In Hope Floats, Sandra Bullock’s character tells her daughter that childhood is not a time for fun. Rather, it is a time which we spend our adult lives trying to overcome or rectify. That’s what it’s been for me. I grew up with my mother who was frightened and also absent in that she knew the effect my father’s words and actions were having on me and still she did nothing. AND my father who never gave his approval unconditionally – there were always strings attached. So I grew up being confused and terrified and constantly on guard. The lessons I learned as a child have been so deeply entrenched in my soul that they continue to trip me up and now make their presence known, not in the usual places, but in new ones. Their impact is now more subtle and insidious. And it’s all about performance.
I’ve been butting up against the issue of performance lately and how much it has run and still continues to run my life. When I was a kid, it was always there – the feeling that I had to measure up to everyone else and try so hard to be better than they were in anything; the need to excel at whatever I was doing even if I had no interest in it. I had to be the best student, get the highest marks, receive recognition for my hard work, do more than anyone else and do it better and faster. I had to take performance tests in skating and music and I had to pass the first time, get the highest mark, win the Kiwanis class. And, if I wasn’t the best or strongest or fastest, I would redouble my efforts so that the next time, I would be. I had to be able to do everything completely for myself and not depend on anyone for anything.
That was then and I have dealt with those things to satisfy mySelf and not anyone else. So I’ve sung in Kiwanis for the joy of singing. Done another voice exam for me and not for the mark [don’t even know what my mark was]. So many of the things which I’ve been doing in my life I have looked at and decided, for ME, if I wanted to continue having them as part of my life. And in doing that, the grip of feeling that I’ve had to perform and compete and measure up in order to be acceptable has diminished. I know that, in those places, it is not running my life anymore.
And I am so aware, as I write this, that the need to perform has been there even as I’ve been in therapy and learning to walk again. Much of my experience in the hospital recently has been underpinned by feeling guilty for being there. Coulda’, would’a, should’a statements have reverberated through my being. And so I felt judged and dismissed. AND I know that I filtered every word and every action taken by my nurses and doctors looking for tacit confirmation from them that I had messed up. That it was all my fault.
When I was initially in rehab, I’d look at others as they did their rehab exercises and judge myself because I thought I should be able to do what they were doing. In that twilight space between sleeping and being awake, I’d be convinced that I would get up that day and be able to walk. And then I’d begin my day and I wouldn’t be able to stand up, let alone walk. And I’d try so hard to do the rehabilitation exercises so that I could be independent again, walk again, do for myself again. AND also, I know, to receive praise from my therapists and the nurses for what I was able to do and for how hard I was working. And when I was told after I recovered from surgery that I had to earn the right to go back to the rehabilitation ward, I felt the old sinking feeling of being judged and found wanting. And I vowed to myself that I would do what was required of me AND more. I would be the best patient. And yet inside I felt so ‘less than’. I strikes me now, that not only was I physically disabled, I was totally crippled in so many other ways.
How easy it is to fall back on tried and well travelled ways of being. The vision I have is of a Machiavellian ‘me’ – a mad genius – who has been pulling my strings and pushing my buttons behind the scenes. And it’s only since I’ve been home, that I’ve recognized all the old beliefs and strategies about performing which I was running without conscious thought.
And the waves have moved and I’ve wanted to not be on my own and I’ve had talks with the energy I carry that I feel is my mother and also my father. And, thanks be to the process of Quantum TLC™. I’ve moved through and, since then, I’ve been regaining my independence in the way which suits ME so much sooner that I had thought I would. I’ve merely gotten out of my own way.