Today: In your Beautiful You journal, reflect on what you pay attention to, what you give priority, and what you put your energy into on any given day. If we are what we pay attention to, are you comfortable with this reflection of you? If not, how can you adjust to more accurately reflect who you are at your core?
Eight years ago today, John and I met when he joined his sister and I on a trip to Tybee Island, Georgia for the day, and our relationship immediately began. Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary.
Eight years feels both like a long time and barely a blip. Our relationship is as old as a third grader, and we both can act like third graders at times. And man, year 8 has been a fucking doozy.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I struggle a lot with codependency that stemmed from my dysfunctional family and dysfunctional relationship with my mom growing up. I am a fixer. I equate being able to help with being lovable. I feel like if I can’t do something, I am worthless. This has really reared its ugly head in the past 3 years with my bouts of unemployment while John works full-time.
I also struggle with boundaries because I was not allowed to have them growing up or they were completely disregarded and stepped over, and this has caused me to stew inwardly on a lot of ways I’ve allowed John to treat me without saying anything and then blowing up at him during a minor disagreement over something unrelated or that is barely related.
I’ve spent a long time giving my energy to making others happy in the hopes that they will love me and won’t reject or abandon me. Making myself responsible for every conflict, telling myself my needs, desires, boundaries, and emotions are all too much. Living in fear of my own voice and the light inside of me that threaten to burn me up from the inside out if I choose to continue to ignore them. Feeling inadequate and useless. Feeling stuck in all of my struggles with my body image, debt, jobs, and oftentimes, my marriage.
John is very different from me in a lot of ways, but he is also a mirror for me, and it’s often a mirror that highlights everything I either hate myself for or do everything I can to ignore. Things like settling for whatever I can get, being afraid of criticism, my anger, shame, fear, and unwillingness to really face my emotions and not just push through them with the power of logic and rationalization.
I also spend a lot of time projecting my own perfectionistic tendencies on him, and compare our marriage to others that I only get glimpses into here and there but still convince myself they’re better.
I expend too much energy worrying about what others think. I tend to tell my friends only the bad stuff after a fight and then when they ask if I’m sure I want to stay married to him and I say yes, I feel like they’re disappointed in me or feel like how I felt towards my mom when she wouldn’t leave my dad or her second ex, even though those marriages were extremely dysfunctional and abusive. And then I feel like I have to rationalize and justify and honestly, it is exhausting worrying about what others think of my marriage, especially when I spend more time worrying about that than the marriage itself.
When I’m angry at John, when I feel like he throws all of the responsibility on me in our relationship, when I feel like he doesn’t give a shit about me, when I feel like I’m just a warm body to sleep next to, I am consumed with fear and darkness. The fear is that I married my dad. I’m repeating my mom’s mistakes. I’m repeating their marriage. I feel like I’m suffocating and I need to escape as fast as I can. I convince myself he is the one responsible for when our marriage feels shitty. Everything becomes cloudy and dark, and I can’t focus or concentrate. I shut myself off to everything and everyone and wish I could just cease to exist because being alive hurts too much.
It’s been a dark and stormy past few months, let me tell you.
But thinking that way shuts out all of the light. The laughing together in bed at night on the weekends when he’s off. Him thanking me for keeping the dishes washed and taking the dogs out. How good it feels when we get in bed and he pulls me to him and I rest my chin in the crook of his neck and he feels so warm, soft, and safe. That he kisses me goodbye and tells me he loves me every time he leaves and I do the same, and this is very important to both of us. When he and I talk in bed, in the dark, in the middle of the night about stuff going through our heads. How he’s taking on paying for our living expenses so that I have the money to pay towards my debt and car payment while I try to find another job. That he listens to me even if he doesn’t always know how to respond. Our walks together where we talk about a lot of random stuff but also try to work out our future. That he is willing to work on things with me even when they are out of his comfort zone.
When I am so overwhelmed with fear, I forget that I have a person who wants to listen to me, wants me to talk to him, wants to know me, has told me many times that I am not too much or a burden for him. That is the past chattering so loudly in my ear that it drowns out the present.
I am not happy with this reflection of me that is so consumed with fear and the feeling that I’m lost and have no direction and no control. Trying to control everything has gotten me nowhere but more cynical and more closed off. It has not lead to a happy, fulfilling life, and it is not allowing me to accept myself or John and relax and enjoy our marriage and take the bumps as they come. It is not allowing me to use my voice or talents to contribute to a better world or happier me.
It is mercilessly killing me and turning my marriage and me into everything I’ve been so afraid of them becoming.
This is such a hard ship to veer off its current course, but there’s an iceberg dead ahead and the ship will sink. I’ve always been good at acknowledging my emotions – or at least that I am having them – but I’ve never been good at sitting with them. Figuring out where I feel them. Validating them. You know, feeling them. Learning how to soothe myself.
Instead, I’ve tried to chase them off by berating myself for having them in the first place, blaming them on someone else, or numbing them with food, social media, self-improvement books, sleep, or spending money I don’t have. This has led to me being dull, broke, and feeling even more like shit about myself and my body.
I have spent the past couple of weeks really acknowledging my codependency issues, behaviors I adapted into years ago to endure trauma that I no longer need to protect myself from, and understanding my deep need for boundaries. I’ve been following The Holistic Psychologist on Instagram and YouTube and finally, after weeks of procrastinating, I started her Future Self Journaling.
I found the Emotional Needs Questionnaire that our marriage counselor gave us three years ago to complete at the end of our time with her, gave John his copy today, told him to fill it out, filled mine out, and once he’s done with his, we will switch and go over what we both need in our marriage.
I don’t want the house John and I live in to be a broken one like I grew up in, very cold and tense, where the only emotion expressed is anger. I don’t want the house I live in – in my mind, body, and spirit – to be so closed off, distrusting, fearful, and cynical either. (Basically, I don’t want to be my dad.) I can’t control everything, I know, but I can choose how to handle life as it comes to me.
And I want to see the good. I want to feel okay with seeing the good as it comes and stop worrying when it will be over and the bad will return. To live in the present. To understand I am good and loved – things I was not taught in the version of Christianity I was raised in – just as I am. And that John is too. That we are both doing the best we can with what we have. That that is enough, it is okay.
I came from a very negative environment growing up, and I am done allowing it to define my thoughts and define me now. It was what I knew and I know better now. This is what I will be paying more attention to from now on.