Wednesday 3 November 2010

Zen and the Art of Tupperware.

Inspiration comes from many unexpected places.  For me it happened two weekends ago in a room of 20 giggling, slightly intoxicated women, two shirtless men and Tupperware.   Who knew this would be a place of Confucian wisdom and deep contemplation.

It may have been the glass of champaign.  It may have been the hilarity of watching my slightly inebriated ex-boss running around taking photos with the cap on the camera or singing Katie Perry's, Peacock song (brilliant).  It may have been the novelty of men demonstrating Tupperware.  It may have been the shirtless men making meat balls in the kitchen or cooking rice in the Tupperware microwave rice cooker.  It may have been the shirtless men serving their well made balls with the serviettes tucked in the waistband of their Bonds undies.  It may have been the shirtless......

Sorry slightly distracted there by memories of abs and the best Tupperware party EVER.  Where was I?  Oh yes, inspiration.  Not long after I arrived we were all being introduced.  "S is a physio, M is a dietician,....Michelle is a neuropsychologist...".  WTF?  Something about that simple statement jarred.  I felt a little like I'd been slapped (admittedly that could have been the glass of champers as it's been a while.  But for the purposes of this story lets just go with it as a spiritual slap).

It's been a long time since I've thought of myself as a neuropsychologist.  I haven't seen a patient since 2007.  I haven't picked up a WAIS or a Rey-figure since I realised work was nolonger an option.  I have let my professional memberships slide.  I haven't picked up a copy of the Annals of Neurology in years.  My text books are still gathering dust in the pile where I threw them in a fit of pique at the injustice of the universe.  The last time I was near a patient with dementia they were on the exercise bike next to me at physio.  Actually, the old lady rubbing oranges on her face at my local supermarket the other day may also have had a touch of dementia, or a bizarre fetish.  Either way I'm not buying oranges from there ever again.

Am I still that person?

Do people still see me that way?

I loved my job.  It was hard.  It was stressful.  I have learnt more about bodily functions than I ever wanted to know.  Frequent, close proximity to faecal matter was not in any job description I read.  Nor was being threatened with a fist full of it.  But it was rewarding and not to toot my own horn, I wasn't too shabby at it either.  For years I thought of myself as Michelle Neuropsych.  And now.... I realise that I'm not that person any more.  And perhaps more bizarrely, I really don't care.   

I know.  I'm rather surprised too.  I had a huge mental meltdown at leaving work.  It was bad enough when I had to take 4 months off to try and get my body back in line.  The word 'failure' figured strongly in my internal dialogue during those months.  When I finally had to admit defeat, as I saw it then, and tell my manager that I wasn't going to be coming back, well "Failure" was pretty much the only word in my head.  In fact, it had gone from a simple two-syllable word, to the Godzilla of words, thundering through my head, to the exclusion of everything else.  It came complete with tacky flashing Las Vegas lights and a crappy brass band to announce my failure to the world.

I'll admit it, I catastrophised.  The world had ended.  The stars were falling from the sky.  My failure was responsible for the hole in the ozone layer, global warming and Justin Beiber.  Even the demise of the Pollywoffle was directly related to my failure (RIP little marshmallow bar of goodness).  My life was over.  I had failed me.  I had failed Mr Grumpy.  I had failed the rug rats.  I had failed my family.  I had failed my friends.  I had even failed the slightly creepy guy who delivered our junk mail. (And I wonder where my youngest gets his drama queen genes from).

All of this was reinforced with the pity stares.  Or the "glass half full" platitudes that made me want to punch people.  For future information.  If someone has something shite happen in their life, be it health, be it death, be it life crap, don't break out into a rendition of Tomorrow, from Annie.  Yes the sun will come up tomorrow, you sanctimonious pratt, but I will also beat you to a bloody pulp with a copy of the soundtrack.  I know you mean well, but bite me.  (Hmmm I wonder if that fits with my CBT and rehab training?  I feel some of the polish may have faded from my technique).

Now, three years later I'm sitting in a room with my ex-work colleagues, a glass of bubbles, surrounded by Tupperware and giggling women telling bad jokes about 'tasty balls' and drooling over abs of steel, and I don't care.  I realise that I am finally 'meh' about my work situation.  Once upon a time I was that neuropsychologist.  Now I am..... well honestly I don't know who I am, and that's okay.

What defines me as a person?  What defines my worth?  It's certainly not some title that Microsoft refuses to acknowledge as a real word (I have clicked 'add to dictionary' 90 times you slow-witted program) and that you have to spend an hour explaining to people.  

I had an epiphany in between my glass of champers and the 17th spring roll of tastiness.  Labels simply aren't all that important anymore.

I could say I'm a mum.  It's true I am a mum.  But that doesn't actually explain who I am.  I am a wife.  Same deal.   I could say I am a sick person, but frankly that sucks and whilst I am sick it is no longer the focus of my life, unless necessary.   I am many things and not one label covers it all.  I am many things that change day-to-day and hour-to-hour.  My life is in a constant state of metamorphosis.  At this point I'm just riding the wave.

Each label comes with a set of rules and expectations.  Each label steals a little piece of possibility from my world.  If I am defined by one label how can I possibly experience new things?  Holding onto that 'neuropsychologist' label was limiting who I am and who I could be.  Holding onto something that was no longer a possibility was not going to help me, or anyone.  Somewhere between crying into my cornflakes and marvelling at the brilliance of shirtless men demonstrating Tupperware, I got over it.  I'm not sure how.  I'm not sure if there is a simple step by step process.  Maybe it was the Paula Abdul theory, "I take two steps forward.  I take two steps back".  Eventually the forward steps just got bigger and the backwards ones smaller.

Part of me is still that professional woman.  Hell, I can still recall the memory stories and word lists verbatim; my pin number not so much.  Part of how I relate to people and the world are linked to that woman and her label.  After years of working and studying in mental health, I've learnt to tolerate difference, even when it's scary or confronting.  I learnt to deal with fluid situations, to manage and sort through complexity.  To mediate and educate.  Those are all good things in that they contribute to who I am, but their source is not the defining factor. 

The one label I have given myself and fully embrace, is "Trophy Wife".  It's the one I crack out when I get asked what I do at parties.  Some labels are useful.  Especially for the confused and slightly nervous look on people's faces when they try to process what you've said. Okay maybe that only delights me.  But I'm okay with that. 

So thank you Tupperware party of epiphanies.  I will be forever grateful.  Oh and did I mention the guys were shirtless?

The Trophy Wife Michelle :)

For my mother and mother in law this is really what the party was like.  Complete with the surprise package to be unwrapped later in the night.

Whilst I was very impressed with my shirtless men selling Tupperware, I do think a drag queen singing about Tupperware to the tune of 9 to 5 could come a close second.


  1. So... if I go to a tupperware party I can stop fretting? Will that really work? I might just try soon as I finish rubbing this orange on my chin. God I love that smell. (I mean the smell of oranges, not the tupperward - just in case you were confused.)

  2. tupperward. sigh. I should be admitted to a tupperward.

  3. I have been thinking about the labels we give ourselves lately... it being the start of the silly season, I know there will be inevitably to what do you do question, and as you say, I'm more than one thing... I think trophy wife the perfect answer.

    Now.... as for those shitless men, perhaps I do need tupperware after all.

  4. Fascinating post. Thanks for this.

    All the best, Boonie

  5. Elly Lou Times Two - rub that orange my friend, rub away, I'm not going to judge. And yes Tupperware is the solution to all life's problems, but only if shirtless men are involved.

    Nomie - I may be the participation type of trophy wife rather than the best and fairest variety, but that's still a trophy.

  6. Boonie - thanks Tupperware is the answer to everything. :)

  7. I can relate. This was my time to get ready to go back to work. I have been home for 10 years with kiddos and I am almost at the time frame that I was going to drop kids off at school and go somewhere and do something that had a title and other grown ups. The last few years have been progressively harder and I realize I am not going to have the rebirth of career woman I had been holding out for while playing candy-land. This does make me wonder though, what do people who know me think of me as...
    Carrie @ Just Mildly Medicated


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