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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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When you look in the mirror and hate what you see...

Category Everything else
This is one of those introspective, "likely more dramatic than it really is" personal posts.  If you're here for book reviews or technical info, you can safely ignore this and move along.  But writing is how I deal with things, and "my blog, my rules"...

Over the last few months, I've come to the realization that I'm really struggling with who I am.  More accurately, the question is probably... who am I?

I don't like what I've let myself become physically.  Body image has always been an issue for me as far back as I can remember.  Being "the short fat kid" was a defining factor growing up (on a number of levels), and that has never disappeared.  Even after I lost a lot of weight in my late teens/early twenties, that mental image of being "the short fat kid" still defined me.  Now at the mid-point of life (with the associated re-finding of the lost weight), I've just dropped "kid".  Everything else remains the same.

I grew up trying to meet expectations of others.  I was the good student.  I was the good child.  I was interested in the things that people around me liked because that was expected. The goal was to "fit in" to be accepted.  But I'm not sure I ever figured out what *I* liked and what *I* wanted.  I know that on more than one occasion, I dealt with resistance by assuming I must not really want something since someone else didn't think it was a great idea.

I look at what I do in many areas of my life, and I realize I know "about" things, but in reality I don't often make the jump to actually *knowing* those things... experiencing and mastering them on a deep level.  It's like I'm a mile wide and an inch deep, and I feel that after ten minutes it would be obvious to everyone that I'm not really all that interesting after all.  In a three-dimensional world, I feel very one-dimensional... and it's not even an interesting dimension at that.

On a rational level, I can explain all this to myself.  I'm probably having my mid-life crisis, everyone struggles with who they are, no one feels like the person that everyone else thinks they are, there are things I'm good at...  I know all that.  I also know that depression plays into this, and that's been a documented issue I've discussed in the past.  For various reasons, I've backed off my meds.  It's not because I think or thought I'm "cured", as that will never be the case.  It's more along the lines of letting some level of emotions come to the surface so I can figure out what's inside.  

One analogy that fits somewhat is to imagine myself standing on the edge of a large puddle.  My current self looks at that puddle and thinks... that's wet.  I can't see the bottom, and it looks dirty.  It's probably safer to walk around it and stay dry.  I can tell others about the large puddle I saw.  I can read books about puddles and look up puddles online.  I really know a lot about puddles in general...

What I really want to do is to just say "screw it" and jump in.  I'll get wet and messy and dirty and I'll probably stub my toe or cut myself and very possibly look pretty stupid in the process... but when I get done, I'll *know* that puddle and it'll be part of me.

I'll have actually lived life instead of just reading about it and experiencing it through someone else.

2012 is winding down, and 2013 is growing larger on the horizon.  I don't know what the future holds, nor does anyone else.  What I do know is that I don't want to keep doing things based on what I think others expect of me.  My comfort zone has become way too small.  I need to trim out things I've been holding on to because they feel "safe" or "expected."  I need to find the things that *I* want to do, that *I* want to make part of me because they're of interest to *me*, not someone else.  I need to step out and try new things knowing full well that I'll make mistakes and look stupid when I first start.  I will fail and not measure up to those who I see as "experts", but I'll ignore that because they too had to start and fail along the way.  I'll find that some things I try won't be things I want to continue doing, but I want to at least say I gave it a shot.  And along the way, I'll find some things that make *me* happy because *I* like doing them.

I'm not about to quit everything and hike around the world in search of myself.  There *are* things in my life that make sense and that are part of me at a deeper level.  But I do plan on changing things around in order to "know" things that interest me instead of just knowing *about* them.  Instead of collecting information, I want to collect experiences.  I don't want to scrape off the topsoil of my existence to make it look like I'm doing something.  I want to take the shovel, start digging, get dirty and sweaty, and pull a few muscles in the process of finding out what's really under the surface.  I want to move past knowing to doing.

Maybe that's my new motto:  Knowing != Doing

Or maybe: Less Knowing, More Doing


Gravatar Image1 - I used to find myself centered in tech. But then I realized i was doing it for someone else and not me. Granted, i need to do that to keep things going, but i no longer want it to define me. Then i found photography and found myself again behind a camera. Doing it for me and liking the person I am better. Find your camera, and you'll find your soul.
You are a great mentor and friend and want nothing but the best for ya. Emoticon

Gravatar Image2 - Hey Duff,
I think it's something that many of us are going through right now. You're not alone. There's so much information out there, only so much time in the day and we can't possibly know as much about things as we'd like to know, so learn only what we need to get along. We want to fit in somewhere and be loved and even admired, certainly we want to be respected. So sometimes we make relational compromises so that can happen. We want to do something of value and want to have something to show for all of our years of struggle. But, since we're our own worst critics, success can be an elusive thing that we never feel we've achieved. And we're really really tired of putting ourselves aside for the benefit of others. With each compromise, we chip away at our values and at ourselves until there are only two choices. Give up, and change our values, or focus on the things we really want to change and learn how to do them better.

I think it's like cleaning out a closet, though. It looks worse before it gets better. You have to take everything out, unpack it, decide whether it can serve you or whether you should get rid of it. And if you're keeping it, you have to find a place for it so it's not just more useless clutter. And it's a time-consuming thing that people generally avoid (which is how closets get that way in the first place).
But eventually everything is organized and put away and the closet looks fantastic and everyone feels lighter when it's finally done.

You're exactly where you're supposed to be at this point in your life.
Good for you.
There are a lot of your friends, I'm certain, who would be more than happy to puddle jump with you. Consider me one.
I think you have a lot of courage to come out and say what others just feel in silence. You rock! I hope you know that. If you don't, don't worry. It's somewhere mid-puddle, should you care to go exploring.

Gravatar Image3 - Where's the LIKE button?

Gravatar Image4 - Get a tattoo, drink a lot more, and go partying?

Oh, Wait, thats January's advice.. ;)

---* Bill

Gravatar Image5 - I think I generally avoid the puddle too. Maybe we should pull on some wellies, hold hands and splash right inEmoticon

Gravatar Image6 - "What I really want to do is to just say "screw it" and jump in. I'll get wet and messy and dirty and I'll probably stub my toe or cut myself and very possibly look pretty stupid in the process... but when I get done, I'll *know* that puddle and it'll be part of me. "

LEAP. Emoticon

Gravatar Image7 - As a fellow traveler on the rarely entertaining depression roller-coaster, I think I should point out something I'm almost certain you've already considered: making dramatic changes to your life while you're depressed is very risky, and sometimes it is difficult to tell whether the dissatisfaction you're feeling is caused by the depression itself or whether you truly (the REAL you, not the depressed version) need to change things up.

That said, you know I've got your back, and so do a lot of other folks. If the puddle turns out to be made out of quicksand, we'll help you climb back out again and move onto the next puddle.

Gravatar Image8 - Am enjoying a middle life crisis myself.

Happy to offer a rationale but cutting to the chase:

Buy a push bike; ride it far and wide it's good for your health and mind.

Get a couch to 5k program for your phone and in 9 weeks you'll be running three miles and/or 30 mins.

Buy a fast car; I fell in love with my Subaru it still puts a smile on my face thinking about it.

No one's opinion matters more than yours and nothing good comes easily. Nothing easy is good.

Grab your towel and pick a big puddle Emoticon

Gravatar Image9 - This goes against your post but...please promise to keep your clothes on Emoticon

Gravatar Image10 - We rarely see eye to eye, Tom, but if you're serious about improving your emotional well-being, I would encourage you emphatically to stay off the drugs.

Find a good therapist. Discover and address the real causes of your emotional distress instead of trying to mask them with psychoactive chemicals that lead to suicide. { Link }

I could point to examples of success in this area, but anecdotes are not evidence. Look into the real research behind anti-depressant drugs and decide for yourself if there's any reason to put your trust in mass-marketed pharmaceuticals.

Gravatar Image11 - Maybe it's Karma, but I had this video pop up in my facebook stream the other day. { Link }

I thought I'd share, since it kind of inspired me to get off center and look at making a difference instead of making a living.

Hope it helps.

Gravatar Image12 - Thanks for all the comments and input. It's all very much appreciated. A few replies for specifics...

Andy, it's *exactly* like your camera. In fact, a number of people in our community have "cameras" that help them keep their sanity, and I envy them. I need to find *my* camera, and that's part of my problem. One, I don't have that (yet), and two, I need to avoid adopting someone else's "camera". What I choose might well be the same "camera" as someone else has, but it needs to be for my reasons.

Kathy, LEAP is one of the missing elements in my life. Your story didn't go unnoticed.

Everyone, puddles will be handled differently. :)

Rob... thanks. Rest assured that I'm not planning anything dramatic at this point, and I'm aware of that risk. We both know the dangers of that. Tapering out the meds was a conscious choice in order to try and figure out the baseline of my life again. It's been around seven years since I started on them, and they were critical in helping me lift that cloud I was under. Using the Effexor is much more immediate than the Prozac was, and I can sense the differences now (both pro and con) when I'm on and off it. I'm able to see and feel some of the emotions that surface in both situations, and I can reassess what chemical imbalances I want to live with. :)

And yes, Carl... I *will* keep my clothes on. Even *I* don't want to see that.

Gravatar Image13 - Very applicable, Bill... thanks.

Gravatar Image14 - Rob McDonagh said everything that I wanted to say...

You've had my back for years... We've got yours!

Go find your muse... and play that symphony!!!

Gravatar Image15 - Tom,
I've been contemplating your comments for days and hope I can say something to help.

I can relate at some level what your going through as I'm currently in search of my next passion.

First, it's interesting to me how hard we are on ourselves when in actuality many others love us deeply. I mean, in reality, 10% of the people we know won't like us but there are many who adore us and we seem to forget the positive.
I'm 6'2" and I don't care if your short and heavy. I see a caring, helpful, funny, and intelligent person who's strives to learn and help others. Your beautiful to me and many others.
I learned something recently that I found interesting. No matter how little I may know about something, I can find someone to help with that little knowledge. I've been leading a group for 2 years on Java. They think I'm a genius and very complimentary. To many, I'm a total novice.
On the practical side, I'm disappointed to say I've gained weight. If you'd like to work with me on a buddy system to lose weight, I'm in. I'm sure there are plenty fat programmers/admins who'd join in our quest. Emoticon

I just watched a couple TED talks you may find interesting.
One on finding your Passion
{ Link }
and one on Failure { Link }
I think I'll do my next Toastmasters talk on Failure.

Hang in there ... Don't be so hard on yourself.
You have many fans and folks who love you for you.

I'll leave you with this. Lately, in my house, the Bill O'reilly rant has been our mantra when something sucks. It always cracks up my wife and I as we scream "We'll do it LIVE, #@$%^ thing SUCKS!"
Laughter is the best medicine.
{ Link }

Gravatar Image16 - Tom,
Make a big splash out of the puddle. Get all muddy and then laugh your head off.
Do something every day like this for 30 days it will change your life.
Whatever it is you want to do or be or not to do or not to be, quite sure we will all back you on it. It's you we care about not what you do.

Gravatar Image17 - You are my buddy and I am always so impressed with how you can express yourself and your thoughts. You are an inspiration and great support for me. I appreciate getting to work with you every day and couldn't imagine this job without you. You don't know how much it meant for me to rock Vegas with you at the Microsoft conference. We really broke out of our shells since we're both so shy. NOT! I know you'll be finding that "camera" any day now. It's impressive that you can recognize that you needed to search for it. Time to live that life of "oh wells" rather than "what ifs". :)

Gravatar Image18 - That means a lot to me, Sandra. The feeling is very much mutual.

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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