Thursday, July 8, 2010

Life in the Fish Bowl

My father is a minister of a pretty conservative denomination within the Christian faith. As a Preachers Kid/Missionary Kid (PK or MK, as we termed it), I grew up with people watching me. Peering at my every move, scrutinizing my behavior, decisions, grades, whether I was properly attentive during services to my father's droning sermons, and eyeballing my fashion choices, from crown to toe. In short, I lived in a fish bowl. People would look in, and with their own filters, draw conclusions about me distorted by the curves of the glass. I felt consistently conspicuous, and made great efforts to appear "normal" in an attempt to avoid disapproval.

For many years now, I've been pretty aggressive about avoiding that level of attention. I actively pushed away from leadership positions, chose a quiet profession that lends itself to being away from large groups of people, and then, I went all poly on myself. I discovered that I had things to say, ideas that I wanted to examine with others, I was deliberately deciding to do something a bit out of the norm, that wouldn't blend well. Still, my level of passion for this type of loving was something that couldn't be put on the back-burner. My natural inclinations to be in the forefront started to assert themselves, and I found myself back in the fish bowl. It's even pushed into my professional life, and every week, there I am in front of a roomful of business professionals, running the show.

Poly, now that I've been able to move past (by and large) the childhood fear of disapproval, has given me a handle towards using the gifts that I have in leadership. Professionally, this has been really useful to me. Personally, I've benefited by having a strong network of support and caring friends surrounding me.

As PG and I have been moving towards dissolution/radical change in our relationship, that feeling of fear about being in the fish bowl has been popping back up again. What do people really think? If I have good relationship skills, why is this happening, and why would anyone find value in what I have to share? Aren't leaders supposed to do everything well? How can I continue to put myself out there while the biggest relationship I've ever had disintegrates around me?

For now, I keep coming back to the idea that even people who love each other and try very hard, even those with amazing skills to bring to the table, sometimes don't succeed in making things go, and that doesn't mean that those skills, or those people, are any less valid as examples of ways to have a fantastic relationship. So, I'll keep plugging away here, and with the discussion group I host, and keep that high profile, because life in the fish bowl still has something to offer me, and perhaps someone else.


Natja's Natterings said...

I am sorry things are hard right now, I want to say though that useful advice is useful advice, people shouldn't be so ungracious to dismiss where it comes from (though I appreciate that some people do). I suppose that is the problem with putting yourself out there in the public eye, people tend to hold you up as a standard. I was very worried that my relationship would be held up as a 'poster poly' relationship once we had decided to be open and blog together, but so far I haven't seen much evidence of that. One of the things I think happens online is that people often don't hear about the decline of a relationship and so, people are shocked when relationships end.

I am not saying that people can't be private, but there is something wildly unbalanced in cyberland because of it, how often have we seen a couple constantly loving it up on FB and then, what seems like out of the blue someone's status changes to 'single' and no one knew, because people don't tend to write when things are not going well and they are not happy.

liminalD said...

My dad is a pastor of an evangelical fundie church - he wasn't while I was growing up so I didn't find myself under the level of scrutiny that you were (my sympathies!!), it's only as I've been an adult 'living in sin' that he's been conscious of my life having an effect on the way his congregation sees him. I'm quite aware that he talks about me in his services - my stepmother has told me that he does - and of course what does he tell them but that I've turned my back on Christ and that he prays for me and doesn't give up faith - which lets him make himself out to be some sort of martyr. It's infuriating, but what can you do. Meh.

Anyway good on ya for putting yourself forward and having the confidence in yourself despite the difficult situation you're in - you guys are an inspiration :)

Anonymous said...

I don't think relationships succeed or fail in themselves. For example, one person may think they have a solid with their partner until the day that partner says the relationship isn't working for them. We create our own reality from our perceptions but since that reality can change in a moment from such a revelation in truth it is and always has been an illusion we create to feel safe. I don't believe there is anything wrong with illusions or dreams. But it's healthy to keep in mind their nature.
What is real is how we evolve from changes that are inevitable pieces of the story of our being. How we grow and behave under the stresses of those changes, that's where success and failure lie. The beauty is that up to the moment of the very last change, that last exhalation, that up to that final moment we can turn any failure into a success by loving ourselves in spite of everything that's happened and no matter what anyone else thinks.
You're a fine woman worthy of love. But I think you already know that. ;-)