This morning, I had planned to be cleaning my house. When I woke up, the call to write was too strong, and I needed to answer that call. My shower can wait.
I turned 50 this past November. I feel that I have spent much of my life trying to figure something out. I wasn’t sure what that thing was. Oddly, after my Dads visit this month, I was able to realize some really important things, and most of it hurt. I did my best to internalize my pain and make sense of it. I am too old to be feeling like the approval-starved child I used to be, yet here I was.
I had some serious days of self-loathing after realizing that the very things that people in my family do that frustrate and anger me, I do to myself. Oh my God, when did this happen? How did this happen? Why would a rational, intelligent woman choose to mirror behavior that she finds so utterly distasteful?
I sabotage myself. I say these words and accept them. I know what I should do to take care of myself and I willingly don’t do it. I say willingly because no one is twisting my arm to eat that cookie, so it is I that is giving myself permission to ingest that sugar, which I know will affect my mood, and my weight. I say willingly, because no one is sitting on me to prevent me from going to a doctor for my various aches and pains. The car isn’t going to drive itself. Oh no……but I know better, right? If family members get upset with each other, I will try to move mountains to make everyone happy again, even at the expense of my own emotional wellbeing. It has become more important to me to insure that everyone else is taken care of than to take care of myself. I should not need to set myself on fire to keep everyone else warm. Where did this mindset come from?
As we were driving home from dinner one night, the sun was setting in the West. It was gorgeous, and I knew once I got home, I would not be at a high enough elevation to take a proper picture of it, and I knew I was close to a good vantage point. “Hey you guys, I am going to take a quick minute and drive up 16th to see if I can get a picture of the sun setting. I may not make it, but I want to at least try.” My husband told me to go for it. Dad replied, “You aren’t going to make it.” I replied that maybe I wouldn’t but it was worth a shot. He said, “No, you aren’t. It’s a waste of time.” I drove up 16th, seething on the inside from his negativity but kept moving forward, undeterred. As I got to the end of the street and turned the car around to face the sun, I was able to get my picture. I looked at my Dad and said, smiling, “You owe me an apology.” He replied, “For what?” Exactly.
It hit me like a ton of bricks, and it wasn’t just from my Dad, mind you. This was my entire upbringing, as I can now see it. I wanted to play a sport. Why? You won’t be any good at it? I wanted to join Girl Scouts. Why? It will just take you away from your homework. My job growing up was to be a good student, to do what I was told and to stay out of trouble. If I became too vocal, I got into trouble. If I wanted to try something outside of my parents expectations, I was wasting everyone’s time and I was being rebellious. I NEEDED everyone to love me so I didn’t dare color outside those lines, or they wouldn’t love me anymore. I would be a disappointment. I couldn’t handle being a disappointment. I still can’t.
All of this may seem like doom and gloom, Therapy 101, or that I am blaming my parents and my family for my shortcomings. It’s actually just the opposite. You can’t do what you don’t know. They were raised in a different time, and by parents who didn’t have all the answers either. I accept that, but I don’t have to like it now. I am sure my family would deny it, but the negativity within our dynamic was stifling. I am confident this is why I try to put forward positive energy and intent in my daily life as much as I can, and now I have awakened something inside of myself. I have spent my life trying to heal the wounds of where I have come from. I am a product of who I came from, but I am not a product of where I came from. The environment shaped who I am, and it has caused me to not believe and trust in myself. It is NOT who I am.
When the soul does not develop within the experience of unconditional love and trust, there remains within us a child who is in a constant search for attention, love, understanding, and respect. If these needs are not met or are left unaddressed, they will fester and grow into disruptive and/or dysfunctional behavior patterns that will affect our entire lives. I have to stop being the misunderstood, disappointing little girl and recognize that beyond that, in the core of my being, are generations of strong-willed, resilient people. When you know better, you do better. I chose to take a different path in raising my own children than the path I traveled, and I am grateful I made that choice. I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me, and I have no idea why. I gave in to that. I think at the age of 50, it is time to stop it.
So often, the things we teach, preach and share are the very lessons we need to learn ourselves. I need to learn to trust myself. There is a volume of evidence that I make good decisions when I look at the people in my life that I choose to surround myself with. There is a mountain of proof that I am strong when I look at all of the changes I have experienced. There is a pyramid of affirmation that I am worthy of being loved for who I really am when I look at the man who chose to spend his life with me.
I will be OK! It’s time to get out of my own way.