Saturday, 19 March 2016

I Am a Barnacle

You know that saying, ‘Go big or go home’ as it’s been around for awhile.  I’ve never liked it much.  I make a face when I hear it, a sort of scrunched face followed by a scowl.  I think that’s because I’ve always associated it with showiness and in your face bravado, which is something I am not particularly fond of.  It seems like something Donald Trump would say and I find the man repulsive.  However, I’ve lately realised that in some ways it is my own personal motto.  I don’t apply it to other people.  I have always been a believer in celebrating everyone’s best whatever that looks like and not believing it all has to look the same, but I set the bar high for myself.  Then I berate myself for such arrogance and step back for a bit and then I replace the bar high.  I carry deep inside me the belief that I must give 110% if I give at all, in addition to the belief that there are many areas in which I must give.

Because we are in the realm of shoulds here I need to attempt to clarify that it is not something externally imposed on me.  I don’t feel external pressure I put the pressure on myself.  It is my own set of personal values, my own expectations that do this.  And thus I tend to give all I’ve got plus more or I completely back off.  I recognise this is not really a good strategy, to put it mildly, but I also recognise it as a lifelong instinct.  It’s deeply ingrained in who I am and changing it takes a huge effort and is nearly as exhausting as attempting to reach my own standards.  That’s a dilemma.  I am trying to change though and of course the minute I am trying to do anything that has to do with improving myself the more I am going to be inclined to set the bar high again.  Now I arrive at expecting myself to become perfect at not expecting too much of myself.  Yeah, it hurts the brain. 

I have tried sternly berating myself.  Just who do I think I am to even imagine I could achieve perfection?  What arrogance?  I have tried gentle kindness too.  Just be gentle with yourself, go slowly, take a breath, do what you can and know that it is enough.  Do either of these actually work?  Not really but I suppose every little step forward is a step somewhere. 

I write to deal with my thoughts and my feelings, as they are overwhelming otherwise.  In many ways the purpose of my blog was to take these writings, my self-talk and any progress I might make and offer it up to anyone else who might be like me.  When I do this I always risk unsolicited advice.  I’ve learned to live with that though I can’t deny it’s irritating.  People mean well, I know that.  But as someone who has thought of and tried everything, who spends her whole life engaged in thinking or trying, it is rare I am ever offered advice that is a new idea to me or that I haven’t already tried.  Often, the writing about my thoughts and feelings is a result of my having gone already through the process of working it out, making a plan and resovling an issue.  Sometimes it is just very cathartic venting.  There are metaphors about vomiting cats in my head right now but I will not share those with you.

So lately I have been unwell, physically and mentally exhausted, just getting well enough to do something social or practical or in general something that involves going out and I am soon set back again.  I have two auto-immune diseases so I don’t know why I am endlessly surprised by this but I am.  There have been good days, but often I feel like a hamster on a wheel, getting nowhere, doing the same things and not progressing, wearing myself out in the process.  I cannot imagine going through this without writing, whether I write about my experiences directly or about other things as a form of distraction.  I cannot imagine how else to cope with how full my head is other than dumping some of it out onto pages of private journals or into this, my public journal.  Why even have a public journal?  Despite being highly introverted and I am also passionately relational.  I love to connect with people and feel a strong, warm, sense of connection to all people everywhere, to the universe in fact, and I need regular confirmation of that.  And yet I pay a high price for it.

In my head is a little critter, a sort of negative Jiminey Cricket who puts his hand on his hip and sarcastically says to me ‘Huh, sure sucks to be you.’  He is useful because of course I must immediately argue with him and tell him how I am quite happy being me, thank you very much, despite my hamster wheel brain.  I am sure hamsters are very fit.

In the all or nothing spirit I am prone to, the go big or go home, give 110% or give nothing, I have retreated from this blog because I could not be a blogger/blog-reader/blog-friend anywhere approaching my own standard and when I think about it, that really shouldn’t surprise me.  I have asked myself if I should stop and the answer seems to be no.  I have asked myself, what exactly am I trying to do, hoping to achieve, what do I want from this.  One thing I know is that I sometimes have so much to say, so much to empty out of my head that I can only keep up with the thoughts if I use a keyboard.  But maybe I should just maintain a computer journal.  Why would I put it on the internet, out in public?  The answer to that seems to be in my strong drive to connect with people, to reach out in some way, perhaps I am shouting out into the great void, Hello, is there anyone else out there who is like me?  Does anyone get me and even more miraculous, does anyone   get me and still like me?  I am used to not being understood, to being told I should just stop being who I am, to being asked things like ‘why are you so..?’  and to being valued mainly for what I have to give, not simply for just who I am.   I am shouting out into the void to find out if there is another way, if there is anything other than what I have known most of my life.

I am not broken.  I do not need fixing.  I am stronger than you imagine but I am also very fragile and I know it.  I have been wounded and I have  learned that I can keep going despite that, just as many others have.   Why am I writing here?  I am writing because I have to just like I have to breath, and it’s public because I am like a barnacle.  I will stay in my shell, stuck on my rock but dammit if I don’t have to keep sticking out my feelers and reaching for what is out there.  It’s just what I do.  It’s just how I do it.  Would you tell a barnacle to be an oyster instead?


  1. I am sorry you haven't been feeling well Shawna. I do not know the pain of chronic illness, but I have thought about it a lot and how strong a person must be to endure it because one of my oldest friends has Muscular Dystrophy (I know this does not make me in any way understand life with chronic illness), but I do think often of how strong a person must be to deal with it, the rest of us are wimps in comparison.

    I relate to the urge to retreat from blogging, unsurprisingly like you I feel out of place in the blogosphere sometimes. But we introverts are not alone, and rely on one another for thoughtful blogging nourishment in amongst the pretty pictures and occasionally(;-) vapid internet world in which we try to be heard. I think that personal, or journal style posts can be the thing that connects us to other people, and they are just as important as posts about the exterior. I know it feels lonely and a bit odd sometimes but I try to think about how much I appreciate when someone else writes something expressly from the heart and how happy and less alone that makes me feel as a fellow writer-ly blogger. Blogs change and don't have to be any one thing, and maybe you will find new bloggers to connect with if that is your desire. I genuinely do feel that there needs to be better networking for less cookie cutter bloggers, we get drowned out on Bloglovin' as it's a popularity contest rather than a real means of finding other blogs. I know it's exhausting to even try sometimes, and ironically it does feel inevitable to sink and disappear the harder we paddle upstream sometimes, I feel it too. But we are here, and we deserve to be, and I don't know maybe we can do something small, like a hashtag or link up, to feel less alone. The Sunday Confessions link up was a great gift for me, an excuse to write whatever I felt like, when I first became a blogger it seemed taboo. Anyway I ramble. If you want to take a break I will miss you but do what's best for you, and I hope you feel better soon. xo

  2. Hello Shawna, I hope you will find people who can share your experiences as close as it is possible. I know loneliness in friendship, and I also know that it is possible to find people with whom, at least for a while, you can share your experiences mutually, and how important it is to all of us. All the very best to you, from all my heart!

  3. Blessed are the barnacles that follow the Tao by remaining still and are therefore kind to themselves, knowing that the way is endless and the journey timeless. * And then there's Basho, who wrote exquisitely and drank heavily and enjoyed a good belly-laugh. * Believe me, I wouldn't bother to read your blog if it didn't provide excellent food for thought, much less would I pause to comment.


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