A Serious Case of Serious-itis

I’ve always been a serious person. Even as a young girl, my default facial expression was “Furrowed Brows”, followed closely by “Deep in Thought”. When other kids my age were scampering on the playground and skinning their knees on the gravel, I was off to one side of the designated jungle gym space during recess, contemplating everything from how to pronounce “Chevrolet” properly to how best to display my growing collection of city bus passes on my bedroom wall. I often found myself thinking extensively about alarming topics– like why God would ever want to send anybody to hell FOREVER or what the real difference was between murder and suicide.* I was a pretty serious fourth grader.

This is me in sandstone form: stoic, unwavering, maybe even a bit intimidating to the uninitiated.

This was me in sandstone form: stoic, unwavering, and intimidating to the uninitiated. All that, and I was only nine years old.

*’Say what? Suicide? What sort of Grade 4 class did you attend?’, you might be wondering. It came up in class discussion once, when Billy asked the teacher if people who committed suicide went straight to hell. I had never even heard the word ‘suicide’ before and thought it must be a synonym for murder… which I instinctively knew made no sense… because how would somebody go straight to hell if they had just killed somebody else but were still alive themselves? Maybe God was just marking them down right away for hell in the future, via divine Note to Self? Smote that bastard, ASAP! I was too shy to ask for clarification on this and many of the other burning questions I had. Hell, if Billy knew what suicide was, and he was a terrible speller and couldn’t even finish the Mad Minute quizzes on time, then I should definitely know the answer already. I wouldn’t dare let on to anybody that I didn’t. Hence, I contemplated, ruminated, furrowed, and reasoned on my very own, off to one side while the other kids played. Serious vs. Silly. Story of my life.

I know this dog is probably trying to be serious... but doesn't he look silly?

I know this dog is probably trying to be serious… but doesn’t he look silly?

Even today, I tend to take the world seriously (and literally, all too often). I take other people seriously. Worst of all, I take myself way too seriously.

June ushered in the Summer of Serious for me. Yes, I had recently returned from a 3-month holiday in which fun and games had surprisingly (for me) prevailed over lofty topics and capital-B “Business Matters”. However, being back at home meant it was time to re-install my factory setting– seriousness– and I was taking this matter of seriousness very seriously. I contemplated everything from how to boost subscribers to Marty’s art newsletter to My Definitive Soul Purpose: No Revisions, Add-Ons, or Mind-Changing Allowed. Deep thoughts. All-consuming topics. I read marketing books like a demon. I checked our sales numbers obsessively. I watched in horror as my svelte frame started to pack on harbour weight, and then I feverishly started reading more books on diet & nutrition, all the while imagining myself (in slo-mo nightmare mode) as the only chubby person in the history of Holistic Nutrition School. After some serious and extensive soul-searching, I eventually changed my mind about going to Holistic Nutrition School altogether but then panicked when I didn’t have anything definitive or “serious enough” to slot into its space. How could I justify “chilling out” as a legitimate off-season pursuit? How could anyone take me seriously if I was waffling through life instead of taking the bull by the horns and mapping out every last detail of my planned existence between now and infinity?

Nothing is more serious than a profile shot. Profile shot + lighthouse in the background = boom!

Dear Future: I am mapping you. (Nothing is more serious than a profile shot, right? Except profile shot + lighthouse in the background = boom!)

So I developed a serious case of Serious-itis this summer. On one hand, I’d gently chide Marty for trying to control the weather patterns (because controlling weather = impossible), but on the other hand, I found myself unwilling or unable to do anything that wasn’t explicitly harbour-related myself. I stopped working out. I stopped writing. I stopped reading other people’s blogs. I didn’t even knit! Everything that had kept me somewhat sane in previous years was abandoned for the sake of “The Business”– not at all at Marty’s beckoning, to be clear– but based on my own, hyper-aggressive commitment to setting personal records and blowing our sales targets out of the water. My feminine/masculine energy meter was totally out of whack. Stuck in the “Danger, Will Robinson!” mode (also known as the “THIS. IS. SPARTAAAAA!!!”, brute force mode). I was exhausted, literally bawling some mornings as I rode my bike to work– ugly tears streaming down my face and blurring my vision– and yet I refused to rest or take a day off. I convinced myself that I was the sole reason why our business was booming. Forget Marty actually creating the artwork– it was my commitment to the business that was paying off in lucrative sales, and we would most certainly falter and suffer without me there all the time, overseeing every transaction and personally engaging every single customer and potential customer. Ack.

The art business depends on me like this ratty dog depends on the dude who is holding him on the tractor wheel. Seriously.

Our art business depends on me like this ratty dog depends on the dude who is holding him on the tractor wheel. Seriously.

Needless to say, I engineered quite the punishing experience for myself this summer with the skill and cunning of a military strategist. Despite posting some impressive numbers, sales-wise, I emerged defeated after Labour Day like a crisp of my former self– albeit a puffy crisp, 25 pounds heavier in body and approximately 18 million pounds heavier in spirit. (I was like a human version of those puffed pork rinds, as revolting as that sounds. Crispy and greasy on the outside, hollow and cavernous on the inside. Not that I eat puffed pork rinds, mind you. Thank goodness I didn’t have to start school the very next day on top of everything!)

And thank goodness I discovered a top knot bun right after Labour Day, too. I feel like I'm downloading poise and positivity from the heavens itself whenever I style my hair this way now. I can't believe it took me so long to figure out that Big Hair = Big Fun!

And thank goodness I discovered the top knot bun right after Labour Day, too. I feel like I’m downloading poise and positivity from Heaven itself whenever I style my hair this way now. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that Big Hair = Big Fun!

As crazy as this sounds… I have to become serious about having fun now. (Doesn’t it even SOUND fun to become serious about playing? Ha. I’m a natural at this! Right?) Self-care, relaxation, and even a little bit of pampering are of the highest importance to me this off-season, and I’m starting off my recalibration movement with this very blog post. Writing again? Check!

Operation: Dress-Wearing, Phoenix-Exploring, Depeche Mode Concert-Attending FUN. (Notice top knot again. I have a sneaking suspicion that wearing my hair this way will become like wearing overalls was to me in junior high, i.e. all day, every day, much to the chagrin of my non-1990s self.

Operation: Dress-Wearing, Phoenix-Exploring, Depeche Mode Concert-Attending FUN. (Notice top knot again. I have a sneaking suspicion that wearing my hair this way will become like wearing overalls was to me in junior high, i.e. all day, every day, much to the chagrin of my no-longer-1990s self.

Welcome back, dear readers. Your off-kilter hostess with the mostest is back, albeit a little worn for wear.

What do you do for fun?

How do you stave off those serious cases of serious-itis?   

28 responses

  1. lol, stop finding reasons and stop finding things to do, they just happen 🙂
    (giggling at self for remembering having felt the need myself to define a me that HAD to do….this or that and realizing this planning and plotting control issue was a control issue, learning choosing–ok fine I still map out and do the what if, but I am NOT the center of the universe and everything will still keep going should I vanish in the next instant)
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • The best was me telling Marty that HE had a control issue re: the weather, without even being able to see that, um, HELLO, WHAT THE EFF AM I TALKING ABOUT? LOOK IN THE MIRROR, YO! Ha.

      “Making space for space” has been huge for me this autumn. As soon as I opened myself up a tiny bit to letting the universe guide me (instead of trying to control everything on my own and thinking I could do a better job than God, essentially)– boom!– I realized that this whole summer had been crazy pants. There HAS to be space for space, there HAS to be time for fun, and like you say, I’m not the center of the universe…at least in the way I was acting this summer!

      Hope you had a better summer, relatively speaking, and thanks for the comment!

      • You are welcome. I had control issues too. It has felt confusing to me to have spent so many great years not having control and then having medical practitioners and such, wishing me to control my son with ADHD/Asperger’s as if I could ‘cure’ him if only I did this or only I did that. It is confusing daily to know which thing is a behavior that I should correct, over just knowing which thing is part of who he is, that I cannot change. Your comment back has my eyes full of tears, I think of relief at noticing that what I thought was frustration at him and at them, was me feeling yanked toward trying to change something that I know I cannot. Big hugs!!

        • I think you unlocked the secret to the world there, Elisa:

          “what I thought was frustration at him and at them, was me feeling yanked toward trying to change something that I know I cannot”

          Being > Doing
          Accepting > Fixing
          Allowing > Resisting
          Loving > Fearing

          xx to you and your son. 🙂

  2. There is a lot here that I can identify with. I think for an instant that I wish I had your drive to pursue what I deem important in any given time…and then I think what a long, tortuous summer you had…it doesn’t sound pleasant. I’m glad you’re going to have some time to relax. It’s wonderful to see you back here. You look marvelous!

    • Thanks, Cindy! Overall, I think that the “what we do” part of the equation (i.e. running an art business) is fun, exciting, and a huge adventure. That said, the “how we do it” part got totally out of whack for me this summer. It was totally my fault, too. Marty kept nudging me (and later, trying to DEMAND) that I take time out for myself. He could see what a mess I was becoming, but I couldn’t see the same thing for myself. Thankfully, we have an off-season, which has been tremendous for helping me a) see the insanity in the first place and b) have space and time to return to my better self. I just hope that I can maintain my level head and steady heart come April of next year. My whole existence really depends on it! Seriously! 🙂

      Thanks for reading and for welcoming me back in style after my extended absence. I appreciate it!

  3. I, too, suffer from seriousness–seriously! ANd I love that you NOW need to get serious about having more fun. Now THAT’S hilarious! Welcome back, my friend.

    Hope you and Marty will come visit us here in the Andes. We have plenty of room–seriously!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    • Kathy, You have no idea how seriously we are contemplating a visit (and maybe even a move!) to Ecuador. Marty is away this week, but I talked to him last night on the phone all about your beautiful place and amazing adventures there. WE MUST GO TO ECUADOR!! I think it would really help to put the harbour craziness in laser-clear focus, not to mention demonstrate that there is an easier, more relaxed way to live our lives. I’m going to e-mail you with some questions I have, if that’s cool. Your new adventures are TOTALLY INSPIRING to me! 🙂

    • Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate you being here as part of my welcome back posse. 🙂

      As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve had to start by “scheduling” fun into my daytimer every day. I’m not kidding. “11am-12 noon: Knit”. It’s in there for real.

      I know my current self well enough to realize that just SAYING I’ll do something fun won’t cut it. I’ll always find a task like laundry or website updating to do in place of fun. Always. I’m literally taking the business of fun seriously until I am able to incorporate it into my life more naturally and spontaneously. Maybe, at some point, I’ll be able to do my fun things without setting a timer (!!) to let me know when the time for fun is over (!!), but for now, it’s actually working. It’s relieving on some level to know that I can still get “real work” done every day and that I won’t dissolve into a lazy puddle of self-indulgence. At the same time, doing fun things has also been critical for me. I even went for my first facial EVER yesterday! IT WAS SO FUN!

  4. No time for knitting?! Say it aint so!

    Oddly, one day a couple weeks ago, for some reason, I went through a top knot (or rishi knot) research frenzy. I can’t remember now exactly why the topic seemed so compelling, but anyway I read about some of the ancient beliefs surrounding hair/”antennas”/sunlight and then some more on vitamin D and ions and nourishment and energy and protecting solar centers. Now here you are all “KABOOM” rocking a top knot (beautifully, I might add).

    I am so happy to see you back on the blogging scene. 🙂

    • AMAZING! I have a friend who wears her hair in a super badass bun every day. She even signs her official letters, “Carollyne, B.A. (Big Ass Hair)” (which is awesome, right?) Anyway, I only tried doing a top knot very recently, but I totally felt like my bun was an antenna for receiving energetic downloads! (And Carollyne must have known this all along!) Cosmic downloads aside, I think the rishi knots look amazing! Knots > Regular Ponytails for sure.)

      I have since resumed some knitting, thank god. I now have a list of Things I Find Fun, and I can pick and choose fun things off the list to do every day. It’s the academic, sanitized version of fun, but it seems to be working for now.

  5. Can I tell you how blessedly wonderful it was to see in my RSS feeds that I had a new post waiting from you? Or can I tell you how fantastic it is to know that I’m not the only weirdo kid who obsessed over the smallest of details (and frequently still does)? Can I tell you how cool Marty’s art is and how fortunate he is to have you by his side championing it with him? Finally, can I just tell you again how much I adore you – serious or silly and everywhere in between?

    • Aw, thanks Michelle! I frequently obsess over tiny details and situations still, but I find that EFT Tapping is both fun AND effective at getting me out of my head, so it’s a win-win situation, really.

      Marty’s art IS super cool, and I honestly love being a part of the business. It’s just when I get the business into my teeth like a rabid mutt, forgetting everything that exists OUTSIDE of it, that it becomes an issue. Even Marty doesn’t let his art consume him. That says something, no?

      I adore you, too! I’m so happy to see your posts on FB, even though I’m hardly ever on there. I’ll have to do a whole blog post on The Desire Map, methinks. That book was GIGANTICALLY HUGE in helping me shift perspectives from raw and crazy to grateful and confident. Stay tuned! 🙂

  6. Welcome back to the blogo-sphere Dana.
    I think being serious is an important thing really, and what gives life “serious” meaning. It can, maybe should include seriously moderating it when appropriate. I take fun seriously … if that makes any sense.
    Everyone needs to be taken seriously, even arguably have a right to it.
    From my observations, you have every right to give yourself major credit in the art partnership of Marty and you. You both have important roles in it and each are deserving of recognition for it’s success.
    Remember, Coca-cola spends more on advertising than it does on production, so their results speak for themself. There are many, many artists out there that may be terrific, but unless their work gets exposure, no one may know and none of it may sell or come to be appreciated. Promotion is not a four-letter word, but unfortunately runs contrary to the creative instincts (perhaps humility) of many artists.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dean. I know that I am an integral part of the art business, but this summer, I morphed myself into THE ONLY part of the business. I was the solitary linchpin upon which all things depended!

      Whereas before, I was able to take a step back and keep things in perspective, I think my decision not to go to school in some way launched me into a rabid way of doing business. (Perhaps subconsciously, I thought “well, if I’m not going to go to school, I should devote 110% of my energy to doing this art thing instead.”) Not even Marty does that… and for good reason. Kaboom! Crazypants! It didn’t help (in a twisted way) that it was sunny all. summer. A good dose of rain would have given me the permission I needed to take some time off, but hey– my challenge is obviously to take time off IN SPITE OF THE SUNSHINE.

      Sanity will be restored… eventually. And I will have fun doing that, I promise!

      Are you still in SK? How’s your mom doing?

      • Maybe the keyword is “pacing”.
        Yes, I’m still here in Wolseley, Sask., and just brought my mom home after sixteen days in hospital. Proving to be a very emotional, and often very painful process for her. She swears she would never do it again, but hopefully that will change in the weeks and months ahead as her mobility returns.
        Being a 24/7 caregiver is a grounding and humbling experience.
        It also feels very important in the broad scheme of things, both for her and for me as a son.

        • Pacing is definitely key– both for me and for your mom, it seems! Happy to hear that she is home, and I hope she starts regaining mobility and lessening her pain soon. It took a while for my grandma to recover after she had the same surgery, but now the results are definitely worth it. Chin up to both of you! Way to be a model son, Dean. 🙂

    • YOU!! I’ve been thinking about you a ton lately! I have been using one of the books you sent me as a journal lately, so every time I open it, you cross my mind. 🙂 How is your growing family?? Work? Life? I’d love to catch up!

  7. Seriously? You’re back? Cause I’m back too?! And we’re both on the same path of finally taking care of ourselves after chaos?! I’m a little creeped out by the similarities. We should have gotten together over the last week. Doesn’t mean we can’t get together soon.

    That top bun is AWESOME and I wan to do it too! The bun and sunglasses combo works too. Love the red shoes too. And I can totally see myself accusing Brad to controlling the weather in one of my crazy moments too. I hear you sister!

    • Isn’t the top knot AMAZING? I was living in my sunglasses all summer, too, so it feels kind of strange going back to regular glasses again. (My face isn’t hidden, all celebrity-style anymore!)

      Can’t wait to see you next week! xx

  8. I am going through what you are describing so well here. It’s great to know others are out there going through the same thing.

    Yes, I find I can be serious, though perhaps it’s more needing to be in control. I’ve stopped a lot of things too and whilst I feel guilty for not doing things, it is a relief to not be striving so hard.

    I look forward to hearing more from you, welcome back my dear x

    • Thanks so much, love! I think my compulsions are a deadly combo of seriousness AND needing to control outcomes… not to mention controlling the pathways to said outcomes. I understand the need to control so intimately.

      I’ve been easing out of my straining ways by subbing in more enjoyable activities for ones that were causing me burnout. Yes, my schedule is still pretty packed for the time being, but at least it’s mostly reading books, taking workshops, walking, watching movies, and occasionally some art-related things. The real challenge for me will be doing that elusive ‘nothing’ for long stretches at a time. The thought of it still throws me into a tizzy… (<— and apparently I am now 94 years old, using words like "tizzy")

  9. I *seriously* love your writing style. You had me hooked way back at the kraut post. Welcome back my dear 🙂

    Oh and me? I get super serious about trying to get serious about re-entering the land of the living. Laughing with (at?) myself is a good cure for my control monster though!

    • Aw, thanks so much! I’m sorry you had to wait SUPER LONG in between posts, but maybe the writing style is worth it? (Maybe?)

      Laughter is truly a cure-all. If I’m in a crappy mood, sometimes I’ll laugh AT myself to show myself how silly I’m being. (It usually takes a few seconds before I can ease up, but usually I’m mature enough to handle directing laughter at myself. Usually.) 🙂

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