Wednesday, January 08, 2014


I have a lot of ideas for a blog post which makes it so that I do not actually blog. Perhaps I can pile all the ideas into one long entry? That sounds efficient and unreadable. Bonus for both!

I said on Facebook that my New Year's Resolution is to try not to feel bad nor to make others feel bad. This is a tricky one because if I took only the first part of the resolution, I would be a jerk and if I took only the second part, I'd be a sucker. Let's back up a little and I think the parameters of the resolution will make more sense.

November was rough. Students wanted to talk to me about classroom dynamics. My birthday didn't really happen. I got some big rejections for essay stuff. .Classes I was trying to get the admin to pay for aren't being paid for, contracts from the admin not forthcoming, I was a finalist but not the winner of the National Poetry Series, not really thinking I'm much of a poet anyway. But mainly, I hurt someone's feelings by writing a micro essay about them. It was meant to be a testament to this person's awesomeness but they felt it was too revealing. I felt horrible for hurting this person's feelings. The kind of horrible from which you think you will never recover. I remember running down the road thinking, I will always feel this badly. And, I still do, if I think about it. I hate to hurt people's feelings. I feel so bad for my mom! My god. I write essays about her all the time and she grins and bears it. My mom is awesome.

So I felt horrible. But also lingering in the back of my mind was that I always feel kind of like this. That I'm always in trouble, or late, or behind, or not cooking enough, or not commenting enough on student's work, or not applying enough, or not playing on the floor with the kids enough, or not inviting my friends over enough, or getting enough presents for birthdays, or not getting my hair cut enough, or spending too much money and time at the grocery store, or not chairing my committees enough, or getting grants enough.

So stop. I said. This is dumb. You can't go around feeling badly all the time. You do enough. You get grants. You have essays and poems coming out. You have nice editors who email you. You pick up your kids every day and play with them on the floor most days. The committee doesn't care. The grocery store doesn't care. No one cares if you just serve pasta for dinner (Ew. I care. Maybe just cheese and apples.)

So I'm trying. It's innate, in me, to worry--worry about enough and what other's need and think. But now that I've been to what felt like the very bottom of feeling bad, I know that I don't want to feel like that, especially as constant background noise. So screw it. I'm not doing it anymore. Sorry. I can't go to drinks. No, you can't do one more activity, Zoe. No, I'm not going to three stores to find the cheapest sesame oil.

However, I also need to not make others feel bad. To the big bad: If I'm less stressed out, I'll be more careful. I won't feel this panicked need to send out submissions all the time before they're totally edited. But most importantly, I won't make others feel bad because I feel bad. By always trying to do everything, more and more, I put expectations on people, mostly Erik, but others too, that they should always try to do everything too and they feel badly when they don't worry as much about pasta versus apples as I. By not worrying so much about whether I buy the $4.99 Method dishwashing soap or the $2.99 Dawn, or wondering if I'm commenting enough on student essays (which I am--according to evals), I will not be adding to the background noise of bad-feeling. Also, by just saying "no" to requests I really don't want to do, I'll have more time to do the things I want to. There may be some making-people-feel-bad in that way but I have been to the pit of making-people-feel-bad. My not being on your committee is not that feeling. My not meeting your for lunch or coffee is not that. My Lego-in-every-room-of-the-house is not that. It's a short dip into the well of regret and then back out again.

I imagine it won't be perfect. I already feel a little bad I said no to a student. And I am behind on texts and emails. And I got a rejection from the Believer in less than 3 hours. Bad feelings abound but if I endeavor not to be an idiot, instead of endeavor to do everything I can think of to prevent bad outcomes ever, and if I shrug off the glancing bad feeling, I will at least be resolved.


radagast said...

It makes me feel good to read your posts, Nik, for what that's worth. I am SO with you on the enough-with-feeling-badly-and-worrying-all-the-time front. Enough already. I had four rejections, over the holidays. But some good things happened, too, creatively. Guess which ones I focused on? Enough already. I have, however, gotten maybe too good at saying "no," and I heartily recommend it. But YES to a happier, cheese-and-applier you in 2014!

Nik said...

You are rad, radagast! Thank you for this. It's like detoxing. A sabbatical from guilt!

What Now? said...

I'm sorry about the difficult situation with the friend, but the resolution that has come out of it is awesome. I love your phrase "the background noise of feeling bad." YES to cutting down on that noise!

Nik said...

Thanks What Now! It's a good lesson to learn. Let's hope it sticks.

Lisa B. said...

I am so happy to read this, even though I know it comes out of struggle and pain, because I feel this way all.the.time, and I am also done with it, and yet of course I still find myself back there. Maybe I will start by simply saying NO where it is called for. And by seeking to find the empathetic response, including for myself. You are amazing and wonderful, and that is a fact.

Dr Write said...

This made me cry. Because I live there. So, I'll try too.
And I'm sorry about the feeling bad about your friend. I can relate.
Less worries!!

Nik said...

Oh Lisa B. And Dr. Write, You are the good! It's so good to hear someone can relate. And that it's true, it's not a permanent fix. It's going to be work for a long time.

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