friends, I had even less of an idea how to keep friends if I were to suddenly find myself with people wanting to spend time with me, I had zero clue how to have conversations with people, and I was completely unable to navigate a world that was really overwhelming to me. (I have not changed much in 30 years.) And then, after 2 years in that environment, I moved to a different school. And then, 2 years after that, it was time for another school. And, 2 years after that, hey, high school, one of the worst periods of my life! I didn’t have a lot of time to learn how to be social, and before I knew it, I was of an age where I should have already learned all of that stuff, and was ready to head out into the real world. Oops?
I don’t know how different I’d be now if I’d learned how to be social at a younger age. Maybe all of the external factors I *think* influenced that aspect of myself didn’t actually have anything to do with why I ended up being so shy and withdrawn. Maybe I was meant to be this way from the get-go and I never stood a chance.
So maybe there’s no way I can learn this stuff now, and knowing that is putting me in a position of feeling very lost and kind of confused and totally terrified.
I enjoy my solitude immensely, and I can’t see myself being anything but alone and quiet and shy and withdrawn (and totally OK with it). And yet, every once in a while, a natural loneliness surfaces — and when it does, I’m filled with a crippling fear about whether or not I’ll be able to do anything about it (and that whole dying alone thing kinda looms over the everyday). I’m not sure if I’m scared of being social, or if I’m scared of trying to be social and failing at it. I will always be that 7 year old hanging out by herself in the schoolyard, writing stories and playing at make believe and fantasy worlds in her head, being teased because she didn’t really belong.
I’ve been doing a lot of this learning and exploring by writing, and for some reason, people are reading the words I’m spitting out there — thank you, by the way. I’ve been open about sharing this with people in all parts of my life, and in the process, have been getting incredible positive feedback from people. It has been invaluable to me.
After reading an earlier post of mine about my surgery, a coworker recommended (and loaned) a book to me — Shonda Rhimes’s Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person. I read it in about 2 days, and… whew. I would never compare myself with someone like Shonda Rhimes (my dream to write for television prevents me from thinking that I could ever even remotely come close to resembling someone who does that for a living and so damn well), but many of the experiences she writes about in the book made me feel a little less weird — and made me laugh out loud (and cry) on public transit. I’m really glad I read it, and I think I learned a lot about myself… though I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet.
The book focuses on a year of her life that she devoted to saying yes to doing things, after her older sister pointing out to her that she never says yes to anything. Boom, lightbulb moment? To be fair, kinda, I wouldn’t say that I’m someone who never says yes to anything — I go out and be social occasionally — but as someone who is mostly content just sitting at home and reading or writing or playing on my computer, I find ways to not do things with other people all the time. And often, I’ll say yes to something, and then flake out the day of simply because I can’t physically/mentally/emotionally bring myself to do it — hello, anxiety, you suck. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to stay at home and do “nothing”, but with this whole Learning to be a Person thing, I’m starting to acknowledge that I’ve probably been shutting myself out from opportunities my whole life. And that totally sucks. I’m not going to feel bad about being anti-social, ever, but… maybe part of learning to be a person is learning how to spend time with people who aren’t myself. To learn how to make friends, to keep friends, to carry on good conversations with people. To feel comfortable enough with myself to believe that people might want to get to know me better, and to feel comfortable enough with myself for me to let other people know that I want to get to know them better.
So, back to Shonda. She gave a year of her life to saying ‘yes’ — and while at first it seems like she spent that year saying ‘yes’ to things and other people, more than anything, she was saying ‘yes’ to herself. Sure, she did things she’d never considered doing before, and that’s a big part of her year, but agreeing to give this speech or go to that event or to lose weight or, say, to start accepting compliments, well… it wasn’t just a matter of agreeing to leave her house once in a while — even if it started there.
When I started reading the book, I was convinced that I’d allow it to change me. That I’d take what she was talking about, and run with it. I would start saying ‘yes’, I would start leaving my comfort zone, and I would start living.
It hit me midway through the book that I’d already started that. The minute I decided that it was time for me to do what I needed to do to lose weight, I’d acknowledged that I wanted my life to change, and that was where it needed to start. And hopefully, it would trickle into other aspects of who I am, and things would get better.
As part of the process of the type of surgery that I had, we have to learn how to eat again. Our bodies change so much that we have to learn how to chew properly, learn what foods we need to eat to be healthy (and to not make ourselves ill), and learn how to continue this going forward so that we don’t slip back into bad habits. We are essentially like newborns, learning how to navigate the world when it comes to sustenance in the form of food. It’s kinda surreal.
But one thing that isn’t really acknowledged in this process is how to deal with a different type of sustenance: the social kind. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m unique in my social ineptness as a fat person (I’m thinking no, though during this journey, I’ve encountered more socially “normal” people than those like me who can’t deal with it at all). Maybe it’s something lacking from the program itself.
Either way, here I am, not only having to learn to do something as basic as eating, but accepting that I need to learn other aspects of being a human being before I can live my life more fully. I finally need to learn how to be a person, and how to navigate the world without being overwhelmed — and to maybe try doing it not-alone. I have no idea where to begin, but maybe acknowledging it is a place to start?