Frustration and Perspective

Today was a pretty laid back day, sort of.  My husband and I spent the day inside.  You could say it was uneventful, but that all depends on how you look at it.  We started the day off playing a little MTG (Magic the Gathering for those of you who haven’t gotten your nerd cards)

MTG is a fantasy based card game that requires quite a bit of skill and patience.  Since I just started playing, and I’m not very patient to begin with; I’m a bit lacking in both of those areas with regard to this game.  I’ve been working very hard the last few days putting together a deck to play with.  It requires a lot of testing, and trial and error, and frustration and swearing.  Finally today I thought I had a good deck built, something solid that would ensure my sweet, sweet victory.

Boy was I wrong.  In a sense…

My husband John has this awesome (and horrible to play against) red burn deck that can quickly destroy most of the stuff you put up against it.   3 matches (3 games to a match) later, it was becoming very painfully obvious that my hours of work spent putting together this deck weren’t doing me much good.  I won 1 game (barely) out of the 9 we played.  I started getting frustrated.  Angry even.  I quit the last game in huff and vowed never to play magic again.  I am a sore looser.    I place way too much of my self-worth on winning.  What sucks about that is I’m used to doing the exact opposite.  Loosing.

John did his best to console me in my frustrated depressed “God I suck so hard” state.   He explained that it takes people years to be able to play and win consistently, it’s even more difficult of a task if you are doing what I was attempting, and building your own deck, versus going with a pre-made version.

In the moment it didn’t really make me feel much better.  I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.  You see I have this weird messed up notion in my head that I should be able to understand and do something perfectly right away, and if I can’t I have failed at life and should go jump off a bridge or something equally depressing.  It’s a character trait I’m working on but when I’m thrust into competitive situations it really brings out that “shadow side”.   It’s a problem for me because many times it causes me to give up in frustration.  I feel like if I’m not good enough to excel at it right away I’m not worthy enough to continue it.

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.  I find I expect all this unrealistic stuff from myself, and when I can’t deliver, I beat myself up for it over and over again relentlessly.  I treat myself in a way that is unfair and something I wouldn’t consciously do to other people.  I say “consciously” because I’m pretty sure that if I’m doing it to myself I’m probably doing it to other people on some level.  Looking back,  I can see situations where I’ve held unrealistic expectations from people and been a bitch (if we’re being honest here) when those expectations were not met.

I can see that this self-sabotaging form of thinking is unhealthy, and flawed.  I know there are things I’m good at right now, and many of those things took time to cultivate.  I kept at it because there was something about it I enjoyed, or wanted to figure out.  Art is a good example of that, I didn’t start out at the level I am now, and it would be unrealistic to expect my 6-year-old self to know all of the techniques, tips, tricks and methods I’ve learned in the 20 + years I have been at this.

Even when I look at my art and think that it’s not where I want to be just yet, I can look back on the old stuff I’ve done and see how far I’ve come.   When I do that it makes me feel good, and it gives me a sense of how much further I can evolve.   Sure, I have my days where I want to throw away my paintbrush and never pick it up again-yes, but I keep coming back to it because I am passionate about it.

I get stuck when you throw a competitive element into the mix.  For some reason my happy-go-lucky attitude seems to crumble when this happens.  It seems that when I start comparing myself to other people I start to lose that passion and it’s replaced by something far less pleasant.  In a lot of ways it’s like watching a train-wreck.  It’s like there’s a piece of myself that is observing (insert whatever melt-down you want) and it can see that it is unhealthy and not doing me any favors.   That part of me is trying to say “Hey, SLOW DOWN” but , many times,  it goes unheeded.

I’ve heard that we can get addicted to certain emotions if we experience them enough.  I think it’s true.  I can feel when those emotions are happening.   My heart might start racing, my palms might get sweaty, I might start feeling a bit light-headed and shaky even.   I know when it’s happening.

I think I know where some of these addictions to feeling worthless come from.  I was bullied badly in school, they called me every name in the book, they broke my bones, they stole my things, they publicly humiliated me again and again.   Suffice to say, I’ve had a lot of time to develop an addiction to unhealthy emotions.

The thing is, sometimes it’s easier for me to just give into the emotions.  Sorta like a relapse.  I’ll be doing good for a while.   Then something will happen to trigger those emotions.   I’ll try to breathe through it, focus on something else.  But if it’s the wrong day of the month, if I haven’t had my coffee, if I’m not feeling particularly well, if my pants are too tight, if my toes are cold,  it all goes south.  Suddenly, I find I’m chasing the blue donkey of depression again, back at square one.   Another emotional relapse and having to work myself back up to a positive emotional state, only to repeat the process again.

I think it’s time for me to take a little bit of that passion I have for art and apply it to being happy.  I have to keep in mind too, that it’s a process.  Just like it took time and dedication to advance my art skills,  it’s going to take time and dedication to gain emotional advancement.   I have to also keep in mind that much like a good artist is never done learning, and makes it a point to learn as much as possible, the same applies for emotions.   I can’t beat myself up for having them.  I just have to learn from them, and how to work with them.

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