Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Demons Unleashed

After being so 'illiterate' for so long, I have once again been able to read and finish a book.  I've made up my mind to bring Noah to the library every week to borrow books and so every two weeks or so, I am also able to enjoy the luxury of walking through shelves, scanning books and sniffing pages as if they were some kind of drug.  The last one I just read, albeit interesting, gave me a bit of discomfort.  
It was one of those stories where, there isn't really much of a climax and everything seems mundane.  At some points the characters almost seem surreal, while in other parts appearing very ordinary to the point of being invisible to one's comprehension.  Before hitting midway, I was able to digest the point that the characters are indeed cowards; people who wanted something, wanted more, but were either too cautious to pursue their dreams and desires, or simply, unfortunately, incapable.

And there lies the seat of my discomfort.  It was like hearing Roberta Flack in my head singing 'Killing Me Softly' while being struck by the nature of the characters and their cowardice.  They could be me.  This is the story of my life, isn't it? 

I cannot tell you how often I think about what I could have been.  

I could have been a doctor.  

I could have been a geneticist or molecular biologist.  

I could have obtained a PhD.  

I could have been a tenured professor of Sociology.  

I could have been a human resource manager.  

I could have been a poet or writer.  

I could have been many great things, 'successful' things.  

Most of you would probably argue that it's wrong of me to think that way because I could still be many things if I so desire it.  But we all know that's easier said than done especially for someone my age and my circumstance (a wife, parent, limited financial resources, foreign educated with mostly foreign work history, and the list goes on).  I also acknowledge that, much like the characters in the novel, I am a coward.  I admit it.  I am afraid of failure and I am much too well-versed in the art of self-sabotage.  My own sister has pointed out to me before how I'm the type who thinks of all the bumps in the road even before I take a single step and visualize the end as achievable.  I am aware of my tendency to quit when I know that it is something I will not be good at or excel in.  I also know that I lack confidence in my own abilities.

Much too often, I have felt so frustrated with myself for not being REALLY good at anything; for being mediocre, at least by my standards.  I can teach, but I don't think I was a great teacher.  I have not had any complaints from any of my previous employers and have even had some minor office awards and things like that, but I still don't think I was the 'Best' in the group.  I can sing but I'm not a 'real' singer or someone who would have the guts to sing in public.  I cook and can cook but I'm not a 'chef' or an exceptional cook in my view.  I love organizing around the house or any space for that matter, but I'm not a professional organizer.  Most of all, I can write, but I am not comfortable to call myself a 'writer' and always cringe at the idea of labelling myself as such.  

It was so easy for me to shake my head while reading the novel, to effortlessly feel frustration over how the characters were living their lives and making (or should I say NOT making) choices.  But that's natural for people, isn't it?...to judge others' lives more easily than give a verdict for their own; to find solutions to others' tribulations than work through the countless labyrinths in their own minds.  It's always so much easier to see that all the 'perhaps', 'what if's' and 'if only's' in someone else's life exist only to incapacitate them.  When it comes to our own, my own, it's always so much harder and I often find myself powerless against these personal demons.  

How do others see me?  How do others measure my life?  I wonder if they think I'm not living up to my highest potential?  Do they think I've compromised my standards?  Do they think I'm a wasted investment?  When they see me or think of me, do they think deep down, "She could've been more"?

These voices have become too familiar to me, unfortunately.  And it's not that I regret my choices.  It's not that I don't think raising a child and having a family are unimportant or worth 'less'.  Neither is it about not enjoying myself with the things that occupy me now.

I guess the one thing that scares me most is that, while I was reading the novel and figured out a common denominator for the characters and their lives, the fact that I was able to easily relate to the characters' lives and felt how similar my biography is to theirs' means that I too share that common denominator---ordinary.  The characters were ordinary.

The thought of attaching the word 'ordinary' to myself brings me much trepidation.  All my life, I strove to perform, excel, be recognized or simply achieve something that would make me feel special, exceptional, different.  Looking back though I'm realizing that I have either failed or just haven't tried hard enough.  I don't know.  What do I know?

What is 'special'?  How would you define it?  How do I change my lens so as to view my life and my self better, kinder?  In a previous blog I know I wrote that I need to be gentler to myself.  I suppose I haven't gone far, have I?







     





    

14 comments:

  1. Do you know I still keep my notebooks in Sociology of the Family and Sociology of Work to this day? You're probably the most influential teacher I had in college and I probably got by in law school and at work because you sort of forced us to think and write in a structured manner. What's the Reiss Wheel Theory again? Or that demographic squeeze thing? Hahaha.

    You know how that song goes-- you were meant to be the way you are exactly :)

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  2. You hit the nail on the head! I too feel the same way - scared. Maybe that's why I haven't excelled in any of my endeavors nor have gone far enough. And I don't know what to do about it.

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  3. uh, joy, i think what you're doing now is extremely brave and not ordinary out all. not many people would have had the guts to do what you did and turn their backs on something safe and secure. at least from my view point, i think i would not have done it. so from my view, you're not ordinary. :)

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  4. Cara, your comment warms my heart and I am happy I was able to contribute to your success...somehow :-) Don't think about the demographic squeeze too much. It will only make you stressed out...although if you're not a singleton anymore, then you should be fine! heheheheh....Thanks....really THANKS for your comment.

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  5. Cybele, your perspective helps. That's a very good point and I am grateful for your saying so. Salamat!! :-))

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  6. * COMMENT #1 *

    You are a SAHM.

    When people hear this phrase, many stereotypical thoughts may cross their mind. Sure, you probably share many of the general responsibilities as other SAHMs, but it is your personality, background, and interests that set you apart. You have an abundant capacit

    You are not ordinary.

    Today, you probably woke up early. I’m guessing you did some sort of cleaning or organizing, and fed Noah and kept him occupied (among other things). Then, you played roughly 2.5 hours of tennis with family. During a break, you chatted with your 15-year old niece. She opened up about her passion in life, her sadness, and listened as you offered advice on how she could try to remedy the situation. The conversation then somehow drifted toward the end of the world (2012??), multiverses, the possibility of other life forms existing, and books and movies. After a long while, you got back up to hit a few more balls around before night really set in.

    Today was not an ordinary day.

    To answer (one of) your question(s), special is being able to communicate so naturally and effortlessly with your 15-year old cousin; to have her feel so comfortable with you that she can share her dreams and, more telling, her sadness/frustration.

    ...at least, that's what "special" is today. Tomorrow is a different day, an opportunity for a different "special."

    * COMMENT #2 *

    To go along with Nikki, at least we can find comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our self-deprecating thoughts/frustration/fear/etc.

    Being "successful" and being "happy" are/can be different things. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I can be my happiest if I am not successful. My mantra has always been "never satisfied"--meaning, never settle, always strive for more or something better. It has been both a blessing and a curse.

    Everyone wants to BE something or amount to something IMPORTANT. Now more than ever, I am afraid that I will just get stuck or lost in life, afraid that I will never reach a high point. The job hunt gave me such anxiety. I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I don't have to be something "great" or "successful" right now... I can work my way toward it.

    Anyway, I could go on and on but I've already written a pretty lengthy comment. Perhaps I should pick up on my blog... :-)

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  7. * COMMENT #2 *

    To go along with Nikki, at least we can find comfort in the fact that we are not alone in our self-deprecating thoughts/frustration/fear/etc.

    Being "successful" and being "happy" are/can be different things. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I can be my happiest if I am not successful. My mantra has always been "never satisfied"--meaning, never settle, always strive for more or something better. It has been both a blessing and a curse.

    Everyone wants to BE something or amount to something IMPORTANT. Now more than ever, I am afraid that I will just get stuck or lost in life, afraid that I will never reach a high point. The job hunt gave me such anxiety. I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that I don't have to be something "great" or "successful" right now... I can work my way toward it.

    Anyway, I could go on and on but I've already written a pretty lengthy comment. Perhaps I should pick up on my blog... :-)

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  9. hahaha, im so far away from successful. but like i said, i get by :D

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  10. Che, your comments made me teary-eyed. You made a VERY good point about my personality making it all different and not ordinary. I can go on and on again too but all I want to say is that you are one wise woman for your age. And I am blessed to have you in my life. THANK YOU!

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  11. I have to comment on the fact that I raised a very beautiful and wise daughter. And she's absolutely right, Joy Sexy! None of us are ordinary! We are each special in our own and very different ways!

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  12. This blog is very much connected to another one you wrote - its about measuring up to the standards of others and those you have set for yourself, as well as to what others have achieved. I can fully and utterly relate to your thoughts, your feelings, and your predicament. I share your woes - from my perspective, i strove to be a great student. i would like to think that I made something out of my career which had always involved working for things greater than myself and for the betterment of society- and then I decided to be a stay at home mom - that was part of my grand plan, but for some reason i feel less successful... perhaps it is because deep in my psyche it has been engrained that success is equivalent to a publicly recognized status. Everybody says being a stay at home mom is the ultimate job - you work 24/7 and you dont get paid in cash - but the recognition ends there.... I guess its a matter of shifting paradigms (as what you mentioned in a previous blog), which is easier said than done. Being a stay at home mom is by far the most challenging "work" Ive had. it is demanding and repetitive. it is frustrating at times but most of the time rewarding. Seeing my daughter blossom and being present to witness all the "firsts" in her life by far is something i will forever be grateful for ...but I also crave for adult intellectual interaction with people beyond my family and friends...and I still want to make a positive impact beyond my family. As such, ive involved myself with organizations that help the community. Ive also begun part time work in an NGO just to meet my personal "cravings." Its a delicate balance, but one that I hope to maintain.

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  13. I agree with Tina. Finding something to do on a part time or freelance basis (intellectual, advocacy, etc.) can provide the balance that we seek. As much as we love our families, something in us will always crave for professional satisfaction and growth. I mean we grew up in a society that measured success thru wealth and or professional achievement. We were educated in a school that prided itself for raising independent free thinking women. We were also oriented with the notion that motherhood can be a perfect "second" job, next to a great career.
    Well, they were wrong. Being a mother now is so hard that some single women are opting not to have kids anymore. Let's face it. Kids demand more of our time and resources now. There are more dangers and negative elements to guard them against. There are more lessons to teach them.
    I also agree with Tina about the paradigm shift. It's not super career woman first, then mother second. Now, it's supermom first, career a distant second. We do everything to empower our kids amidst a harsh society. But just because we focus more on our families doesn't mean we can't make a difference. :-)

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Let me know your thoughts!