Wednesday, January 1, 2014

On Being Melodramatic

A couple of years ago, I took stock of my personality traits. 

Starting with Over Thinker. Obvs. 

I thought about how I'd describe myself, how others perceived me, things I wanted to change, things I didn't think I could change, and quirks I cherished that were meant to be mine. 

The first to go was People Pleaser. Man, it was tough, but it had become a disingenuous part of me, and it was wreaking havoc in my head. It still pops up very occasionally, and if I react out of habit I end up apologizing for things for which I shouldn't be sorry or saying "yes" when I should say "no."

The second to go was Silent Sulker. My philosophy was if I was upset about something, it made sense to retreat and process my feelings rather than risk saying or doing something hurtful (see above re: People Pleaser). Of course, now I realize not saying anything is much more hurtful. This one's been tough, too, but it's been a long time since Ryan got the silent treatment. 

He may be longing for that trait to return, actually. 

The third thing to go was Perfectionist. I never thought it was a bad thing until I saw myself projecting it onto my husband and kids. Not good. Not good at all. I've employed several strategies - prayer, reading, talks with friends, etc. but the single most effective tool for reigning in the Perfectionist has been sewing. I can be fanatical in my sewing and it doesn't affect anyone. I can nitpick and seam rip to my heart's content. And it does content my heart. 

Over Thinker stayed. It sometimes makes me (and others) crazy, but it's served me well. Introvert stayed. It took 33 years to realize being outgoing and talkative doesn't equal being an extrovert. I need time alone or one-on-one with a BFF to soothe my soul. Passionate and Compassionate stayed. So did Principled and Intentional

There was one with which I struggled. Melodramatic

I haven't been listed in a playbill since 1999. Unfortunately, I don't even sing in the church choir anymore. (Our new church doesn't have one. *sob*) Being dramatic in those places is perfectly normal. But if one is dramatic by nature, everyday life is one's stage.  

Please don't mistake me. Personal drama makes me uncomfortable. You're fighting with your boyfriend and your best friend talked about you behind your back?

Gag.

I mean waving hands while speaking; using words like "gag" and pantomiming the action; relishing storytelling, but often embellishing for effect; laughing loudly enough to turn heads; dancing and whooping when your child reads his first word; clapping and shouting when your child pees on the potty; fist pumping and singing at the top of your lungs during a long run; calling your mom and sobbing when somebody questions your parenting, attacks your character, insults your marriage, when your car breaks down, you're homesick, etc. etc. etc. 

My poor long-suffering mother. 

With regards to my long-suffering mother, I do not recommend being melodramatic while in the car. The only time my mother lost her proverbial stuff when I was a kid (I know. Once. The only time. Saint.) was when I did this during the morning commute:

SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH IN THE MOST DRAMATIC GASP EVER, ACCOMPANIED BY WAVING ARMS
"OH NOOOOOOOO!" I wailed. 
"What? What? What happened? What is it?" she panicked, considering we were in Memphis rush hour traffic. 
"I! FORGOT! MY! HOMEWORK!"

Needless to say, my display may have been a bit of an overreaction. Add to that I'd done it (the exact same way) for the previous two mornings, and well. Bless her. 

In the 30 years that have followed, she has talked me down from many ledges. 

I've a tendency to overreact in general. Everything is BIG to me at first. HUGE. Eventually things land in perspective, but it often takes a teary call to my parents to get there. Now they just put me on speaker phone and both talk me down. It's an art form, really. Dealing with a dramatic soul. 

So, why would I keep this trait other than to terrorize my mother?

Because it's a huge part of what makes me Me. My kids beam when I make a big, dramatic deal of milestones. They love watching me dance around the kitchen and play air guitar (and dancing with me). They laugh when I speak in an operatic voice for the morning. Ask them who they want to read books to them. (Hint: the loud, dramatic one with an arsenal of character voices.)

Most of my closest peeps are low-key. I exhaust them, but I'd wager they like having me liven things up a bit sometimes.   

Truth be told, it exhausts me occasionally. To have to convince Ryan that THIS time it IS A REALLY BIG DEAL when I've cried wolf, say 1,372,593 other times. We're learning, though. He's learning how to calm me down and when to let me jump. I'm learning to count to five before I react. He's learning that gesticulation and volume don't always mean anger. I'm learning to tone down the gesticulation and volume when I am angry. 

During this season of the new year and navel gazing, it's good to remember being imperfect is awesome. Necessary. Being genuine is even better. What some see as tiresome or annoying traits may have legitimate purpose in our lives. Be careful not to go too far in "fixing" things. 

This year and every year, I'm continuously striving to improve and grow while embracing my God-given quirkiness. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hit publish then spend the next three days over-analyzing the words in this essay. But only after I read it aloud to Ryan, complete with all the inflections and hand gestures that Blogger can't translate. 

Happy New Year, friends! *insert wild dancing and loud singing*

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