I am constantly oscillating between a desire for connection and a desire to be a solitary blanket burrito, safe in my apartment, hidden away from the big, scary world.
The more I get to know other people in recovery, the more I see that extreme behaviors - even though they seem positive - are fairly common. I threw myself into partying, right? Why not throw myself just as hard at positive things like creative projects and friend commitments?
Accordingly, I tend to overcommit myself and overwork. Sometimes I'll even double-book myself. This past month, I panicked when I saw I'd made a mistake in my calendar: instead of a Thursday and Friday show, I had two shows - both at 8 p.m. on a Thursday. Thankfully, both producers were kind enough to make arrangements for me and the crisis was averted.
Outside of comedy blunders, I like to think I'm on top of things. However, having a full-time job, commitments to 12 step groups, and rushing around doing shows doesn't leave me much time at home. I'm guilty of coming home late and night and collapsing onto my couch like a consumptive Victorian woman.
Felled by a case of the vapors, I scroll Twitter and Instagram on my phone and accomplish nothing. The growing stack of notebooks on my desk could topple at any moment. The piles of laundry go untouched. The clean laundry, too. It can wait until the weekend, I think.
My boyfriend and I recently got into an argument about how the breakdown of chores isn't fair to him. He said my follow through rate always hovers at 50%. It stung because it's true. Even though I had the best intentions to finish something, I wasn't being reliable.
While the conversation and resulting argument was pretty ugly, it got us talking about the things that make long-term relationships hard: namely, expectations vs. reality. I am bad at slowing down and being mindful. I will always drop all the balls if I am running a marathon. It was a necessary conversation that got me reprioritizing.
So how do I fix it? In researching the topic a bit, it seems there's a mix of reasons why people - especially women - overcommit. Is it that we were socialized to be helpful? That we feel like turning down one opportunity will cause us to miss out on future ones?
Another psychologist wrote, "our inability to say either 'No' or 'Yes'- without-conditions - is rooted in the need for acceptance, or avoiding rejection." He explains that our desire to be liked and connected actually stems from a primal survival mechanism: don't be alone!
In an essay by the comedian Maria Bamford that I bring up maybe too much in casual conversation, she says, "If I ever got better, maybe I would meet someone who could love me as I am. That maybe, work or no work, I’d no longer have to wait to be “lovable” (translation: “productive”) in order to be loved." This one sentence was mind-blowing to me.
Of COURSE I am balancing too many things to avoid the real issues, just like I did when I threw myself into partying and risky relationships! When I'm overwhelmed, I overheat like a short circuited appliance and don't accomplish anything, which makes me feel even worse. It's a silly, preventable cycle if I just take time for myself to be realistic about expectations.
I'm trying to get better at saying no, managing my present workload and being a more reliable person, comedian and partner. Just having conversations and being honest about what I can and can't accomplish is a big help. To quote Maria again, "As they say in 12-step recovery, it’s weakness, not strength, that binds us to each other."