Wednesday, August 04, 2010

An ugly reality

I am recognizing, lately, an ugly reality in my life.

Panic springs up easily, and it is so often tied to either fear, or to a need to perform, or both.

I'm thinking about this right now, because I'm nervously waiting for my phone to ring.  I'm trying to reschedule an exam that I had booked for tomorrow morning.

The reality of the tight scheduling of my courses this summer means that I booked some exams well in advance of when I began to study the material they covered.

In this case, that means that I've come up to the exam, written the practice midterm this afternoon, and discovered that I have less of a grasp of the material than I thought.  I need to give myself more time to review and learn the material than I have in the next 15 hours (especially given that I very much need to be asleep for at least 5 or six of those hours!)

But, because the school is online driven, it's hard to get a human on the phone to speak with.  I've left a few voicemail messages, and now I wait.

And panic.

What if they don't call me back in time?  What if I fail the exam tomorrow?  What if I pass but the grade is still really bad?  What if? What if? What if?

I have this insane drive to perform.  And when it looks like I can't meet that invisible standard in my head, I panic.

Lately this is especially driven by schoolwork.

I think it's partly because school was always "my thing."  It was the thing that came naturally, and at which I excelled.

In a family of athletes, I was bookish.

But, in a family where school was also a place of high achievement, I excelled, generally without trying very hard.

I grew up hearing about how mom worked ridiculously long hours to pay for university and still managed to pull off a 3.8 GPA.  The only C she ever got was in swimming, and that was because she'd never swam in her life until it was a required course for a physical education major.  And hearing how dad was the valedictorian of his Bible school class.

The thing I remember most about the day I picked up my university diploma is a comment (intended very jokingly, but still striking a deep nerve) my dad made when I proudly displayed it, "How come it doesn't say magna or summa cum laude?"

Anatomy is revealing these insecurities in surprising ways as I cope with grades that are less than what I'd hoped, and the realization that I will need to accept that I've done my best in the limited time available to me.  And, as I work to contain the many spiralling "what ifs" that the final grade in anatomy can stir in regards to my future acceptance to a nursing program.

And so I'm sitting here, in tears, worrying about failure.

Because somehow, in my head, failure, or even a "poor grade" is tied up with my value in the world.

If I fail, it must be because I am a failure.  It must mean that I'm worthless.

It's cliche, these issues of mine with performance, and the very cliche nature of them ticks me off.  (I hate to be a cliche!)

And rationally, I know that my value isn't tied in my grades, or how well I perform, or whether or not I manage to measure up to some invisible, ever-changing, and impossibly high standard.  I know I won't be loved more or less (at least not by people who really matter) if the grade is poor.

But panic, well, it clouds the issue.  And it's an ugly and very present reality in my life right now, as I work through these issues and others.

So I'm sitting here, waiting for my phone to ring, and writing a blog post to talk myself back to sanity.

And I'm reminding myself of a line that Rob Bell repeated over and over and over at the end of his DVD "The God's Aren't Angry".  "You don't have to live like this.  You don't have to live like this."

And I'm determining, all over again, that there will be a day when I don't live like this.  That I don't have to live like this.  That panic doesn't have to rule.  That fear cannot control my life this way.  That it will go, a little at a time, and that by reminding myself that this is not a healthy response, and that I don't have to live like this, I'm taking tiny, infinitesimal, baby steps in the direction of healing.

And I'll take any progress in the direction of healing that I can find.


tea said...

I can relate. I'm trying to learn to take baby steps too. I'll say a prayer for you, that you'll be able to get your test moved back.
Thanks for sharing. :)

Lisa said...

thanks for the prayers, Tea. I didn't get the exam rescheduled, but I managed to do some extra studying, and hopefully it'll go okay.