Out of Step

Do you ever feel like you are completely out of step with the rest of the world? I’m sure everyone feels like that from time to time. It seems to me a perfectly human way to feel. I feel like this a LOT. Usually, I can brush it off and ignore it enough to continue about my day with my normal amount of zany weirdness. But there are times when I become so aware of my out-of-stepness that I can’t ignore it. It sneaks up on me at the oddest moments, and brings with it an almost physical pain laced with a longing that is all too familiar. It’s a weird feeling — almost like stepping outside of yourself for a moment. One moment, you are sitting there, minding your own business and living your internal sort of life. And the next, you are standing there, right next to yourself, looking in surprise at … well “you”. It brings reality into sharp-edged focus in a way that is singularly disconcerting.

This happened to me not that long ago, as my daughter and I were sitting down to breakfast at a favorite restaurant. We had gotten up early that morning for an appointment. My daughter recently got her braces off, and we had to go into the dentist’s office that morning so the techs could make her permanent retainer. We decided to grab a little breakfast while waiting for the retainer to be completed. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My allergies were bothering me more than usual, and I had been up most of the night not feeling well at all. I am NOT a morning person, even on the best of days, but this day was particularly bad. I felt horrible. And grumpy. And yucky. My hair was a mess. I had on an old t-shirt and an even older pair of yoga pants, because I had been running late that morning. These were the first clothes I could grab. I had no makeup, although I seldom wear makeup. I had forgotten my glasses and only had my sunglasses to wear so that I could see the world. My eyes were swollen and puffy from lack of sleep and allergies. I had dark circles under them, and I couldn’t breathe. Basically, I felt like my entire body and soul had been coated in slime. I was sitting at our table, slumped over a glass of iced tea and feeling really pretty awful about the world, and I kept seeing these cheerful families walking by. Whole families of morning people, joking and laughing and smiling and having a great time. And, just like that … it hit me.

These are not my people.

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I wish they were. I wish I was one of them: a person who goes to bed on time and gets up early in the morning with a smile on my face. I wish I was a person who looked forward to the coming of each new day with anticipation and excitement and fun in my heart. I wish I was always turned out and put together perfectly: makeup on my face, cute outfit, hair done and in place, matching shoes. I grew up striving for this ideal of “perfection”. I grew up being told this is what I should want. I should be pleasing to those around me. When people look at me, they should see things that are socially accepted and expected. The face should always be done. The hair should always be done and perfect. The nails should always be done, in an appropriate color and with no chips. The outfit should always be cute — not cute to me alone, but socially acceptably cute. The shoes should always match, and they must be socially acceptable as “girly” / feminine shoes. This means high heels. There should always be a smile on my face, even if my feet hurt.

I’m not any of those things. I’m not girly. Although both my husband and daughter think I am (thank you, God!), I am not particularly pretty. I hate clothes. I hate the whole process of shopping for them and mixing and matching them into different outfits that use all the same pieces but look completely different so that no one will know I only own three skirts. (I really, actually only own, like, three skirts. But I only like one of them. So I wear that same one over and over again.) I would walk around wearing a garbage bag with holes cut out for my arms and head, if I didn’t think it would get me arrested for public indecency. Now that I no longer work in an office setting, I am strictly a t-shirt and jeans or yoga pants kind of gal. I fail at hair, so mine is generally messy. I can’t fix it so that it looks nice, no mater how many times I try. And it’s blue — well, mostly blue, but with some purple and green tossed into the mix. My clothes are wrinkled and look as if I slept in them. Sometimes, this is actually true. My shoes don’t coordinate with any kind of “pretty” or “girly” outfit. I only own 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, to begin with. I used to have more, but my feet grew after I got pregnant.

I am scoring big on the nails, though. The rest of me might be a hot mess, but my nails always look good. I feel I should give myself points for that.

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I never get enough sleep. I plan to go to bed early. I have the best of intentions, but it never works out. I get distracted. Or I hit productive creative streaks late at night. This means I never get up early, given the choice. I am never willingly up at the crack of dawn  and looking forward to a productive morning. I seldom see “morning”. For me, “morning” starts around 10:30, which is practically lunch time for most people. I am never happy to face a new day. In general, I am hung-over and groggy from too little sleep. And I look it, too. I can admit this. It hurts, but I can admit it.

So I wonder, sometimes, what my goal in life should be. Should I be longing, even in a subconscious way, to be more in step with the rest of the world? My husband thinks I should be. My parents think I should be. I know it sounds weak and a little bit lame as I type it out here, but I have tried to be this way. I have tried to change so that I can be the way those around me want me to be. I have tried to change so they will be proud of me and happy with the person that I am. Is this me, trying to gain acceptance and love? I’m sitting here thinking about it, and I think … yeah, that’s probably what it is. I’ve tried so hard to be someone else — anyone else — just so I won’t be “me”.

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But isn’t it kind of stupid to continue trying, only to fail miserably every time? Each time I realize this is not who I am, I feel a sense of utter failure. I feel bad about who I am. I feel bad that I am not normal or conventional or creative in the proper ways. I just feel … bad. It doesn’t sound like enough to describe the true depth of how I feel, but it’s the only word that comes readily to mind. How many times do I have to bang my head against the same wall before I realize all I’m going to have at the end is a headache?

Maybe, instead, I should try harder to focus on the person I am. Maybe I should try harder to learn to love her. Maybe I should look at her, in her t-shirt and her slightly ratty yoga pants, and think, “She is a great gal. She is smart and creative and not afraid to live her own life.” And, if I think this enough times, maybe one day it will sink in. And then, it will be true. I won’t be afraid to live my own life and be who I am. I won’t feel out of step with the rest of the world. Instead, I will feel perfectly and beautifully in step with ME.

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