Do you ever feel like you’re a hanger-on in life? On the outside of social situations? Constantly missing “in” jokes? Is it just me?

The last few social outings I’ve been to, I’ve had moments, extended moments, though not the whole thing of feeling like I’m someone’s little sister, quietly listening in on conversations I’ve no right to. I’m wondering if it’s always been this way and I’m just currently feeling conscious of it. I do recall feeling that way at times as a child, and then, I either took myself off if the people didn’t interest me, or pushed through if they did.

I oscillate between extreme self-confidence (so many friends and invitations to social outings! too much! must retreat!) and extreme lack of same (nobody really knows me or would like the “real” me anyway).

Oh FFS! Am I 5 days away from 40 and still obsessing over my “real” self? It’s all real. It’s all a part of me, and I’m not some kind of super-smart manipulator who’s able to control what I’m “displaying” to the rest of the world in some kind of machiavellian mask-dance. What comes out is mostly triggered by my emotions, by past trauma (which may not even be so traumatic, but felt that way as a younger me), by what I think people want, by what I think I want. But they’re all just facets of your standard, average, complicated human being.

Average. There’s a scary word. When I was younger it was the biggest insult someone could have levelled at me. But when it comes down to it, I’m not really all that special – and that’s okay. No-one is. I mean, sure we’re all special to someone, we’re all unique snowflakes, but we’re also all uniformly made of snow. There is more the same, snowflake to snowflake, than there is different.

I have judgement in me for my daily mundane first-world whines. What do I have to complain about, right? In some areas of my life I’ve borne more of a burden than usual, but – and especially taken on a global scale – the vast majority of my life has been one of extreme privilege. It’s the more strugglesome aspects of my life that I’m actually more okay with. When there were obstacles and I overcame them, I get to feel a little proud, I get to sidestep guilt. But when it comes to the basic everyday tasks of life, the ones that are more boring than difficult, the parts that aren’t exciting or particularly challenging – well, then I feel like a complete failure. And guilty to boot.

It shouldn’t be so hard to organise three meals a day for four people. And it’s not. But then! What?! I have to do it again today, and again tomorrow. And it’s all these small tasks that require constant adjustment and decision-making that feel like a thousand knife cuts to my energy and motivation. Seriously, the planning, creation and eating of meals is one of the biggest banes of my life. How lucky am I? We can eat pretty much anything we want to each day. But I want to make sure that we’re eating pretty balanced, healthy meals, and I’m also daily trying to coerce the children to eat more and more varied things – I’m actively ashamed of their diet and dinners are so draining that I default to sausage, chips and peppers way more frequently than I life to admit to. So, because of the kids, I try to keep it familiar and then I’m bored out of my skull creating or eating it. And it’s all so boring and time-consuming. Is this what I’m spending my one wild and precious life on?

And I feel guilty that I’m not getting this right. And I feel guilty that this is all I have to worry about.

Here’s the thing – if I stop worrying about these small things, I’ll just start worrying about scarier things like my future demise, the death of my parents or siblings, I’ll start ruminating on the potential horror of losing one of my children.

The cure for my malaise doesn’t lie in fixing “The Dinner Problem”. It lies in fixing the “Me Problem”.

That’s probably a bit too harsh, but it’s essentially true. I can probably express it a bit nicer and a bit less attacking of myself for being the problem, but something core has to change outside what I identify as the cause of my unhappiness. Otherwise I will just drag my unhappiness along with me from situation to situation.

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