Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Life's Challenge of 3 Dimensions

When I was in high school I was very good at math. And I really liked science. Around my sophomore year, probably from some kind of achievement test results being sold to colleges, I received in the mail a colored pamphlet from Boston University about their biomedical engineering program, with a letter suggesting I consider it as a major for college.

Boston seemed totally cool and out of reach for me (who knew that I'd end up spending so many of my adult years there?), but the real appeal was that the pamphlet described how a degree in biomedical engineering could result in a job designing prosthetics. Not just hands or legs that fill out your clothes, but ones that connected to nerves so that people could move them more naturally. I was completely enthralled.
I went off to college, declared a major in biology, and somewhere along the way (probably in that 5th year when I was tacking on all these extra courses because I didn't know what I wanted to "do" with my biology major), I signed up for a beginning engineering course. I didn't want to close any doors yet. There was still that lure of designing a prosthetic hand. . .
I think I was one of three women in the class. I had 2 main problems. The first was I wasn't neat. You had to print neatly and use your eraser well enough that no erasure lines were still visible (obviously with no holes in the paper either!). I've never been neat about anything--but that's a story for another day. The other problem, the problem of today's story, was that I've never been very good at visualizing 3 or more dimensions.

In this beginning drafting class, we went through a lot of exercises that looked like these:
Figuring out the correct answer was quite challenging for me. I improved as the class continued, but it took lots of concentration, and I certainly never made it to the head of the class.

Another clear example of my problem with 3 dimensions is that I am perpetually lost. I get turned around in the mall. I get lost going the same place I've gone a hundred times before. Everything may look familiar, but I'm not sure if it should be on my left or right to get where I'm trying to go. Or I can "see" where I'm headed, but the dots aren't connecting from where I am in the car to where I need to be.

Hubby has told me this is because I don't make visual maps in my head--I don't "see" how the roads connect. It turns out, he's right--well, it always made sense--but even in looking for the above images and Googling spatial skills, I see that mapping is part of developing such skills. (Imagine my delight at Hubby's gift of a GPS last Christmas! Unfortunately it doesn't work at the detailed level I need for the mall.)

Today I realized that I have this same dimensional challenge in terms of my identity. While I consider myself well-rounded (pun intended!), I'm pretty much a linearly focused gal. My first therapist in college told me this (I know what you're thinking! Yes! I've been in and out of therapy since college. . . and I'm actually quite sane!! It's a luxury. . . consider it like a shopping compulsion.)

He told me that I was so focused on being a good student and that my efforts & success at it gave me such positive feedback that I pretty much let everything else go by the wayside--my relationships, social life, creativity, etc. Like a Bran muffin, I was all work & no play!

Maybe I did that because the other stuff was too painful. From the time of my parents divorce when I was 11, I was always grieving the loss of my father in my life (I even married someone a lot like my father, but that's another story too!), and caught up in my sister's issues and hating my mom's boyfriend. And it's hard to be into the fashion and beauty trends and love lures that occupy the lives of so many young women when you're a really big young woman. Compared to that, studying to get As was easy.

But the story has pretty much continued as the same story, it's just that focusing on being a student morphed into focusing on being a good employee.

Work has been pretty much my life. I dream about work. I talk about work at parties. I married someone with similar work; we talk about it over dinner--and on vacation. Sometimes we even work together. My hard work has paid off for me in terms of promotions, positive attention, good salaries, and good networks.
And I've focused on my work a lot. Hubby and I have flopped roles from a lot of couples. He does the more traditional "wife" role compared to me. I focus on work, I lead the job search and the moves. He works from home. For years, he cooked dinner every night (I've JUST started doing that). Until we could afford cleaners, he did all the housework. He pays the bills, etc. etc.

It's probably not that surprising that I gained all my lost weight back when--dun dun--I got laid off from my job.

The problem is that work doesn't always, well. . . , work anymore, if you know what I mean. For one thing, maybe it's just me (is it just me?) but it seems like now that I'm over 45 it's harder to be the office star. Or maybe it has nothing to do with my age, but has a lot to do with the fact that I am no longer in an entrepreneurial environment but a corporate one--where the responsibilities are so siloed that it's hard to branch out.

But work is still so much my single dimension that it overwhelms everything-- like trying to be my new alter ego MizFit (not the blogger, but the identity behind the bracelet!). When I get busy at work--as I am now and likely will be until after the first of the year--the first thing that goes is my attention to exercise.

I can't break away from my desk for a walk or to go to the gym or train. Or at least that's what I tell myself. Even though it's just so clear that doing that would help me feel better in so many ways.

I resent that I am putting so much time into work (even though, duh, I've chosen to focus on that) that I don't do the things I need to do, like get up earlier. So I don't get up earlier to be able to fit in more, so I don't exercise, so I resent it more, and I feel bad because I'm not exercising or changing my identity, and it's this vicious cycle.

I need to--want to--branch out into a 3 dimensional person. I need to be more than just my job. I want to be an exerciser (maybe a swimmer), a cook, a wife and lover (!), at least a minimalist housekeeper, a daughter, an aunt, a crafter, a writer, a reader, a movie goer, a photographer, maybe a pet owner, an adult who knows what the electric bill ran this month and if it gets paid online how to track it instead of letting Hubby handle it all, a friend, and a blogger.

I feel like those criminals in Superman, trapped in the glass, pressing to get out as they float into space.


  1. Let's break out of this place we're in!

    What is it about turning 45? I have many of the same aspirations and goals that you have.

    Some days I feel like I'm making progress and others it's and upward downhill climb ( if that makes sense at all)

    Peace -Rene

  2. I now realize I would flunk a drafting class. After looking at your training sessions with Trainer D, I'd say you're already an exerciser! They look like tough workouts. I would like to master the skill of life balance. I want to be all of the things you listed and do them well, but it's not so easy to balance them all.

  3. I would so flunk a drafting class!

  4. Hey MiMi,
    I have been reading your blog here and there and really enjoying it. You crack me up. I also wanted to inform you of a really good low cal desert bar, that I stumbled upon at the grocery store. Only 100 calories and better then a fudge bar.
    Check it out.
    Pam S. (forgot login info)

  5. It sounds like you have all of the ingredients to make the change you desire.


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