I feel like I should say that this is not a story of how I was shaped/wounded by my upbringing. Not a whine, either. I know when I’m wallowing in the sadnesses and violences of my childhood, which I can spend eons doing. This isn’t a wallow. This is figuring out, and being almost amused, or mildly amused to have figured out an origin.
I think I must have hated all that change much more than I was aware of. The parental stress, the new places, new schools full of kids I was fairly sure would think I was just fat and weird, the sense of powerlessness and undefended-ness. Nothing unusual in any of that, really. I’ve heard military kids talk about the same things—and some of them adapt gorgeously, becoming, well, highly adaptable and capable adults. I haven’t exactly crumbled under the weight of the various bumps of my childhood, either.
But I think I’ve maybe been having a decades-long, heels-dug-in tantrum about change. And a decades-long wallow in the discombobulation of change. So I’ve spent decades compensating for the instability of the first 12 years of my life. Some might say that that constitutes just a teeny bit of over-compensation.
I’m 60. I think that means that my job from here on in is to do the best and most that I can for as long as I can. And that includes wasting less time beating myself up for not-entirely-bright behavior patterns. I have no idea whether this morning’s “no-duh, Devon” epiphany will bear much fruit, or change the pattern. But it will at least allow me to chuckle at myself and my slight tendency to react to many things an itty-bit hyperbolically.
I’ve been trying to figure out my work patterns for years now. The procrastination part I get fine. It’s very clearly genetic—my father was a genius procrastinator, and I’m not bad, either. I got through college, essentially, by futzing around all week (sewing, writing poems, playing chess, modelling nude for art-major friends, reading anything that wasn’t on a syllabus) and then doing all my work in one wild all-nighter every week. I’m sure it accounted for a slight under-achievement (though I was mostly on the Dean’s List). And, God knows, being able to “pull it together” hard and fast is a skill that serves most adult lives pretty profoundly.
Nope. The patterns I’m confused by are the ones that involve dealing with major change from periods of externally regulated patterns (a vacation, the semester) to periods in which my long to-do lists and firm resolutions dissipate into paralysis for days/weeks (depends on what sort of loose time we’re talking about) in which I can do very little except whatever my self-soothing drugs of the moment are (genre fiction, word games on the computer, facebook, even making dozens and dozens of pairs of earrings for the church bazaar, grandkids) before I finally batter myself into getting back to both the to-do list and writing. This makes no sense, since I figured out the equation that I feel human and worth the air I breathe when I’m writing and don’t when I’m not. The pattern varies in duration and intensity according to my levels of stress/exhaustion/depression, but it stays steady in form. For years, I alternated between loathing myself and drowning in confusion about how a person other people generally view as dynamic, and accomplished could be such a slug-like, self-destructive ass. It kind of goes without saying that that sort of thinking just exacerbated the whole mess.