Authentic vs. Imposter

I don’t talk much in detail here about the people in my life, but I need to open this post by saying I know I’m blessed. I have some of the best people possible surrounding me, cheering for me, supporting me. I have a good job with the very best co-workers, many of whom are dear friends. I have the most devoted (read: clingy, neurotic, riddled with separation anxiety) dog, and life is good.

One night last month, I had one of those sweet, simple and yet so impactful nights that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life. A friend coordinated a get-together, and four of us whose lives intersected through the Junior League but have stayed entwined through cross-country moves (and thankfully, back again!), seven children, my divorce, and more, sat down and picked up as though there had been no pandemic, no years since we all laughed together. (I’m pretty sure the last time we were together was the baby shower we hosted for the first of the group to have a baby, probably about five years ago?)

I hope each of you has a tribe like that, or at least one friend with whom time and distance don’t exist, where conversations flow as though you’d just clinked glasses together the day before, NO MATTER WHAT.

… which brings me to the meat of this soul-barring confession…

My name is Chan and I am an imposter.

… and those brilliant, strong, beautiful ladies knew it all along and loved me anyway. Each of them tried to love me towards being authentic in her own way, but ironically, it took a pandemic and the isolation that came with it, our busy lives and all of the other circumstances that led me to being able to look them in the eyes and admit that I’ve spent my ENTIRE LIFE trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be in that moment, for this person or that one, for this role/job or another…

I was proud of being a chameleon, and I actually said so out loud many times. I NEVER stopped to question my logic, or to wonder if I could just be me and see what happened.

Honestly, it began before I have any recollection of being aware of my behaviors. I had to be on my best manners for this person, so she’d give me presents. (Literally… one of my few memories of her was of a post-toddler-nap moment when she rather succinctly explained that if I couldn’t be a happy, grateful little girl, I could give the toy she’d just given me back and go home.) Then, I was told I couldn’t pursue tennis as a passion because it required someone else to play with me. Then, yet another nurturer told me I couldn’t major in music in college because it would lead to frustration (as so few make it as professional oboists) and I didn’t want to be stuck being a music teacher.

I can go on and on, but my point isn’t to blame any of these people; I just want to know why it took me 52 years to realize I’m perfectly good the way I am and I don’t have to try to be what ANYONE else thinks I should be, or most specifically, I SHOULD NOT try to be what I THINK someone else wants me to be!

Impostor syndrome and the idea of being authentic are getting a lot of press right now, but this is hardly a 21st century issue. We’re watching Reign on Netflix, and certainly the characters depicted within were not afforded the privilege of pursuing what made them happy, fulfilled, etc. Nor is it uniquely an issue for females; people pleasers come in all shapes, sizes and costumes. I don’t think anyone in my life intended for me to make a life out of trying to guess what someone else thought I should be and doing my best to become it, but that’s just what I’ve done.

What’s most difficult for me to talk about, what I’m still very much working on, is how this all relates to my self-confidence. Up until very recently, I and most people who know me, would say I’m a very confident person. But the truth is, confidence is just one of the many costumes I’ve learned to wear well. I appear confident and self assured when I am feel I’m doing a good job in the role/image I’m projecting, when the people I am trying to please are pleased.

So tell me… what is one thing that is authentically you?

21.2

Humbling is thinking you’re fit and strong and doing a workout of the day and discovering you have PLENTY of room for improvement.

Disclaimer: I don’t speak Crossfit. The only reason I know to call what I just did 21.2 is because CVG’s Instagram feed told me to. I happen to know how to do dumbbell snatches because I spent 3 years in a great gym, but I had to turn to YouTube to figure burpee box jump overs. (Hint: burpee + box jump ain’t quite it. Again, I’ve done something similar, but my gym was no Crossfit gym.)

Empowering is making what you have work for you – and work you HARD. I don’t have heavy dumbbells at home, so I scaled down by more than half, which honestly, wasn’t ideal. I’m not going to be so bold as to say I could have pushed through with a 35# instead of a 15#, but… instead of saying “I don’t have the right equipment so I can’t do it” I modified and I assure you, I still got a great workout. I don’t have a box for box jumps, but ironically, I’d just whined about this to my guy, and he – King of adapt and blow them away anyway – pointed out that the two stumps in the yard are roughly level and roughly small box, big box sizes.

So, after roughly a year of no box jumps, I started on soft, mossy ground (read: unlevel), and did it anyway. I still want heavier dumbbells, and I still want the sweet, dense foam boxes I once knew… but I can make do and sweat heavily without them.

As always, my faithful cheerleader kept me company, even if she thought it was weird. She also enjoyed looking for her lizard friends (too soon, sweet girl) and chasing squirrels, which she can’t do in a gym. Pros and cons…

What are you making excuses to avoid?

Face your fears

Gretchen’s battle with anxiety inspires me almost daily, but this post is about my fear, specifically the one I’ve named since the day our vets were exposed to Covid 19 and had to change the way they do business. They are still not allowing non-staff into the building, and I knew that would be a challenge for Gg when she had to go visit.

What I didn’t know is that an unbreakable, pain induced, six hour long anxiety attack would get us there. Turns out she was yelping and trying to get me to take her somewhere (to the vet??) because she had another raging urinary tract infection, but it was an all-day diagnosis, because she’s very modest about the whole sample thing.

Happier hour Saturday afternoon

She lived through it. I lived through it, and if it was possible to respect and adore my vets and their staff more, I do. It appears she is back to being afraid of nighttime, but she has had a no-symptoms of the UTI pain day, and I’m delighted.

Valium is NOT her friend. We had tried it before, years ago when she was an awful (read: makes a mad cat look easy to pill) patient, and Friday night, I had to coax her to take it, hidden in her favorite pill pocket. Last night, she was already in full panic mode, so I’m shocked it went down even in the pill pocket, smeared with her favorite egg and cheese.

She panted and shook for three hours after that before exhausting herself. Tonight I’m going to take the Valium (kidding!) and give her more melatonin, which she doesn’t mind as long as we don’t stay heavy too many nights in a row.

Current situation with mild tremors

I’m sitting with her on the deck now, and feel we need to change things up with her sitter. SOMETHING (loneliness? a poorly timed bee sting?) sets her off about this time nightly. It isn’t even dusk yet, so I welcome any and all ideas. She prefers to be outside, and we often find her on the back deck when we get home, regardless of the weather, or amount of light left in the day.

Not being able to protect her from her fears is my greatest fear. What is yours?

12 or 64?

Yesterday was Lady Gretchen Greer’s 12th birthday. According to two different internet sources, that makes her roughly 64.

That chart gives me more hope that we have many years together yet to come. It also means I’m less inclined to let her dictate the pace and distance of our runs. Yeah, she’s a senior, but the girl isn’t ready for a doggy rocking chair yet!

Hanging with the ladies on a Saturday weighted vest walk. Credit Toni J

It’s been a rather unremarkable year and that makes it very special. Her meds didn’t change, other than varying her nightly melatonin dose according to her current state. Her thyroid is properly supported, and so is her emotional well-being. We’ve dodged the contactless Covid operations at our local vet thus far, and there have been no injuries or issues other than her dental surgery, immediately pre-Covid. (That was basically her first cleaning with a known broken tooth to complicate things; it was all but a non-event.)

She did have sore toe a few weeks ago that was easily fixed by her new friend at DogTopia. Our vet isn’t doing weekend hours right now, and none of the local groomers I’ve used before (or had positive recommendations for from a trusted source) answered their phones or had any availability the Saturday morning in question, so I rang up that new place near work, and my hot mess, doesn’t like to leave my side girl didn’t even look back when her new friend met us at the car. Before I could order from my Dunkin’ app, they were back. I may never cut her nails again; for $10 and a very generous tip, Gg made a new friend and the “jammed because it was too long” nail and its friends were all cut back without incident.

Here’s to another 12 years together, sweet girl. You’re high maintenance and it took me 10 years to figure out your stressors, but I love helping you live your best life.

All up in my feelings

This has always been a tough week for me. My mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day AND Nurses Day/Week all fall in one big clump. Even when she was alive, it was a minefield. There are no cards that say “Thanks for trying to be a good mom… I love you anyway.”

Circa 1973?

My mother struggled with mental illness her whole life. She was smart, sarcastic and a very talented nurse, so she was also good at masking her issues, until she couldn’t. She wasn’t all bad by any means, but her need to deny her challenges existed only made it harder on everyone. And the first part of May demands that I reflect and remember, whether I want to or not, whether it is convenient or not.

Here’s what I do know, and can celebrate:

  • My mother had a servant’s heart. She was a scout leader at least two different times in her life, she and my father ran the church youth group, she served on the altar guild at multiple churches, and she was her best self as a nurse. I am grateful for her example of servant leadership.
  • My mother was playful. My fondest memories are of playing in a creek, making snow angels, snowball fights, playing with puppies…
  • My mother was a voracious reader and made sure I learned to read early and often.
  • My mother was a gifted story-teller. When it was a personalized, crafted on the fly bedtime story, that was a good, loving thing.
  • My mother loved animals, and helped me remain a dog lover, despite several unfortunate encounters in my early childhood.
  • My mother was smart. Above-average intelligence was baseline, and I am still learning how far ahead of the curve she and so many people around me were.
  • My mother loved music, and cultivated the same in me. From Ella Fitzgerald to John Denver, she made sure I understood good music came in many forms.
  • My mother liked crafts. I remember macrame and latch hook, but she also taught me just about every type of embroidery there is. She didn’t knit, but she learned to crochet late in life. She wasn’t a great seamstress, but she was better with a sewing machine than I am.

We didn’t have a conventional relationship, but I do have fond memories. As time passes, I find myself remembering more of the good and less of the rest.

I wish those of you celebrating a Happy Mother’s Day, and for the rest of us, I hope for a pleasant day without drama.

Essential Services

The firefighter I used to be laughed at automotive services being declared essential services. Yes, we are the contracted vehicle maintenance shop for the University and some local police, fire and rescue units, but then yesterday, two doctors thanked us for being open because they too need to remain mobile.

This is not a time for judgment. I’d argue it’s never wise to judge, but that’s another story for another time. There are plenty of folks talking about what you should and shouldn’t do, and I’m not an expert, so…

What is essential? Good food. Exercise. Fresh air. Staying connected. I’m grateful my tribe filled my voids; I now have rice, broccoli and ground beef. I also found a silly, wonderful peanut butter whiskey (see my Facebook or Instagram) and crafted what I’m calling Eggs Benny-ish.

I love eggs Benedict. I bought The Pampered Chef stoneware egg pan just to do poached eggs. This morning, I felt the urge to break it in, but alas, no English Muffins, no Canadian Bacon. I rarely follow a recipe as written, so…

Eggs cooked per instructions ( 80 seconds on high in microwave). Biscuits split, covered with cheddar and deli ham, then put back in the warm (but turned off) oven whilst whipping up the hollandaise sauce. Eggs added on top, sauce slopped on and… yum.

How goes it where you are? What can we do to help?

Gretchen wants it known she had her teeth brushed today. She didn’t fight me nearly as much as I anticipated. We will be doing it at least once weekly from here on out, more often if I can figure out the routine.

Resilient

I believe in the power of words. As a very wise friend explained it to her young daughter (said girl had just hurled mean insults at her sister and obediently offered a “sorry” of barely sincere proportions) so very well… words slide so easily out of our mouths, but stay out there in the universe forever, and may stay in other people’s memories that long too. There are many cases for the power of affirmations and positive thinking, but that simple explanation offered ancedotally has stuck with me for years. (The insulter is now a mom herself.)

My friend Sarah may not have been the first to introduce me to the idea of a word for the year, but as with the blogless friend referenced above, she’s the one who made it stick for me. (Erin McDermott offers a discounted “word” piece of jewelry every year, and I’ve had a necklace for years, and took it as a sign I’d picked the wrong word when a bracelet disappeared from my wrist a few years ago.) Some years, the word comes easily, and some years (the Gaelic word on the bracelet that vanished), I have to dig and scrape and it just doesn’t fit. Still other times, I’ve claimed a word as my own mid-year, because I’m not really much on the whole “New Year, New You” thing.

(Personal growth and such is why we’re here, in my opinion. We are here to become the best versions of ourselves, and if we’re lucky, we might inspire a few other folks along the way, or lighten a load, make a difference, etc.)

This year, I backed into “resilient” almost accidentally. Before I saw Sarah’s post, I’d seen the My Intent “What’s Your Word” quiz, but didn’t click through, and another friend posted her word and the Day Spring word finder. (I got “Stand” and was almost offended; I’m not feeling as though this is a stand my ground kind of year, or stand still phase or… but then I realized one can also stand tall, stand in the gap…)

Long story short, “resilient”came to me via the My Intent quiz. I ended with “empowerment” which always speaks to me, but still wasn’t just right. Luckily, the good folks at My Intent do a little synonym block, and there was resilience, waiting for me.

Google’s dictionary says:

re·sil·ient/rəˈzilyənt/adjective: resilient

  1. 1.(of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.”babies are generally far more resilient than new parents realize” Similar: strong tough hardy quick to recover quick to bounce back buoyant difficult to keep down irrepressible adaptable flexible Opposite: vulnerable sensitive
  2. 2.(of a substance or object) able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.”a shoe with resilient cushioning” Similar: flexible pliable pliant supple plastic elastic springy

All of that resonates, deeply. I do hope I am capable of being vulnerable and sensitive, but otherwise, THIS. IS. WHAT. I. CLAIM.

I am going to live this year, this phase of my life, with resilience. I had a long run of cocooning myself, maybe even losing myself, and I have had a couple of years of opening my eyes wide and embracing change. If life is like a heavy squat, my very strong legs and glutes are ready to propel me back up!

… because that’s how springs and recoil work, right? Once a spring is compressed as much as is possible, it RECOILS with great force and energy transfer happens.

Do you have a word? If so, I’d love to know what it is and/or how you landed on it.