Life Without Feet: High Functioning, Off Balance, Almost Worthy

Photo by Imani ClovisUnsplash

Why do people see busy, productive folk as well adjusted?

I’m a very busy person. I work as hard as I can and while there’s plenty about the various bits I do that I don’t like, I find validation in what I do and I want to do it well. I think I’m like a lot of people in that regard. I don’t just want to be a good writer, student, and barmaid. I also want to be a good sister, friend, fiancée, daughter and auntie. And in that, I think there are many that want similar things. We all want to find our feet in life.

“I’m a high functioning depressive,” I joked to my therapist at one point, “It’s easy to be high functioning when the bulk of your work can be done on a laptop while hiding under a duvet.” It creates a perception that I’m always working. And in a way I am. I’m working to appear sane enough. Working to do the things that do require leaving the house. I’m not very good at this whole life thing.

I seem to get on fine in my own little space. Planet Me. Planet Me is reasonably quiet but full of conversation; full of stories and music. It has a lot of places to hide away. Time slows down to allow people to think, but resumes as normal once the thinking runs its course. Planet Me isn’t always a nice place. Sometimes there are troubles or unwanted influences. Sometimes people wear out their welcome but I can’t make them leave. Planet Me isn’t a utopia. It’s a space that agrees with me.

"I NEVER QUITE KNOW WHAT PEOPLE NEED OR WANT, AND BY THE SAME TOKEN, PEOPLE OFFWORLD DON’T SEEM TO KNOW HOW TO EXPLAIN."

The biggest problem with Planet Me is the poor reception with the outside world. Communication is often muddled: people look at what beams offworld and see me doing well despite being troubled. They send me messages and they arrive scrambled. I never quite know what people need or want, and by the same token, people offworld don’t seem to know how to explain. I’m perpetually off balance.

The result is a mess. I worry about getting things right. I want to be good at stuff. I want to be good enough, and often I feel the communication barrier is too much. I make mistakes. I think I have it figured out and then I discover I’ve been missing out on something. Not living up to potential. Capable but careless. Well meaning but awkward. Not quite worthy.

So I document everything. I make lists. I manage. I juggle and I add on to my work load. I look around for answers and nobody agrees on the problem. I love my jobs. I love the people around me. The list of things to do to be a good person keeps getting bigger, and I feel I’m never caught up. I can’t love without apology.

I wonder if I will ever be able to tell my partner I love her without following up with an apology for something.

“I love you. I’m sorry I’m hard work.”

“I love you. I’m sorry I’m grumpy.”

“I love you. I’m sorry I get in the way.”

“I love you.” I’m sorry, but I bite my tongue. The apology gnaws at my thoughts and I have to distract myself with my phone, a game, some other topic. Anything to escape.

It’s not just romance. It’s love for my jobs, love for my friends and family. I love them, but I’m sorry I’m not good enough. How I’m not good enough is a variation on a theme. I’m just not, and I need to make it better. I’m a bad person.

What is security? That trust that things are OK, that people aren’t actively hating you, that you do good work. That you have what you need and you can adjust as your needs change. The idea of being settled is alien. To be settled, you have to trust that you’re good enough. There is no security when you are consistently falling short of the mark.

But then friends say I take on too much. That I work too hard and I need to slow down. Family worries about my health and say I need to relax. But how can I relax when everything is wrong? How can I do less work when everything needs to be done and there’s nobody else to do it? How am I supposed to both improve on the job I do and also do less? I can’t stop. If I stop, I really will be a bad person.

Photo by Mitchell GriestUnsplash

The messages I’m receiving can’t all be right. People can’t be happy with what I do and then also be unhappy about it. I can’t be forever off balance and also be doing well at whatever it is. I can’t be unworthy of love and also be loved without guilt. There is a lie in there somewhere.

"PEOPLE SAY THE FIRST STEP IN CONQUERING ANXIETY IS TO NAME IT. TO MAKE IT SOMETHING OTHER."

People say the first step in conquering anxiety is to name it. To make it something other. Mind over matter, my mum told me at one point. Sometimes, it really is down to outsmarting yourself. Or outfeeling, if that’s a thing. To my mind, if intelligence was all it took then we’d probably be a lot less anxious as a species.

I can’t help but think maybe the problem is my little planet. Maybe I made it wrong, or it evolved in a way that is unhelpful. Maybe there’s an influence that I’ve not recognised as harmful? Maybe it’s just me. Maybe, I don’t really mesh with the stuff offworld very well and that’s just what life is like. And if that’s the case, maybe I’m not alone despite feeling so desperately alone.

I don’t really believe I’ll find my feet in life. I’m steeling myself for life without feet by just trying to find those spaces where I feel momentarily steady. And maybe that’s what everyone’s doing. Maybe none of us really find our feet. I really hope not, because it’s miserable and I don’t want all of humanity to be miserable.

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