I have to learn to chill the f*** out. I don’t know how to do it but I really need to learn. It’s a skill that has evaded my capture over the years, and whilst demanding perfection from myself and everyone around me at a quite manic level was pseudo-cool in my teens, vaguely endearing in my 20’s and career-shaping in my early 30’s, I’m beginning to think that being stressed out and anally retentive over everything has run it’s course as being the defining factor of ‘me’ and I’d quite like to acquire a new character trait that is less exhausting and doesn’t make me quite so annoying.
I have already thought about what else I could be and came to the conclusion that there aren’t that many good qualities I possess even in small quantities that I can upsize and still come across as genuine. I tried on ‘witty’ for size but essentially it always defaults to ‘sarcastic’. Similarly, ‘organised’ generally ends up as ‘anal’. I have tried being ‘fun’ through the years, because I would like to be fun, and really, I am a whole lot of fun and I love having fun, but for some reason when people are asked to describe me, they don’t use the word ‘fun’. They say ‘slightly scary’. I have always thought this is grossly unfair. I’m not remotely scary really, once you know me. But this affects me, that people describe me this way. Not old friends, because I know they know better and are just taking the piss. Which doesn’t matter, because deep down I am fun and can take it. Ha ha. But people I’ve met more recently, when they say it, that it’s how they felt when they met me, it worries me, and probably explains alot about why I don’t have too many numbers in my phone in Dubai.
I try to be easy going. I try to be non-scary. I’ve even grown my hair because someone told me not so long ago that it was intimidating. But if truth be known, I’m opinionated and honest and argumentative and it’s hard to see past all that to someone that just wants to be loved and cared about and be entertaining and have a laugh.
Worse still now I am a mother, I find myself constantly trying to be all the things to my son that I want to be to everyone else. I want to be the fun mum, the care-free mum, the mum who is loved by all his friends and who he can trust to tell anything to and to be anyone he wants to be. But there is a fear growing inside of me that I won’t be able to do that. That I’ll be too stressed out over something stupid and inconsequential to listen. That I’ll be too grumpy or bad tempered to be approachable. That I will be the mother in law every girl dreads (although there is possibly a lot of fun to be had in that). That my hopes and expectations for him, for me, for us all, will be too high and pile on too much pressure and I will end up alienating him and everyone else around me. Bottom line: I need to find a way to relax and have fun instead of worrying all the time about everything. Because I recognise the more I stress out about stuff, the more stressed I become.
That last paragraph being the perfect example.
Luckily I married the glass half full guy, the Yin to my Yang. I need to learn to listen to him more because despite the fact that my default is to assume he doesn’t know or understand what is going on in my head, he’s actually very acutely aware of the war that wages between the person I could be vs. the person I want to be. He weathers the storm, and my son is too young to judge me as yet – but I recognise that something needs to change before they both get as sick of me as I am.
Maybe coming to Dubai skewed it a little because it changed the game. Maybe motherhood did the same thing all over again. Motherhood inDubai…maybe that makes things harder too, because the pressure here to be a resoundingly middle class, yummy mummy, entrepreneurial free spirit who owns 2 boutiques, is a size 8 and bakes cakes in her spare time is too much to live up to for the average mortal. And then you add in the competitive element of the children themselves. Heaven forbid in Dubai if your toddler isn’t talking/playing tennis/on the swim squad/doing calculus by the time they are three. And that’s down to you as the mother to secure, adding external and environmental pressures to the internal ones already dancing round my head.
But there’s nothing stopping me changing the way I react to all this except myself. As I creep towards 40 I sense that the only person holding me back from doing or being anything is me. And I keep telling myself that being older, more mature, means that I should be more confident of myself and who I am, and what I am capable of. I don’t need ‘scary’ or ‘perfect’ in order to live my life, so why do I put so much pressure on myself? I’m the oldest child so I reckon that plays a part. Recently I have taken to blaming being the youngest in my school year for quite a few life choices, so maybe that has something to do with it too. And I come from a family of worriers and stress-bods so maybe at the end of it all, it’s down to Nature. But I was once taught that human behaviour is the result of 100% Nature and 100% Nurture. It can’t all be hereditary, and even if it is, surely there is room for change? Surely my ability to just relax can be learnt, and my default tendency to stress out be crushed underfoot? So if that’s the case, how can I begin to change?
There’s only one answer.
It’s up to me. I have to nuture myself into a better place one way or another. I have to learn how to forgive myself for not being perfect, and to not sweat the small stuff. I need to give my loved ones time to grow by themselves, and let go of a few things, and realise that no-one has to get it right first time, all of the time. In fact half the fun is getting it wrong. I need to stop filling my life with angst where there is none, and replace it with things I enjoy that will make me fulfilled. When my life is full and busy doing stuff I enjoy, I don’t fret about all the little things, because I don’t have the time or the inclination. Dubai has historically been a difficult place to do this, because it’s easy to get caught up in the hype that being perfect is actually a career of some sort. It isn’t. It’s not even a hobby. And now I’ve figured this out, it makes it easier to think about what not to do in order to worry less and be happy more. I am going to have a go at being imperfect, and try not to be too stressed about getting it right first time.