Interviews With People came from my 2013 New Years Resolution to ‘get to know everyone well’. We’re only up to interviewee 6; there’s a long way to go, but so far I have enjoyed ths series immensely.
I try to be as open and honest as possible on this blog and I have been overwhelmed by how generous people have been in sharing their own thoughts and lives in this series. Learning and growing by sharing stories. That’s what it is to be human!
If you’d like to be an RD Interviewee 2013 read the original Interviews With People post and follow the directions.
This week I got to know Michaela C, about her early struggles with self-esteem, and her views on life and meaning. ~ RD.
Getting To Know Michaela C
My name is Michaela.
The photo I’ve attached is of Elijah Wood is from The Ice Storm. It’s his character, Mikey, marvelling at the beauty and magnificence of the massive ice storm that’s enveloped his town. The next moment, lightning hits the metal rail he’s sitting on and electrocutes him. He falls face down in the snow, instantly dead. This scene in such an emotionally turbulent movie really kicked me in the guts. It was so without drama, so sudden, brutal and matter-of-fact. Kick. In. The. Guts. Harsh.
I wasn’t a very bright kid, in a family full of highly educated/qualified people but I did have a talent for music. It became my identity (I was going to be the next Don Burrows, so my music teachers said). It was the only thing, really, that I was good at. So off I went to the Conservatorium of Music at Melbourne Uni, playing clarinet, saxophone, recorder and flute. Then at the end of my first year I developed RSI in my hands and wrists and bang went my career. My music teachers no longer wanted to know me, and I had no discernible skills to help me get a “real” job. That was my lowest point and I’ve had a challenging relationship with music ever since.
Usually my high points are lit by the headlight of some rapidly approaching disaster.
One such high point was becoming friends with Sara Douglass, the wonderful Australian author (and human being). She died 18 months later. Another highlight was having my son. Then being sick afterwards and not coping well. Also, getting my driving license at the age of 40, after thinking that, because of Anxiety Disorder, I could never drive. I guess I’m hoping that one won’t end in disaster.
I get upset by the judgement I see around me, and inside my own brain. Everyone judging everyone else and deciding – mostly – that they’re wanting. Judgement is behind so much hate. I know that judgement usually comes from a sense of loss somewhere inside a person – a sense that they don’t have something that someone else does, and it makes them angry. Judgement and anger are such a freaking HABIT for humans and it’s a hard one to train yourself out of. Wars become acceptable because we judge other people to be less worthy or valuable than us. (Wars start because of greed, but people with power use our judgemental natures to make it OK to hate and kill). So. Judgey McJudgersons, you’re on notice.
I love my partner. He is the complete opposite of me. He’s not romantic, dramatic, flighty or crazy. He’s smart and funny and completely independent. He’s the rational, sensible anchor to my ADD-afflicted, emotionally unstable, impulsive brain. He doesn’t need me, and that’s a huge relief. We’re so different that we spend a lot of time not liking each other very much, but when it’s good it’s pretty much perfect.
What I am most ashamed of? At the age of about 21, watching a parade of Army dudes marching through Melbourne Zoo. I don’t know what the fuck was wrong with me that day but I turned to my colleague and said “Ah well, at least they’re sending the ugly ones off to get killed”.
OH. MY. FUCKING. GOD.
I wish I could go back and kick myself in the ovaries. To this day I have no idea why I said it. And I’m pretty sure some of those Army dudes heard me. Big sigh for that one. I have other ones but that’s the worst. A deeply mean-spirited and cruel arsehole comment.
Getting To Know Michaela C Well
RD: There are so many aspects to intelligence. I can’t nail two pieces of wood together and marvel at some of my friends who renovate and build entire houses. But they couldn’t write an article for publication or put together a convincing short story to save themselves. Despite out different skills I wouldn’t separate us at all in terms of who was the ‘brightest’. How did you come to believe that you were not ‘bright’ compared to the rest of your family?
Michaela C: Interesting question. I couldn’t read so repeated Grade 1. I think that was my first clue. Then having a sister who was Dux of the school… parents both with multiple degrees… and overhearing comments from relatives about how clever my sister was. So mainly indirect feedback. I also had to work incredibly hard to pass HSC, while others seemed to fly through without much effort. These experiences make me value all types of people, rather than just the “brainy” ones. It’s made me sensitive to some of the more ingrained intellect-based snobbery that comes up from people, usually without them even realising they’re doing it. “Smart” doesn’t equal “Valuable” or “Worthy”. “Person” does.
RD: Do you think you may have invested too much in your musical talents as a way of compensating for a perceived lack of intelligence in comparison to your family? Is it possible that you may have not pushed yourself so hard in music if you had felt more confident about your place within your family.
Michaela C: Yes I’m sure I threw myself into music more deeply because it was the only thing I perceived myself to be good at. I became “the musical one” instead of “the dumb one”.
RD: I’ve always believed that a great long term relationship, filled with highs and lows and in-betweens, changes both partners for the better. I get from your previous answers that your partner has been a calm and stabilising influence for you. But I want to know how your ‘ADD-afflicted, emotionally unstable, impulsive brain’ has improved your partner as a person? (Feel free to get him to add his own answer to this question.)
Michaela C: Pardon me for correcting husband to partner. I have 3 ex-fiances and an ex-husband so categories matter. I was collecting the whole set.
He didn’t want to answer. And he doesn’t want me answering it either. Sorry!
RD: It’s been said that humans put themselves into situations that will reflect the beliefs they have about themselves. In your Army Insult scenario you’re describing a feeling of shame. Shame comes from the feeling of being inadequate, not good enough, bad, unimportant and undeserving. Was this true of you at the time you made that comment? And when you reflect on the ‘back then you’ and the ‘now you’ what has changed?
Michaela C: That’s a big yes. At the time, I was under massive pressure to be “nice”. To always be the passive one, the one who was lovely to everyone, would do anything for anyone, yadda yadda yadda. That’s not who I am. So my inner-arsehole would occasionally pop out at unexpected and inappropriate ways. That was clearly one of them.
The now me has embraced her inner-arsehole and, while I’m not out mugging grannies or setting fire to buildings, I’ve let myself off the “I must be a nice person to everyone all the time” hook. Thank DOG. The pressure was killing me.
RD: I love your description of the scene from The Ice Storm. I was watching a documentary about asteroids the other day. The point was made that we would all be dust within minutes if a six kilometre wide asteroid hit earth. And there are plenty of them out there! I get that same feeling as you when I contemplate something like this – shock at the fragility of life; that it can end without a whimper, within a breath. But at the same time I feel awe, a strange kind of joy. We are an incredibly unique and wonderful species but share the same fate as every other living slug, bug and animal on this finite planet; trapped in a series of unfolding events, hurtling towards the inevitable – when all trace and memory will be erased, as if it never happened!
To me those ‘brutal’ fact says, Have a go at few things RD. Stop hiding away and take a chance. You can’t get it wrong. I find it thrilling and – more importantly – liberating. How does it make you feel?
Michaela C: It makes me care less. And that’s important, because people who are sensitive, like us, care too much and we risk becoming raw and damaged. The scene is a slap in the face reminder that there is nothing to fear, because sooner or later we’ll all just become our basic energetic constituents anyway. So go for it, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Ha!
To follow Michaela C on Twitter – @fivefrogsblog
Visit Michaela C’s blog – www.fivefrogsblog.com.au
If you’d like to be an RD Interviewee for 2013 read this post and follow the directions.