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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The Plight (flight) of the Polymath (butterfly)
The other day I received a message on twitter that caused me to take pause and contemplate.
" (By the way), I thought I was a polymath.....you may have me beat. ;) "
Now, I kinda knew what the word meant but I would in no way have ever held that perspective of self, so I stopped and looked up the word to make sure I understood what it meant, because, by my definition, he must have me confused with someone else who's a lot less disfunctional than I am.
I often find myself stuck unable to decide what to do next. About what? About most anything. It's not because I lack imagination or education, or resources. It's not because I lack initiative. It's not because of fear of failure. It's not because I'm depressed. It's not because I'm lazy. Although most of the time when I feel stuck, these things are exactly what I've been conditioned to think of myself, mostly due to being diagnosed as such throughout my life at one time or the other by well meaning grown ups who never really took the time to actually get inside my head. Occasionally, I get up the gumption to get things done, and there's almost always some sort of measurable success.
I have, in my lifetime an innumerable collection of these small successes. But I have always put a lot more credit (or charge, as it were) towards the long periods of time in between them, when I was stuck in seemingly endless bouts of ruts asking myself "What to do, what to do?" This has always made me feel like I lack direction... like I can't make up my mind who I am.... like a need to stop hopping around from one thing to the other and just choose something reasonable and stick to it. But that's not who I am, so attempts to do this have always ended in disappointment and injury to my self esteem. I used to dread anyone asking me what I do. What should I tell them? I'm a mother, I'm a volunteer at the pyrate's school, I'm a hobby gourmet...soon-to-be cookbook author and home cooking teacher, I'm a writer, I'm a vocalist, I'm a songwriter, I'm a blogger, I'm a former makeup artist, I'm a poet, I'm a bridge connecting many people, I'm a painter, I'm a crafter, I'm a business partner, I'm a supporter of the arts, I'm a wife, a daughter, a friend to many, I'm a motivator, I'm a teacher, I'm a truth seeker, I'm an entertainer. Those are the things I am everyday. On occasion, I am my family's hub, I am an activist, I am a therapist, I am a world traveler, I am a speaker of several languages, I am a healer, I am an employer...
I suppose I could go on and on if I think about it long enough. Most of the time I don't think about it like this. All I see is that over the last year I didn't accomplish any of my goals from the year before... except getting married... and that feels like failure on first pass to me when i'm in a rut. I've been as hard on myself as those who would, in the past, judge me harshly without knowing me... almost as if I don't know myself. All those things that I am... collectively they can feel very overwhelming if I hold myself to the high expectations in my head. When I sort of finish something or it comes to a halt for some reason, I find myself unprepared with the next thing because I've dedicated my focus on doing the one thing with some sort of grand ambition. Then all of a sudden that space in my head is wide open, and all the other things that I am come flooding in and I realize how many things I want to be doing, should be doing, have to be doing, in order to feel authentically me, but I'm overwhelmed. I get so overwhelmed sometimes that I can't even think about it all. I have to just be silent and pretend like I am none of those things... don't answer my phone, don't check my mail, just shut down and allow my mind to be silent and still until the feeling passes and I can pick something to focus on... It never occurred to me that it would be okay to just be them all at once. That's the way it is to be multi-talented I suppose.... but I never really would have called myself this. These many facets of me felt like indecision at best. Most people, after all don't even understand what it means to have so many options so to them, I just look flighty. It would be so much easier to just have one title.
The newer stuff that I do is the hardest. The music I make is good. But I often feel like I cheated because I've not been doing it all my life. I don't practice it for hours everyday til it's perfection. I just do it, with some degree of organic movement and emotion. It is an expression and not a science for me. I expect to not get acclaim because I feel that there are so many others who work harder at it for a lot longer than I and they deserve to reap the benefits of their labor. I can't even tell you how many times I walked into a room full of fellow artists and felt like I would be exposed for the impostor that I surely must be. Because, how could I be a music artist AND all these other things?
Then the other day, this message came, from a virtual stranger, a cyber friend, who doesn't know me from Joe Schmoe. I thought to myself "Huh? Polymath? Me? Yeah, right... quit yankin' my chain bro." That's what happens when you're a grown ass woman and someone pays you a compliment that seems to be a bit superfluous by definition. You think your chain's gettin' yanked. :)
But I didn't respond right away because experience has also taught me to take a pause in moments like that and utilize my resources. So I did just that and looked up the word. Here is the wikipedia definition of the word. Scroll over the little icon:
Now, in the first few lines of the definition, I was still convinced there was no application where this word related to me. I'm certainly no expert at anything... at least not by my own allowance. After all, there's an artist's rendition of Leonardo Da Vinci there as an illustration. That's a lot to live up to. lol..
But as I read on I began to see things in the definition that actually sound a lot like me... if I put aside those judgements ordained upon me in my youth and allow for a different perspective.
I am a Renaissance (Wo)Man. That information is quite empowering in this particular moment, when I've been having one of those periods of being stuck that seems to have gone on for almost 2 years now, since just after the release of my debut album. Which if I allow myself to be honest about it, was a huge accomplishment. Ever since, I've been bumbling around doing a little bit of this and then a little bit of that, but doing nothing with any significant amount of commitment because I felt ridiculous to do so. The wedding planning distracted me for about 8 months, but that ended very quickly when all the festivities were over. (Another hugely successful accomplishment considering it was mostly do-it-yourself styling and planning for 250 guests...) But now, I think I realize, this is just who I am. I have to just give my all, to all of it, in the best way I can, and be thankful for the multiple gifts that I may enjoy including never being forced to endure boredom.
There comes time in ones life when one must rename themselves, redefine who they are, based on who they are, and put aside all of the externally projected judgments, labels, names, and definitions one trusts in one's youth.
There comes a time when you must either embrace yourself, in all that you are and celebrate or resign yourself to the misery of dissatisfaction with your life.
I am a Polymath. Like a butterfly, I may light upon many a different flower and that may seem like "flightiness" to some, but in truth, I pollinate each petal I light upon with life and love and in those visits the world is hopefully in a small way improved for myself and others and life is perpetuated.
I am a Renaissance (Wo)Man, and I am now aware of becoming enlightened to what I must do. I must stop allowing myself to be overwhelmed with not meeting other people's expectations, and allow myself to just DO what I do, the best I can do it... all of it... like...
my very own little symphony of ME.
This year's composition includes plans to write and produce a new cd, take a summer trip to Austria to visit the Austrian's parents, get my Cook 'n Dine sessions up and running, write a cookbook, perform live more, a trip to the UK in the fall for my cousin's wedding, the whole family getting scuba certification (which means classes and two dives), start brainstorming for the rock opera I want to write, work on some substantial health and wellness improvements, and somewhere in all of that make a baby!
So I guess this year I'll just attempt to do it all with some astute choreography. Let's see what happens.