Monday, October 05, 2009

Juggling for Nothing – A Social Experiment in Letting the Balls Drop

Are you the workhorse in most of your relationships?
Are you the Sister Save Us All type?
How much of your actions are based of a sense of duty and obligation?
Are you one-sidedly maintaining many of the connections in your life?

It’s a near-constant juggling act for many women. We juggle furiously, yet our audience doesn’t seem to care, or worse, have grown to expect an amazing performance every time. Our souls are being quietly sapped and toxic resentment builds. 

What if you stopped trying so hard to be liked?
What if you stopped being so damned concerned?
What if you simply walked off the stage?

It's not easy to let the balls drop. Then suddenly you’re alone and a sterile quiet settles in. The phone stops ringing and conversations you so dutifully upheld are replaced with blank stares. No wonder why you’ve been so busy juggling. You were the only act in the show!

As a half-assed social experiment, I stopped saying hello first. I stopped making phone calls. I stopped saying, “Oh sorry, excuse me. Pardon me” and all of its endless variations. In short, I stopped trying. Anyone who didn’t reach out or initiate suddenly became under a personal scrutiny.
My brother was the first to go. Since I usually greet him with a polite good morning it felt surprisingly easy to stop. Since then, no words are exchanged between us. Oh well. One less ball to juggle.

My neighbor was an easy second. She doesn’t like me and I don' like her. I used to say hello just to be civil. Now we say nothing and I like it. Another ball dropped, easy.

Romantically, dropping the balls was harder. Maintaining the connections with a few old flames offers up moments of sweetness and romance. But it inevitably exhausts your self-esteem. You know you're doing all of the work. You keep waiting for the day it will be more balanced. That you'll juggle together. But maybe they just don't have the balls.

Perhaps many of us try so hard because we secretly believe we just don’t belong here. We have to cosmically and constantly “earn our keep”. We feel guilty over small infractions and apologize excessively. We couch our words until we have nothing left to say. We spend our time suspended in a state of anxiety, wondering when they'll find out that our very existence is a mistake.

Or maybe we juggle so incessantly because we’re self-centered, giving to others so we can get one day something back. When that day never arrives and no one is there, bitterness and disappointment take over. Someone else dropped the balls and we're pissed that we worked so hard for nothing.

Or maybe we can’t help but juggle for others. Until the day we die. We’re driven to give love and support. And we assume others will do the same for us. We’re earnest but exhausted performers, wondering when the next act will begin so we can take a much-needed break.

Sylvia been clinging to the same man for over 20 years. He’s attached to his bachelor status and told her decades ago that he never plans to settle down. She brings him food, clothing, gifts. She’s moved away from her family so she could be closer to him. Yet he provides her with nothing.

When I ask her why she hangs in there, she says, “I think he’s really misunderstood. He's interesting. I get him.” I want to dump my drink over her seemingly selfless head. Decades have gone by based on this delusion. (Trust me, he’s about as interesting as dried mud.)

See, she’s been juggling for so long, her body seems slightly contorted and she looks old beyond her years. Whenever I see her, I consider her an anti-hero of sorts. She’s everything I don’t want to be. She will juggle for nothing until the bitter end.

If she stopped doing for him, nothing would happen. He would not call, he would not care. He’d only miss the free meals and free sex. She, on the other hand, would be painfully aware of his loss and the loneliness might be too much for her to bear. But isn't it there anyway?

Many years ago, I told my best friend Krissie about a guy I liked and how he began acting strangely. I asked her to interpret something he said. About midway through our analysis, Krissie stopped me. “You know what, Beth? When you’re forced to figure out someone, you’re already off-track. You kinda already have your answer. It shouldn’t b such a mystery.”

Deciphering someone’s actions or words is another form of juggling. Interpreting. Processing. Figuring out. Trying, trying, trying to understand. Relaxing? Rewarding? Is any of it the equivalent of good sex and intimacy? No, its exhausting mind play that you become addicted to and demoralized by.

I don't want to be a circus act performing for a sleeping audience. So I’m letting the balls drop around me, one by one. I'm walking off the stage and out the backdoor and standing alone in the sunlight. Maybe I’ll disappear if I try hard enough…turn into some glorious vapor where the pressure is finally off.

So try. Dare to let the balls drop. If they bounce back, fine. If they bounce away, better yet.


Lori said...

Ugh GAWD! Have you hit the nail on the head or what, chica! I have been putting so much stupid pressure on myself for too long to be the "good friend", the "strong friend", the "bigger person". My balls are bouncing all over the place and unless my cat wants to chase them down, so be it. Bounce away. On the other hand, I have to say, I have many many friends that I can just ignore for months, years even and then call them out of the blue and they are all, "hi! missed you!" without any type of judgement or such. It's nice when others around just get you like that. Good luck with your balls! What's your next act going to be now that you are not juggling these days? Can't wait to see.

Lunachick said...

Thanks, Lori. I hoped I addressed what you had mentioned: the people who are meant to be in your life naturally stay without constant maintenance and "performing" of some sort. It's a great way to separate the proverbial men from the boys...and gain some sanity back. Hope you are well. Val will be here in December.

myn said...

Someone sent me a link to this post and wow, yeah. This is exactly how my life goes too. I recently deleted my accounts from a lot of social networking sites for precisely this reason. You're not alone, not by a long shot, and certainly not strange for wanting to drop the balls.