The expression on my face: the focused dancer face. The look that says, “Don’t mess with me or get in my way because I’m doing what I love, and you will not get in the way.
This is a face of great intensity. I’ve even been told that many times, “Wow, you are intense.” I used to take this as an insult in that I thought it described me as being off-putting somehow. It can be off-putting. Sometimes I become the expression on my face: a bit too intense.
The way I do one thing is the way I do everything. Intense is how I function in the world. Like it or not, it’s part of who I am. Deny it or not, it’s me. Intense focus is how I get so much shit done in my life. Sometimes this can be my greatest asset, and other times it can be my biggest detriment.
Being high level and intensely focused can come at a great cost. It can cost you people in your life. It can make it really hard to understand other people who aren’t quite so high functioning as myself.
This intensely focused person is someone who I’ve had to accept over the years and come to terms with as the truth about who I am. I don’t love this about myself, but I’m learning to love this aspect of my personality. I’m on a journey of learning to love who I am.
Truth be told, I don’t love myself all of the time. Oftentimes, compliments feel like lies. Surely, the person giving the compliment is telling me a lie, right? Dance and life has taught me that there is always a way to improve and always a way to get better. In my view, that has always been the case. There must always be a way to get better, right?
Yes, there is always room for improvement. However, I have to watch it. Strivers go straight for perfectionism.
I spent the summer of 2022 in recovery. I was recovering from my 41 years of nearly non-stop trauma. I had four years of happiness in college from 1999 – 2003 at IU Bloomington where I can honestly say I loved my life and I was truly happy. Otherwise, my life has been a shit show, and I haven’t been happy. Not truly happy like I was in college when I had agency and independence over my own life. Just now, I’m finding that happiness again.
Life is post-recovery now, and I’m learning to live without the recovery center. I’m also learning to live without antidepressants. That’s a scary way to learn to navigate the world.
Life is changing rapidly for me. I’ve been struggling with no stability in my life right now. I can handle change, and all of the stress I’ve dealt with in my life has caused me to be able to better handle the traumatic changes I’ve experienced of late, but that doesn’t mean I want quite the level of change in my life that has been the past several months.
I understand that my life looked one way. I went through recovery and now it looks completely different. I’ve been doing things lately that I said I’d never ever do: dance again, teach again, let friends into my life, trust people, feel sexy, build new relationships and friendships with people, be around people.
Yet, at the same time, I feel amazing. I’m doing things I thought I’d sworn off because I thought I’d failed or that I didn’t need people in my life. COVID-19 showed me how alone and isolated I was and had become in my life. Now, I’m rebuilding my life one stone at a time. I wasn’t sure what my life would look like as I rebuilt it.
One thing I’ve been doing is trying not to control it. This is hard for an intensely focused person to do. Strivers love to be in control. I love to be in control. I can’t control my destiny though. I can’t control the future, or who will and won’t hurt me. I wish I could. Part of living beyond ACA and recovery is trying my best to not revert to old me: the control freak; the all-or-nothing thinker, the perfectionist and the people pleaser. Wow, am I the definition and living embodiment of all of those things.
So, the intensely focused expression on my face is what I’m wearing today because I have a lot of work I need to get done right now. I need to be on my A game. No one is better than being on their A game and focusing when she needs to be quite like me.
I was born this way. I picked up my Striver tendencies from my parents. I am a reflection of my parents. But that doesn’t mean I have to be completely like my parents. My parents can be real jerks. They still are to this day in the way they treat their only daughter. So, I went through ACA and did the work to change. I could see what my parents did to me, and how much they abused me. Yet, I still honor my parents for giving me life. I’m grateful for the opportunities they gave me over the years. I hate how they treat me to this day. I still love them. Biological love.
I can change my ways. I’m working on it every day. I don’t want to become my parents. I have a choice. I may still revert to my old ways: the Stiver with the intensely focused expression on my face. Now I know how to handle it better.
How do I put a smile on my face, something new for me, when I’m living in a time of intense work and focus?
I go to a dance party and hang around people who aren’t as good as me at my craft. I’m doing a lot with dance right now. I’m rebuilding a college dance team that I’d layed the groundwork for and walked away from in 2011 when my time was done coaching because I couldn’t take working in corporate at Fidelity as a title examiner and coaching dance and competing and performing all at the same time. I destroyed myself, and made the choice to take a break and do something else jn 2011. COVID-19 destroyed the VU ballroom dance club and competition team I’d originally built.
I feel like history is repeating itself sometimes and it scares me. I never thought I’d be back at VU re-building what I’d already built.
History has repeated itself within the last week in many many scary ways. Scary ways that show me a reflection of the past. I can’t explain why history is repeating itself. Even though the end result is different, I keep having to tell myself that it will be ok because I am different now. I have changed, and that is the determining factor in my success as a person and in my career.
I have people in my life who love and care about me now. I have community in my life now and people who want to please me. As a people pleaser, I know damn well not to take these people for granted because so many people in my life have taken me for granted. My parents. My husband. My in-laws. I’ve discussed in many of my old posts on this blog those old stories. My life was on the fritz. There was a time, many times, where I didn’t want to continue living. The reason being I didn’t have community in my life.
I have community and people who I love and trust, and who love and trust me. I can move forward with intense focus knowing that these people care about me and love me, and that I am learning to love myself.
Being a striver isn’t a bad thing if I can keep it in check and balance. I believe I can do that now with the support group of friends and family I have in my life now. If I’m being a striver, or as I say about myself, “Oh, I’m being an asshole”, then I’m better able to recognize it or I give you permission to call me on it because it’ll help me out greatly! I need to know so I can correct the behavior. I need to know when I’m striving too much so that I remember I need to come down, rest and have fun and just go to a dance party with people who don’t understand dance quite on the level I do. I just need to have fun with my profession because that’s where the joy lies: having fun!
I’ve got my intensely focused game face on right now to get through the work. It’s an expression of seriousness to be sure. I’m also going to be wearing something new to me tonight: a smile.
Fight or flight is the striver. Rest and digest is the joker. I need to have both to have balance in my life!