Thursday, November 8, 2018

Talk About Imposter Syndrome

Some of us suffer from imposter syndrome, that feeling that despite how well a job we might be doing, we have anxiety that sooner or later someone will expose us as frauds.

My husband, who has been an engineer for almost his entire adult life, has passed several qualifying state and national board-type tests, and has gotten to the point where he is no doubt an expert in his field (he has people dropping in to see him all day long to ask questions on just about everything he deals with) still has his moments of self-doubt.

My own work area is writing about ghosts. As I type those words, even I have to laugh out loud. Seriously? Writing about ghosts? Nonetheless, when I do my annual book signing, or run into someone who knows what I write about, or when a reader contacts me by email, I am frequently told about personal experiences and asked for comments or even suggestions. Sometimes I can help. But frequently, OOPS, sorry, I don't have an answer. I'm not a medium or a psychic, just an off-the-wall fanatic of sorts.

But nothing makes me feel more like an imposter than my own grandson. This kid can flat-out see the dead, and we live in a fairly active house. I think he's gotten pretty good at ignoring things, but there are rooms he doesn't like after dark and he doesn't like the dark itself. I totally understand that: I'm a bit afraid of the dark, myself. So he sleeps with a nightlight, and frequently falls asleep with his bedside lamp on, leaving it to the grown-ups to turn it off for him when we go to bed ourselves.

After all that, it should come as no surprise to anyone that when he says to me "I'm scared," a little bit of a chill goes up my spine. And he's been doing that a lot at bedtime. It got so bad a few weeks ago that we had Jim, student of Native American wisdom, smudge the house. That helped, and our little guy's room felt much lighter for a few days. But it's gradually starting to get that, oh, stuffy, slightly-crowded feeling again. Jim himself said that what he did probably worked for all of twenty-four hours. It wasn't quite that short a period, but it was short.

I think part of the problem is that my grandson has sight. Just like his mother. I think they're both sensitive to everything around them, possibly attract passers-by, and unfortunately, their bedrooms are right next to each other. Holy lights-to-attract moths (or the dead), Batman!

He got up out of bed last night and came  into the living room where Jim was watching TV and I was finishing up some odds and ends, and announced that he was afraid. I took him back to his room and we sat and read a little bit out of a Pokemon book. And then we talked. I always ask him what he's afraid of and he always answers with that universal kid reply: "I don't know." But I think he does know and doesn't want to talk about it. A big hint is that he says he never blows his nose in the dark because he's afraid the noise he makes will be heard and "they'll come after" him. That's not a great thing to hear your grandson say just before everyone goes to bed.

So last night we talked things over. In the end, as always, I reminded him that his bedroom is his own space and that he has the right to tell anyone and everyone to go away and leave him alone. He always looks at me very doubtfully when I say that. I know from personal experience that the dead can be pretty persistent. I sometimes wonder if lacking a physical body somehow makes them forget about things like boundaries and personal space. Whatever the problem is, I finally told him last night that he should start owning his space and that if he has to be a badass to do it, then so be it. Grandma using the word "badass" was good for a laugh and that made both of us feel better.

But I know he's still uneasy, and frankly, so am I. It's not a comfortable feeling to have perfect strangers wandering through your house, whether alive or dead. I wish I knew better ways to teach him to arm himself. When I go to the Expo this year (next week, if you can make it to Davenport, Iowa!) I will start asking other people- with more expertise- for advice.

I'm such an imposter.

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