For almost 32 years, the universe has been trying to tell me something. And damn, if I haven’t spent a lot of time with giant, fuzzy, cow-print ear muffs over my ears staring into the abyss of stars yelling, I can’t hear you! in a genuinely confused way. I didn’t realize the problem wasn’t volume or that I couldn’t hear – it was that I wasn’t listening in a manner that could take in the sound.
In the past decade (plus; decade plus is much more accurate) I’ve been a lot of things: Bright. Foolish. Witty. Annihilistic. Magic. (Let’s just say etc, this list could get long.) But there has been a constant since about sixth grade: Self-loathing. Aka, I didn’t like myself very much. Let’s just say “very much” is the understatement of humankind right now, but it makes me pretty sad to say anything else.
Not liking yourself, even when you wear faux self-esteem on a brooch all day and only take it off at home by yourself while watching The West Wing, leads you to some pretty interesting conclusions. Like the idea that no one else could ever actually like you – that one day they’re going unpeel the final layer of your parfait and say “Oh heyyyyy, there it is! I knew it! Byeee!” Like the idea that you’re not worth the salary you deserve. Like you should put everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, and simultaneously worry about controlling their feelings because you know, you know if you don’t control them, they won’t think you’re worthwhile.
All because you don’t.
Through every transition (the good ones along with the bad) I’ve wondered what I was supposed to be learning. Was it to be myself in relationships? Was it to be honest to a fault? Was it to stand up for myself but not too far up for myself? Was I supposed to learn to behave? I’ve said to my best friend on numerous occasions over the last decade plus, “I feel like I keep having to learn the same lesson over and over again.” My friend and I deduced that maybe there were lessons we were doomed to repeat ad nauseam. Maybe this was life.
No, no. This wasn’t life. I was learning the wrong lesson. Those cow-print earmuffs, remember? Damn, those earmuffs were rock solid. Bose quality.
The reason I was in a repetitive pattern was because life kept saying “Look girl, we’re trying to give it to you again…” and “Here comes the airplane!” and I kept ignoring it. I was the man who lived by the river (speaking of TWW). I was looking for a different way than life’s airplane; for someone or something to take me to safety.
And there, right there – that someone or something – was the issue.
Because what I actually needed was myself. Not my best friends (who are amazing), not my now non-boyfriend (also amazing) – but I needed to be my own best friend. I wanted to live life deliberately, so I went on the road. And I wanted to write about life honestly, because that is what I do. But within all that, before and after it, I have spent my life looking for validation, because I have not been able to validate myself.
In the last six months, life sent me books (once again, I’m going to pimp Full, Codependent No More, Power of Now and Transitions). I actually rebuked a few of those books multiple times, but when a second or third someone handed them to me, I finally listened. Life sent me a counselor, who is wise, articulate, and whom I can afford. Life sent me a sentence on a porch that opened my eyes. And life sent me space and time – the sort of space and time you can’t ask for, the kind that just lays down upon you.
Then, like those henchmen in the computer version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, life kept telling me I was on the right track.* It sent me Jen Friel’s most recent blog post. Text messages from a friend. Missives from another friend. A conversation with my mom. Apt blog posts from my favorite The Grateful Life and Small Victories. A conversation on the sidewalk over lunch. A Skypeversation.
*Ever since I read The Celestine Prophecy in high school, I’ve believed life was always trying to give you what you needed – however it was your responsibility to lean in and see what you were being offered. (Yes, that book is a little cheesy and yes, I still believe what it was saying in essence.)