Showing Up

Becoming Okay with “I Don’t Know”

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I don’t do well with the unknown. I don’t think I am alone in this. However, I’m living in the middle of a great unknown right now. Maybe even an unraveling. No, definitely an unraveling.

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I wondered why. I’d only slept 5 hours the night before. I felt restless. Couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to read, tried coloring in my paint by numbers app, nothing until about 5a. It was about the time I fell asleep that it hit me.

Nearly everything I have identified myself by is falling away or has fallen away. Shedding parts of your lifelong identity aren’t just as easy as brushing crumbs off a counter. There are layers upon layers upon layers. And when you think you’ve peeled off the final layer, you realize this is a task that is going to take a while, maybe the rest of your life.

Not to mention, there are so many emotions involved. Trauma. Shame. Guilt. Sadness. Searing anger. Disappointment.

I’ve spent most of my life in defense mode, survival mode, with a wall taller, more fortified, or bigger than anything Trump can imagine around me. Always ready to either fight or flight or completely shut down. Shutting down as a teenager felt easy, but in my 30s, I’m facing what I did not feel strong or capable or smart enough to handle back then. I’m not exactly sure I’m strong, capable, or smart enough to face them now, but it’s no longer a choice to keep avoiding them.

Childhood and teenage me numbed out or took flight, nearly 37-year-old me walks around looking for a fight. Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong, I dare you, it says. Treat me like I’m stupid or naive, say something about my weight, tell me I’m too much or too emotional. Fucking try me. Okay, maybe I’ve always been like that too, it is just more focused these days and my patience for bullshit is thinner.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately realizing my life is my own. I am my own responsibility. What I do, say, think, believe, feel, and how I live is up to me and for me. I can’t live for anyone else but me. I will never be who my mom wants me to be or the way she thought I might live out who she wanted to be or felt like I could be for her. I will never be quiet, submissive, and compliant like my dad always wanted me to be.

I am outspoken and I talk a lot. (Or really, I vacillate between talking incessantly and taking an unintended monk-like vow of silence.) I am introverted but typically outgoing (see: my vacillation between talking and monk-like silence). I love to use the word “fuck.” I have always been, and will always be, curious about sex and have a unfiltered sense of humor. (Though in all of this, I try to be respectful of others and behave appropriately for their comfort levels in these areas.)

I have never been containable, which both parents reminded me a lot like it was something to be ashamed of mostly because I’m female, but which I realize now is a superpower. I don’t like being told what to do, I’m stubborn, I also refuse to walk blindly into anything anymore (and I’m not sure I ever did unless it was on purpose), and I am done allowing people to tell me what to think about myself and my life. (Now, if I can just figure out how to be my own boss so I can work for myself, haha.) I was taught growing up that I could not trust my heart, body, gut, or mind, that I needed direction from someone or Someone else.

I have felt restless my whole life. Curious and questioning about everything even when I let other people shame me out of it by threatening that I would isolate myself if I believed differently than them. I felt so starved of love and a sense of belonging growing up that I squashed and belittled every thought I had that opposed those around me. I guess this is that part of human evolution where we adapt to survive, and adapt I did.

Last week, it hit me when I started to write about some of my identity changes that I don’t have to explain myself. That hit me like a ton of bricks. All my life, I’ve tried so hard to make people understand me and gotten so upset when I’ve felt unheard or flat out ignored. I have laid myself bare as a plea for my parents, friends, and John to please know me, understand me, and affirm/validate me. Or I’ve used it as a way to try to get them to open up to me. See? I’m telling you everything, now it’s your turn. But it wasn’t just to connect. It had more manipulative intentions. It was about control. I wanted them to open up so I knew everything I could know about them so a) when they used their knowledge of me to hurt me, I could do the same, and b) because I thought it would protect me if I could predict what they were going to do before they do or right as they were doing it.

But, I attracted people whose defense mechanism was, and maybe is, to keep me at arm’s length. So I could never fully know them, so they would never become predictable to me, so I could not manipulate or control them. This is a smooth steel wall I’ve tried to climb with John for eight years, never able to grip my limbs onto anything, just sliding down over and over again. I watched a video the other night about attachment styles, and as soon as I heard/read about the insecure avoidant attachment style, I knew that was the attachment style John has. It is one that struggles with control and trust issues and dealing with emotions (or avoiding them at all cost).

I, on the other hand, have a similar one that screams, “I’m okay as long as you’re okay” and almost never feels okay because I can’t tell how okay the other person is while also trying to please them, and if they’re not okay, I’m not okay – the insecure anxious attachment style. Our attachment styles are a topic for another post though.

I have put so much trust in what others think of me for so long, and those whom I’ve trusted with this seem to recognize this mistrust I’ve had with myself and treat me how I treat me, like I’m naive, stupid, and incapable of making any good decisions on my own. I really cannot put into words the anger this has caused in me lately. Not so much with the other person, but with myself.

See, the thing is, no, I don’t have to have explain or justify myself, life choices, or anything else with anyone else, except maybe the person or people I’m making those decisions with. However, I do have to explain them to myself.

What I have realized lately is this: I’ve had these lifelong fears of abandonment, rejection, and neglect, being unloved and unwanted while doing all of these things to myself. I have been projecting all of those fears because I could not look inside of myself and see that the one hurting me the most was me. 

I have spent so much time worrying about how everyone else will perceive the changes happening within me that I haven’t bothered to check in with myself. Hey, Amy, how are you feeling? How are you dealing with this? Are you okay? What do you need? I didn’t even realize how much I need to do this, how important this really is, because I was always taught that my self was not a priority, that I was supposed to put the needs of others before my own.

I think for all the times I’ve felt so hurt and angry at others for ignoring me, it has been my body and my spirit being hurt and angry at being ignored by me and put as a lower priority than others. 

And you know what? No, I’m not okay. I haven’t been for a while. I am coming to terms with things I’ve believed my whole life being mostly, but I don’t think intentionally, lies and a container to scare, control, and diminish me. Keep me in line. Keep me distracted from the real shit going on around me and to keep me from fighting against the injustices going on around me that I’ve been privileged enough to not recognize.

I’m not sure I am ready to go public with what these things are, but they are the bedrock of who I have been my entire life. Me trying so hard to be good enough to be loved, only to be told I haven’t been this from the start while also realizing I have been (what a winding road of a sentence). Yeah, I know it all sounds confusing and vague right now. I hate vague posts because I too am nosy and judgmental, but right now, I am putting myself first. Figuring out where I stand, how I feel, and if I want anyone else to know anything else about this.

Suffice it to say, I am in a great unknown. Thankfully I’m not alone in this, as the more I walk along this dark path, the more lights I find in various places, communities of people who tell me, “I know exactly how you feel,” and people who don’t feel exactly as I do but who tell me they understand why I feel that way. At the same time though, I feel alone. I am also coming to terms with the fact that it is okay if others don’t understand me as long as I understand me (or try to). My validation most importantly needs to come from within, though yes, it helps when others do it too.

But this isn’t something to look at with nothing but trepidation. I am becoming the person I was always and am meant to be. Right now, because I am still dealing with lifelong shame, trauma, and a scarcity/survival mode mindset that includes people-pleasing and codependency, the authentic me is still a little bit of a stranger. Or maybe an acquaintance, like I recognize her, talk to her occasionally, but don’t really have a real connection with. I am learning how to know someone without it being as a means of controlling them, and this includes myself. A relationship without manipulation or high steel walls or trying to work out my issues through them. Boundaries are good, and I’m learning how to establish and maintain them, something I was never taught or that were never respected growing up.

I was not born with a deceitful heart or worthless or unlovable until someone else loved and sacrificed for me. None of us were. I refuse to believe this anymore. I refuse to believe I should be ashamed of myself for who I am at my core. I was born loved and will always be loved, no matter what. I was created from the same materials as the earth, sky, and universe. I am small in the grand scheme of things, but I play a role like everything else created. I am just as needed, just as important even in my insignificance in this vast, infinite creation.

I have always loved Marianne Williamson’s words, “Who are you to play small? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” I’ve said for years that I’m done playing small, but playing small is safe and comfortable. Not easy, but safe and comfortable.

I will be 37 years old in 11 days, and as I get into my late thirties, I realize, life is finite, I can’t keep waiting for everything to align to live my life fully as I am. That’s not even a real thing that happens. I am living now and have been since the minute I was born. I can and will continue figuring things out along the way and make room for the person I am becoming and will become as I keep moving along.

There is no one “real” me. I, like everything else in this universe, am constantly evolving. And often, evolution requires deconstruction or even destruction. We see it every day in nature itself. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, erosion, eruptions, the earth is constantly making room for new, reminding us we are always all in flux, and shifting to maintain balance. Now, instead of clinging to the parts of me I need to let go or expectations of others or perceived expectations of others as a means to feel adequate and worthy of love, I’m thanking them for how they got me here and letting them go.

A couple of weeks ago, I cried in bed next to John, “I feel like I am living my life in one giant circle, forever coming back to the same place, people, and experiences!” I was so upset because John didn’t get the job he interviewed for in Savannah, and it meant we weren’t moving out of the Atlanta area. I thought, though I knew better, that maybe if we moved to a new area, my life might get better, easier. (Just like I’ve thought with losing weight, getting married, getting out of debt, and making more money.) I could find a job without worrying that the people I interview for know me already from past jobs and past bosses who probably don’t have kind things to say about me. Maybe there’d be some new area I could find a job in, something more creative, even if it paid less.

But we are staying here. Thankfully, we are moving this month back to Smyrna and it’s not the apartment complex we lived in before we moved to Chicago. That is different. I am different. John is different. Our marriage is different. This is not going in circles on flat land, this is spiraling up the staircase which means coming back around to the same things sometimes. Until I face the deepest, most broken, most painful and shameful parts of me, I will continue to run into them.

(And as soon as I find a job, I will be going back into therapy.)

I have identified with my trauma, shame, sadness, resentment, and guilt for far too long. Identified with being a child of divorced parents, raised in an abusive, traumatic, and dysfunctional environment. Identified with the size of my body and always being too big, too loud, too outspoken, too brash, too stubborn, too much. Identified with a religion with a book and leaders all too okay with using shame and the fear of condemnation and eternal separation from love to incite pain, violence, and suffering in anyone who doesn’t conform to it, especially women, instead of the love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness that is talked about in the beginning of the second half of that book. I have felt and known a lot of it was bullshit most of my life, but did not know anything else but that and did not want to feel even more ostracized than I already did, so I followed along (like I mentioned early, intentionally blinding myself once I knew better for self-preservation).

I don’t know what to do with quiet, calm, and peace. It stirs up turmoil inside of me and makes me want to create drama and stress for myself, and, oops, John. Old habits die hard. I’ve been in survival mode my whole life, not realizing until recently I don’t need to anymore. No, it’s not going to be smooth sailing from here on out, but trust isn’t black or white.

Trust isn’t about perfection. Trust is an action taken that tells me I will be okay no matter what, a fulfilling life is about risks, and oh my god, it is okay to make mistakes. That’s something I was taught against growing up, being taught that mistakes were bad, why couldn’t I “just behave,” failure deemed me worthless, I had to be perfect to be loved. What a fucking lie. 

So here I am in the unknown. I mean, life has always been this way, but now I am embracing the lifelong unchartered territory I am moving in. Life is finite. This is it. My purpose is to acknowledge my connection to the universe around me in all of its moving parts, embrace whatever is coming as just a part of life, enjoy as much as possible, and release what needs to go.

October will be a busy month. John and I both turn 37 next week, him on the 10th and me on the 12th. We start moving to our apartment in Smyrna on the 13th, and my dad and brother Caleb are coming on the 20th to help us move the big furniture (or what is left after I sold almost everything). John is off from October 19-28, his first real time off in the two years we’ve been back in Georgia, so after we move out of our apartment in Marietta, Caleb is going to stay in our new apartment with our dogs while we go on vacation somewhere. I’m voting for the beach while it’s still warm, but we’ll see.

These are, at least, our plans. I’m also going to be more seriously applying for jobs during this time. I was fortunate to make enough money from the sale of our unwanted furniture to keep me afloat in paying off my credit card and car through October, but I will need a job by early to mid November.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past four months of being unemployed, and I’ve been facing a lot of what I’ve tried so hard to ignore most of my life. I am in another cycle of deconstruction and evolution and know this will be ongoing throughout the rest of my life. I am still learning it is okay not to do anything and that sometimes I will have to push myself (but with more love and grace and less harsh criticism like I was given growing up). I don’t profess to have anything figured out, and I’m learning that, really, no one totally has their shit together. It just seems that way on social media because we curate it that way.

Right now, I am getting to know myself as I am now. Being as authentic to who this person is as possible. Checking in with myself first. Trusting myself. Understanding that how others people think of me first of all doesn’t define me, secondly isn’t any of my business, and lastly isn’t nearly as important as how I think of me. Learning myself under all of my disguises used to try to be enough for everyone else. Becoming less passive, less passive aggressive, and telling others whom I know mean well, “I appreciate your input, but I am doing what is best for me in my way and even if you think I am wrong or naive because it isn’t how you’d do things, this is my journey to live and learn and I will and have to live with whatever happens along the way.”

Like I said earlier, I will not explain, justify, defend, or rationalize myself to other people unless it is in a discussion or decision that involves them. This will be incredibly hard for me because this has been forged into me, into that survival mode, all of my life. I’ve always been incredibly reactive, which those who have abused me feed off of and use to victimize themselves. But no, I’m practicing slowing down, taking deep breaths, remembering how others treat me is a reflection of them, not me, and the same applies in my thoughts, feelings, behavior, and reactions to them. I am asking myself, Why did that bother you so much? What part of you is this speaking to? What is triggering this behavior in you?  

And as far as boundaries go, here are a few things I will be drawing the line on, meaning I will no longer be an open book and will decide how much I want to share:

  • My religious beliefs (or for now, lack thereof)
  • My body: its weight, size, and look
  • Diet/Health
  • My marriage
  • My career choices
  • Where we live/whether we buy a house or not
  • Whether we have kids or not
  • Political beliefs
  • Other sensitive topics

I don’t know how much I will tell of what’s been going on with me lately, but I can tell you that facing this identity breakdown/evolution/deconstruction/whatever you want to call it and saying it out-loud to myself and those I trust most has felt so healing. And I’m just starting. I am still afraid of what may become known in the weeks, months, years to come, but as soon as I said the words to myself and those trusted people, my head cleared unlike any other way ever (without the use of Xanax). I felt free. The feeling waxes and wanes now as I begin to deal with all of the trauma I’ve experienced in those identities, but a truth has been spoken, and I know I’m on the right path.

In late August, I asked God/the Universe/myself/anyone listening with any sort of power or influence over all of this to break me of my need to know and control everything. And in the past few weeks, I’ve felt my iron grip on these needs tighten around my body to the point of suffocating and crushing me, then slowly relaxing and releasing. No, I’m not okay, I may not be okay for a while, but I am moving in the right direction.

I am becoming okay with “I don’t know” and finally, coming home to myself and healing my most important relationship of all, the one with myself. I am scared. I still want to run, fight, and distract myself with every possible thing, and that’s okay too. There’s no right or wrong here, just information. I will forever believe everything is working out as it is meant to, and I need to get out of my own way.

 

Showing Up

There Is Only “Now”

A few weeks ago, as we were eating breakfast, I went to get a second piece of the quiche I made right as I finished the first, and John said, “Maybe you should wait before you eat anymore. It takes at least 20 minutes for our brains to register that our stomachs are full.” I both felt enraged that he was spitting that diet mentality bullshit back at me and like I’d been stabbed in the heart. The look I gave him was enough to motivate him to get up and cut that second piece for me.

I didn’t know what to say. I knew I needed to say something to let him know that I cannot have him commenting on my eating habits like everyone else has my whole life. All I got out at the time was, “You sound just like my mom right now.”

While sitting there, barely acknowledging the piece of quiche I’d wanted just moments before while I ate it, I thought about my baby book. My mom gave it to me a couple of months ago. I remembered all of the notes about my weight she’d gotten from doctors and decided to hold onto as keepsakes. After breakfast, I grabbed that book and sat down on the couch opposite of John and started flipping through it.

I knew there were a lot of notes from my pediatrician about my weight in the book, but I was appalled to find out how far they went back.

The first one was dated September 28, 1984. My brother Adam wasn’t even a month old yet. I was about 2 weeks shy of my 2nd birthday. I first remembered being conscious of my body and weight around 5 years old, but it turns out the seeds were planted much earlier on. In the notes, my then pediatrician told my mom to carefully watch my weight. She, with her own lifelong history of disordered thinking around her body and weight, took that shit seriously and never stopped until just recently.

When I finished reading note after note about watching my weight, I looked at John and said, “I have never been able to have any peace with my body or with food. I never got to learn how to intuitively eat. I’ve never been allowed to trust my body. My weight and what I eat has been a topic of great concern and commentary my entire goddamn life.”

I have been thinking about this ever since, and unpacking the trauma behind it all. I have a lot of internalized fatphobia around it that I am continuously unpacking as well.

I have been obsessed with my weight and body my whole life because I thought I had to be, to seem like I was paying attention to it and working on it to make other people happy. I’ve been blogging about it since October 1, 2001. I’m beyond exhausted over it all and just want to stop.

I told John today that I don’t give a shit what people think of my body when I’m out in a swimsuit at the pool or beach, but that was a lie. Today, I almost didn’t go to the pool when I heard a couple of teenagers talking and playing in it. Then I turned away from them, like I turn away from John even though he knows what my body looks like from all angles, to take my pants off, took a deep breath before I turned around, walked to the edge, and jumped into the pool.

I worry about people thinking I’m pregnant because my belly sticks out a lot in comparison to my proportionate chest, hips, thighs, and shoulders.

I worry about John telling me, “Okay, this is about as fat as I can stand you. You need to lose weight.”

My brain continues to remind me that it doesn’t believe that I can take care of myself without the strictness of weighing myself and counting calories.

I talk about others never allowing me any peace or trust in my body, but I don’t have it for myself either. I instead run a continuous loop of all of these scenarios in my head to prepare myself for the comments of others that never come and if they did, do not define me.

I decided to take the above pics tonight to make a statement to myself to stop looking at myself as some project to fix and a body I can’t fully inhabit until it is societally acceptable. There is nothing wrong with it, nothing that deems me unlovable, but yet…

I have stopped dancing because I don’t like seeing my belly and thighs flopping all around when I shake my hips.

I have stopped wearing some of my favorite dresses because they still fit but more snugly around my belly.

I always wear leggings under my dresses because I don’t like how lumpy my legs are and because my thighs merge into one large mass when there is no fabric between them.

I am always making jokes about how fat I am in front of John.

Last week, I listened to @the.holistic.psychologist’s (Instagram) inner child meditation on YouTube. In it, you envision walking up to your childhood home (in my case, my grandmother June’s house since my parents moved every 2 years until they divorced), seeing the little child version of yourself, taking them by the hand, walking through the house and seeing every room, walking back outside, kneeling down to the child’s level, holding them, and telling them, “You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted, you are enough.”

I felt a wall of resistance at the beginning of the meditation. I thought, No, this is dumb. This is stupid. I can’t do this. I can’t meditate. I can’t get the breathing right. I don’t want to do this, but I persisted. Just at the point of holding my little child version’s hand and going into the house sent sobs wracking through my body. I could see every room in that house, and I heard June and Lib in the kitchen, but I didn’t see anyone. I could feel all of the pain, trauma, shame, and tension that I lived in at that time and for years to come. Coming back out and kneeling to about 5 or 6-year-old me, hugging her, and saying those words, more sobs came out instead of the words.

I never felt safe in that house. It was impossible to with all of the fighting and dysfunction and two uncles who made me feel very aware and very protective of my body while also very ashamed of it.

I never felt loved or wanted by parents. I only felt in the way. Hearing my mom say years later that I was too emotional, a burden, and that neither her nor my dad wanted me when they got divorced felt like a confirmation of that lack of love I felt from them and that it was my fault.

I never felt secure then and I don’t now. I know that’s why I go so all-or-nothing and fantasize that if I could just lose weight/get out of debt/find a husband/find a job I love/etc. as fast as possible, I can finally relax and enjoy my life. And life doesn’t work like that.

The peace I want isn’t just about being able to eat without diet advice or commentary. The trust isn’t about just preventing myself from binge and emotional eating so I don’t get any fatter.

This is all about grounding myself in who I am so that I don’t base my identity on how others see, think, or feel about me.

It is like those poles you see at the beach that tell you how high the storm surge of each category of hurricanes can get that actually survive the hurricane with the marks to show disaster assessors how high the waves got during the peak of the storm. I want to be firmly planted but able to bend and sway in the wind without snapping in two.

A friend of mine recently said my “color” (fire) seems to dim more and more every year, and she questioned if my marriage has played a role in that.

I don’t believe it is my marriage itself, but my expectations of myself in our marriage and my issues with codependency and people-pleasing. (This is not about the conflicts in my marriage that relate to both of us, and I’m not bearing all of the responsibilities and blame in them either.)

This is about me always putting myself and my desires on the back burner, something I have done my entire life. Spending more time wanting to be a different person, or at least have a different person’s body because I’ve been convinced my whole life that mine is wrong and flawed. About me still believing I am too much and being afraid of shining too brightly. About me being so intent on developing relationships with others that I don’t have the time or energy to develop the lifelong one with myself.

I’ve wanted to felt seen, known, and heard my whole life, yet I procrastinate and do everything I can to avoid allowing the person to see, know, and hear me to be me. I ache to be encouraged, celebrated, and affirmed, but withhold those things from being done by me. I thought the other night that I keep looking back at the me John found more attractive nearly eight years ago that I don’t stop to acknowledge how much I’ve been through in those eight years and that maybe, quite possibly, I’m a completely different, but stronger and better, person now. And that being in this relationship was the catalyst that made me face a lot of the trauma and associated emotions that only being with someone else, no matter who it was, could help me face and heal from.

Last Friday, I quit my second job in the past year and a half because it wasn’t right for me. I went against my gut yet again and wound up with a boss I had doubts about from the get-go. Again, settling and selling myself short. However, in this one, I began to find my voice and speak up for myself. I also decided to trust that my debt will get paid off, but that it is better that it is not at the expense of my mental or physical health. I am very fortunate as well that John is a supportive husband and has the means to cover the majority of our living expenses while I figure out what to do next.

First step is that it is time to get to know myself. To spend my free time alone and start not only hearing myself, but actually listening. To live fully in and enjoy my body as it currently is because no matter what, it will change numerous times throughout the remainder of my life. To write and maybe learn to meditate or at least figure out how to slow the swirling thoughts down in my head. To find things that scare me and do them.

To enter into a peace treaty with myself and decide okay, I am going to trust myself.

My goal this summer is to take life as it comes each day and take myself just as I am in those days because “now” is all I really have.

Showing Up

Self-Care is Hard

Last week, I signed up LA Fitness and went through the fitness evaluation. I did not sign up for personal training, but I told the guy who evaluated me that I would be coming to the gym and working out on my own.

I haven’t really started doing that yet.

Why?

Because I realized that if I go to the gym every night during the week immediately after work, the only days I will see John are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday because he leaves for work around 6:30p and gets home around 8:30a, after I have left for work.

And I felt guilty. Or felt like if I go, I am abandoning some part of my marriage by choosing to do something for myself over seeing my husband every night before he goes to work.

This is not even close to the only time I go through these thought cycles.

My issues and struggles in our marriage that come up every time we have a fight are that I am resentful because I am putting him first and trying to meet his needs and expect him to do the same, and he doesn’t and really, honestly, can’t. Not because he’s a terrible husband, but because a lot of my frustrations I am putting on myself. I do resent him at times for my perception of him as unavailable and closed off, but I mostly resent myself because I see myself as doing all of the work, getting nothing in return, and I am putting myself and my needs on the altar to be sacrificed for the sake of our marriage.

It has always been way easier for me to put all of my focus on my relationships and trying to make other people feel wanted and needed than to focus on my relationship with myself and my needs and desires. It is ingrained in me and has been from the very beginning.

In college, I saw my first therapist who listened to me tell her about my family history and everything I’d been through – and was still currently going through – and she listened, took notes, then recommended a book for me by Melody Beattie called Codependent No More.

I think I need to read it again now, some 17 years later.

Catching up on Shameless last night, I heard Fiona and Lip talking about the questions for Al-Anon, and one of them was about putting the needs of others before yourself. I went to see if I could find the actual questions online and I found Codependents Anonymous instead.

On their website, there is a list of patterns often seen in codependents, and I can check off quite a bit of them. Here are the ones that I know I do:

 

  1. Denial Patterns:
    • minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel
    • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
    • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
    • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
    • label others with their negative traits
  2. Low Self-Esteem Patterns:
    • have difficulty making decisions
    • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
    • are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts
    • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
    • do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons
    • seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than
    • have difficulty admitting a mistake
    • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
    • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
    • look to others to provide their sense of safety
    • have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects
    • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  3. Compliance Patterns:
    • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
    • compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger
    • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
    • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
    • are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others
    • accept sexual attention when they want love
    • give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change
  4. Control Patterns:
    • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
    • demand that their needs be met by others
    • use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally
    • adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes
    • pretend to agree with others to get what they want
  5. Avoidance Patterns:
    • act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them
    • judge harshly what others think, say, or do
    • avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance
    • allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships
    • use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation
    • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable
    • pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away
    • refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves
    • believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
    • withhold expressions of appreciation

 

A lot, huh? And unfortunately, John bears the brunt of a lot of this behavior. When we had our fight and I finally said a lot of the things I had felt unable to say, he asked, “Why don’t you talk to me like this to begin with?”

Because I don’t know how to. Because I’ve never felt allowed to. Because I feel like I will be judged or rejected for it. Because I still feel like a burden and too much and like I can’t ask for what I want or express how I feel. I just expect eye rolls, heavy sighs, and projections of shame, resentment, and anger like I always received growing up. “You’re the one with something wrong with you, not me.” That sort of thing.

I don’t speak up soon enough when my feelings are hurt or when there is something I want or need. I want sex but I don’t initiate so the only time we have sex is when John initiates which isn’t as often as I’d like to have sex. My reasoning for not initiating is that I fear rejection and I struggle so much to feel like I deserve sex and pleasure or like I am desirable because I still have such deeply rooted issues with my body shape, size, and weight.

But yet, I push all of that down and continue seeking validation, affirmation, and acceptance from John. I also don’t talk about what I really think or feel with my mom because if any of it goes against how she thinks or feels, a fight ensues and I feel completely powerless and feel like I have to earn my way back into her good graces so I continue to feel loved and accepted by her.

I am someone who desires being known wholly, but who is also afraid of this if it means by doing so, I create conflict with the people who want me to be who they want me to be. To believe in God the way they do. To have the same political opinions. To go against this creates a backlash, and I find myself scrambling and pretending to agree and pretending to believe something I don’t so I’m not once again rejected and abandoned.

During our fight back in January, I told John I too often try to meet his needs and ignore what I want. That year and a half that I lived on my own before I met John was the one brief time in my life where I had only myself to worry about. I could move freely. Go where I wanted. Do what I wanted. Sit in my pajamas all day, all weekend long and not worry about being seen as lazy or unattractive or boring. I ate what I wanted. Went to bed when I wanted. It was quiet, I was alone, and I really grew to love it.

Being married with two small, very needy dogs, life is a lot different. I love both of our dogs (and I loved Louie, who recently passed), but oh my god, they need so much. Sometimes it is sweet, and I like being on the couch with them on each side of me. Other times, it feels like way too much, and I want to go into another room, and I can’t stand the idea of anyone or anything touching me.

So much of this is because I spend so much energy trying to meet others’ needs and keep others happy that I am overwhelmed. I know no one has asked me to do this. John doesn’t want me to be his mother. He knows he has a great one. I have dug into my maternal instinct for so long, I don’t know how to dial it back.

I know I’ve seen myself as a martyr and victim to this, I still do sometimes. I know why I do it. I know it can be manipulative as well as controlling. I also see how I use it to avoid taking care of myself.

Self-care is hard. It has always felt selfish and like I’m not supposed to do it but allow someone else to do it, though that is way too much to put on another person. I’m not saying I shouldn’t allow someone else to be there for me, listen to me, or help me. It’s not black or white, and John shows up in so many ways to do those things. I lose sight of it sometimes because I still carry a dysfunctional view from my dysfunctional family of what it means to be in a relationship with someone and to love and be loved by them.

I told John last night how I felt torn about going to the gym after work and not seeing him. He said, well, you can get up and go early in the morning. I said, yeah, no, I value my sleep and don’t want to go to bed early. He said, well, just go after work then. Simple as that, I guess.

I don’t think he worries about our marriage the way I do, but maybe he also knows I’m worrying so much about it he doesn’t have to. He also doesn’t seek validation or approval from me, which I just realized it this week.

I love John and want to be married to him, of course, but I also want to get back some of what I stopped doing (of my own volition) when he and the dogs moved in. I am not the sole guardian of our marriage nor the sole gatekeeper. I don’t have to do all of the work. I need to understand that I am safe to speak up and I will be heard even if I don’t always get the response I want. I am still figuring this out.

I’m going to go to the gym after work. I need some exercise for my self-care. I also need to learn to differentiate self-care from the diet mentality, but that’s another post of its own that is likely coming. I need to put my oxygen mask on.

I put in a request for that Melody Beattie book so I can read it again.

I know I need to try therapy again as well as see a HAES/IE nutritionist to help me work through my dysfunctional history with food and my body.

I know I need to work on my relationship with myself and stop doing my own projecting on others, especially John.

It feels so uncomfortable and difficult, but I know it is necessary. This is just another level of all of the work and healing I’ve already done. I guess the closer to the center of the pain I get, the harder the layer is to peel off. This feels like the hardest one thus far, but I guess so did all of them as I progressed through them. Healing is the hardest thing we can do in life.

Beautiful You

Day 13 – Beautiful You – Define Beautiful

Beautiful you, flowers, roses
Credit: Unsplash//Jonathan Meyer

I have really not felt like writing over the past week. The weather has been dreary. I had to drain half of my savings account to make my credit card and car payments for December and I have about $700 left to my name. I am still applying for jobs, but with the holidays coming, my email and phone have been radio silent in terms of getting interviews or any real responses to my applications.

When the weather permitted last week, I took Missy for a couple of walks and went on one by myself. This time of the year feels so brutal both in the wet, bone-chilling cold and wind and emotionally. I don’t do well with early sunsets and shorter, cloudy days. I only love cold when it snows and as a reprieve from the intense summer heat. If it doesn’t snow, I require sunny and at least 65-70 degrees to feel good in the winter time.

But on these walks, I started talking…to God, I guess. I don’t know. Sometimes I really miss the faith I had growing up because it felt so comforting and I trusted I was being heard. Now, I just talked out loud (because thankfully, due to the cold, no one else was on the trail) and hoped Someone was listening. I obviously don’t trust God because when I ask for change, I say, “But hey, please don’t take that as let something bad happen to me so I lean closer to you or whatever because that just sucks and seems so narcissistic of you.”

I am angry at God. I can’t fully not believe in God, but I can’t believe in the God I was raised to believe. And with that, I have no idea who God really is or what to believe. But it feels good to be out in nature, wrapped in trees with the sky above, and to just talk. Speak out my hopes and wishes and unload my pain and fear. Maybe if anything, just talking whether anyone hears me or not is a gift in itself because it releases the pressure valve of anxiety in my brain just as writing always has.

When I can’t think of anything else to say or when I start worrying God is going to bring something devastating into my life that makes me wish I was where I am now, I just start saying out loud what I’m grateful for. My family. John. My closest friends. My healthy and capable body and brain. A warm apartment. Hot water. Food. The ability to buy what I need even if it’s with a credit card. Internet. Books. My tiny little Christmas tree. That John has a good job even if he’s working extra hours and we still don’t get a lot of time together to do stuff because he’s so tired when he’s off. Being able to have all of these feelings even though I feel so overwhelmed at always feeling things so acutely.

My mom asked me last week if I know what HSP is. I said yes, highly sensitive person. She said, “Did you know you are one of them?” I said yes, very much so. I feel fucking everything. I’m like Cyclops in the X-Men series where if he doesn’t clamp his eyes shut or wear the special googles, his eyes burn through everything. I feel like I need some sort of shield to protect me from all of the feelings that are burned through me everywhere I go and with everyone I’m around. Maybe I’m not Cyclops but a victim of his, haha.

But anyway, on to the writing prompt from Day 13 of Rosie Molinary’s “Beautiful You”:


Today: In your “Beautiful You” journal, write down what the word “beautiful” means to you. When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person? What has informed your definition? Knowing and owning our personal definitions of beauty is an essential step in celebrating one’s own brilliance.

What does the word “beautiful” mean to me?

When I think of the word “beautiful,” I think of words like “radiant,” “colorful,” “vibrant,” and “open.” A sunset that paints the entire sky in an array of oranges, pinks, yellows, and blues. Flowers. The constant ebb and flow of the waves crashing thunderously along the beach. Seeing the world around me from the top of a mountain or hill. Nature’s inhalations and exhalations in the form of clouds and storms. Christmas lights. The morning after a snowfall where the snowpack muffles all of the sounds around you and the world seems quiet and still for once.

When are you compelled to use that word to describe a person?

Those same synonyms can be attached to my definition of “beautiful” in people as well as “kindness,” “compassion,” “passion,” “perseverance,” and “strength.” I saw this picture on Reddit over the weekend of Hugh Jackman meeting an older lady who was a dear fan of his. There was so much joy in both of their faces as he kneeled down to her in her wheelchair and held her hand. He took a moment of his very busy life to show such kindness and that really touched my heart. It made me cry as much as all of those “People of New York” stories do. Honesty and openness in times of sorrow and great strife is beautiful. When we see the fruits of those struggles in a marriage, the birth of a child, recovery from an illness, and etc. The way John shows up for me, especially in darker times like now where my depression threatens to swallow me whole, is beautiful. Yes, there is physical beauty, but it means nothing without a story behind it. It is a book cover, a book jacket, without a book. The book itself, the story, is what is most beautiful.

What has informed your decision?

For me, beautiful is not what something looks like. It is an action. Like love. A choice. A story. A whole picture. Not just the sun itself setting along the horizon but the colors it projects as it burns into Earth’s atmosphere. Not just a giant supercell storm cloud but the way nature uses weather to keep our planet habitable. Not just a beautiful face but the story and emotions behind it.


Our stories don’t really feel all that beautiful when we are in them. They feel dark, looming, ugly, and we feel fucked up, lost, destroyed, and broken. We see the cracks, we don’t see the gold filling those cracks. It is when we look back that we see the hope, love, character, compassion, and strength that were defined in us during those times.

I can’t wait to see the beauty in this chapter of my life. I know it is coming and that’s the only thing that keeps me holding on.

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 9 – Beautiful You – Consider What Your Words Are Really Saying

Danielle Koepe

I meant to post this yesterday, but wound up napping during the Iron Bowl (Roll Tide!) then again after dinner because I got very little sleep Friday night, so I didn’t get around to finishing it up. (I’m a light sleeper, John has a cold that has him stopped up and snoring like I don’t know what, and this is why we need to get the bed for our spare bedroom put together already so I can sleep there when I can’t sleep next to him.)

I went to bed about 9:30 or 10p last night and woke up at 4:45a and never could go back to sleep, so around 8a, I finally decided to just get up. I wound up having an idea that relates to this post, which you can read about on my Instagram page.

Onward to today’s writing prompt…


Today: As you begin to make Self-Appreciation Jar deposits for things you no longer want to be saying, take note of your words. What is it that you say about yourself? Why do you say it? What are your emotions when you say it?

Write it down in your “Beautiful You” journal, then consider what you are really saying. If “I am fat” is always coming to your lips, think those words through until you are holding some truth.

Are you unhappy with your weight because you would like to be more healthy – perhaps able to walk up stairs without losing your breath or get off a certain type of medication – or are you unhappy with your weight because it doesn’t meet a Hollywood standard of beauty?

By really examining the motivation behind your words, you can see the truth and act accordingly.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you and I didn’t get the numbering wrong.

As Rosie writes in the intro of the book, I skipped a day that didn’t really apply to me.

But it isn’t that it didn’t apply.

Day 8 was about creating a Self-Appreciation Jar and putting quarters in it for every critical thought to visualize how costly it is when we knock ourselves.

I have not done this because, well, I am unemployed and don’t have any extra change to toss into a jar. Also, with all of the thoughts that fly through my brain on a regular basis, there aren’t enough quarters or jars in the world to fill. Okay, maybe I just think that because I don’t realize once I started throwing money in, I might see how expensive these critical thoughts are and think, Hmm, maybe I should stop before it costs me everything.

Those expensive critical thoughts, however, go something like this:

I’m too fat.

I’m going to wind up having diabetes or dying of heart disease because I won’t lose weight.

I will never have a fulfilling life.

I am a boring, uninteresting person.

I am wasting my life.

I’m too lazy.

I’m not creative.

I am a failure.

I am stupid.

I will always be struggling financially.

John probably wishes he’d married someone else.

I am a burden and a drain.

I will never get my shit together.

Why do I say these things about myself?

Because I am constantly comparing myself to other people who seem to know what they’re doing and I come up short. I don’t know how to market myself or draw pretty graphics or write professionally or take beautiful photos. I keep settling for jobs that are emotionally draining because I keep chasing the feeling that being out of debt will make me feel better. (It does for a little bit, but like with losing weight without dealing with all of the emotional shit, it winds up being not enough when you haven’t really done the work to be smarter with your finances.) I look at other people my age and think they are so far “ahead” of me because they have good jobs, make enough money to enjoy doing things like travel without going into debt, and they own their own homes while I have none of those things at the moment.

Because I grew up in an environment where it was thought being mean and critical was the only way to teach someone to change their behavior and I carried those behaviors with me. I remember getting so angry at my dad because the only time he really paid attention to me as a kid was when I did something wrong and ignored me the rest of the time and his explanation was, “I figure when you’re behaving yourself and being quiet, it’s best to just leave you alone.” And now I pretty much do the same thing to myself and to John. I really struggle to bring light to the good in both myself and John and our marriage and tend to focus on what needs to be “fixed.”


How do I feel when I say those things?

Defeated. This morning, while trying to make myself sleepy enough to go back to sleep, I saw a post on Reddit that asked, “If you had killed yourself a year ago today, what would you have missed out on?”

Instead of answering that question, I thought instead back to 14 years ago when I had all but decided to kill myself after I finished college. I had so many of those same thoughts back then about my body (weighed what I weigh now but had zero cardiovascular endurance and walking more than to my car from my dorm made my whole body hurt), being a burden (this was around the time my mom told me I’d been one to her growing up), feeling so lazy and unambitious and like my college degree was a waste (I was so depressed I could barely function and just barely graduated), and I could not see my life ever being good. Everything hurt. Everything felt like shit.

I still feel like that sometimes, but when I think back to all I’ve done and all I’ve experienced in the past 14 years? Oh my god. Yeah, a lot of shitty stuff happened, but the good! I moved to Atlanta and started a life of my own. I met a man unlike any I grew up around whom I fell in love with and who loves me just as I am. I made such incredible friends. I now have a great relationship with my mom and my brothers and I are best friends and we love talking to each other and love the time we get to spend together. I’ve traveled places on my own. I’ve lived in a big city (Chicago makes Atlanta look like a small town). I’ve seen and played in snow (and lots of it)! I’ve read such great books and seen so much cool stuff and I’ve seen myself grow more and more into the person I wanted to be then but felt I never could.

Those thoughts are the “nothing” thoughts in my vicious all-or-nothing cycle. All I see are those words. Grace would tell me, “I am fat, but I am healthy and I feed myself nourishing food and move my body when I feel able to.”

I could apply “Yeah, but…” to just about anything.

The idea I had this morning instead of throwing quarters in a jar every time I have a critical thought about myself is a “How Did I Make Today A Day” list in my journal, on Evernote, or a scrap of paper. I am so much a “Today will be THE day” about eating healthier, exercising, saving money, not spending, looking for jobs, etc., and when I do something that feels like a mistake (eat ice cream for dinner, lie on the couch all day, buy something online or at Target, etc.), I send myself into a shame spiral and wind up on a quest to numb my feelings, which means binge eating or shopping with my credit card or whatever.

So on this note, I will write things like “Took Missy for a walk around the apartment complex,” “read a book outside on my settee,” “applied for one job/spent 30 minutes looking for jobs to apply for,” “uninstalled Ebates from my phone so I wouldn’t go online shopping out of boredom and buy something for the cash back,” and etc.

Social media, television, books, and more lead us to believe we live life on a rigid timeline. By 25, we’re supposed to be married. By 35, we are supposed to be established in a career. By 40, we should have two children. As a late bloomer who started her period a month before her 14th birthday while all of her friends started around their 10th and 11th birthdays and who didn’t get her first kiss or have sex for the first time til just prior to her 29th birthday, I know damn well there’s no real timeline.

There’s no one way to have a body.

Debt is not the worst thing in the world (though man, it must be nice to not have any).

NO ONE has their shit completely together because there’s really no such thing because no one is perfect.

EVERYONE is figuring things out as they go along.

What is meant to happen in my life will happen. Like Liz Gilbert says, my boat will not leave without me.


What am I really saying?

I want to lose weight because I want to feel lighter in my body. What I mean is, it is really hard to do the activities I want to do, like hike and run and cycle, with 270 pounds on my back, hips, and knees. It hurts. I have really fucking strong legs because they hold up this weight, but the weight causes me a lot of pain. Funny, but painful story: One time, John and I were hiking Kennesaw Mountain and when I jumped off a rock, my BELLY SLAPPED THE TOPS OF MY THIGHS. Like slapped so hard, John looked around thinking someone had fallen somewhere. I screamed from the sharp pain then started laughing and told John what happened.

I don’t want to be super skinny and know I will likely never be thin. I want to be able to do the activities I love without feeling so heavy and weighed down.

I want to be out of debt so the money I make is mine to do the things I want to do and so I can also help others. I am so tired of giving my money to these huge banks and credit card companies because I couldn’t afford what I wanted and had to borrow money from them. I am not a victim to them by any means. I am just tired of depending on them.

I want to be creative and smart and know how to market myself because I want to work for myself and be my own boss. I am tired of working for someone else and putting all of my efforts towards something I don’t ever really reap the benefits of. My last boss called us admins her “factory.” Cogs in the machine. I am tired of being the factory for someone else.

I keep getting myself stuck in the “I don’t know how” phase of each of these goals. I know the statistics to regarding weight loss, getting out of debt, and working for myself, and they all say failure is all but guaranteed. I want to stop seeing failure as a sign I shouldn’t bother trying. That there are no lessons to be learned in failure. That there is no success in failure when successful people fail more than anyone.

Being alive means there is a 100% chance of failure at some point, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t try. To not try is a failure in its own right.

I want to write down my daily steps in the direction of grace and compassion and accomplishments, not charge myself a fee for every negative thought because those charges will only feed further into the debt I feel myself in throughout every aspect of my life.

And if some days I don’t do anything at all because I couldn’t even get out of bed, I will write down, “I’m still here and that’s the most important gift of all.”

You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful You here.

Beautiful You

Day 3 – Beautiful You – Consider How You Feel About Yourself

Self-compassion, beautiful you, rubyetc_, rosie molinary

Sorry this post is a little late. I spent most of the day in bed then the rest on the couch.

I typically consider myself lucky with my endometriosis because I don’t have the debilitating pain many others with it suffer from. While my pain hasn’t been debilitating by any means, I haven’t felt so lucky this week. Mostly tired and uncomfortable with an ache in my lower back, pelvis (mostly on my left side), and pain while bearing down to pee (on my left side). That is where the endometriosis largely resided when I had my diagnostic surgical procedure in January 2014 and it seems things have not changed.

But anyway.

In the Day 3 entry, Rosie writes that “the Beautiful You journey is meant to help [me] enhance [my] self-awareness while boosting [my] self-esteem and sense of body satisfaction.” The question today is to help me understand where I’ve been and where I currently am so I can better understand where I want to go. You can’t get where you’re going til you know where you’ve been, right?


Today’s Question: In your “Beautiful You” journal, answer these questions. How do you feel about yourself? Why is that the case? What will a healthy sense of self and a healthy life give to you?

I feel like I constantly sell myself short. Anytime I set goals for myself, I immediately think, How long til I give up on this one?

I have an awful, life-long habit of biting my nails. It is a compulsion. I also bite the skin on my fingers – top, sides, back. I think the longest I have ever gone without biting my nails is a month, for the belly dance show in March 2011 that I mentioned in the post prior to this one.

My hands are rough, my nails are ragged, and I am embarrassed when anyone looks at my hands.

I have tried manicures. I have lotions. Nothing helps. There is just something soothing about biting my nails and the skin on my fingers.

When I drove 200 miles a week to work at my last job, all I did the entire drive to and from work was chew on my fingers and nails. If not them, the inside of my bottom lip or cheek.

Whenever I set a goal to stop biting my nails, it lasts about a day before I am making up for lost time.

The same thing happens when I makes goals to exercise, drink water, eat healthy, or other self-care goals. I immediately lose all desire to get off the couch; I drink everything but water; I dive headfirst into the bowl of leftover Halloween candy even though I feel sick and don’t even want any of it because of all of the sugar.

I sabotage myself constantly. I think of things I’d love to do then immediately decide it’s too hard. I look up jobs I might like to apply for then think there’s no way I can do that kind of work. I want to learn how to apply makeup and do different things with my hair besides just put it in a ponytail, but decide I don’t feel like doing it. I want to pay off my credit card debt and save money, but then wind up spending $100 on clothes I will probably donate within the next 6 months because I didn’t really love them and didn’t have the energy to return them.

I have a college degree and nearly two decades of admin experience and yet I am still doing entry-level work and making under $40K a year. I don’t even really like doing admin work. I like talking to people, proofreading and editing, and doing some data entry, but that’s about it.

I am nearing 40 years old and I feel like I am still in my early 20s. Not physically as my body lets me know daily that we are moving into middle age, but mentally and emotionally. I do not feel like I have my shit together and I don’t feel like I know how to.

I don’t know even know what having my shit together looks like. Is it having my debt paid off? Buying a house? Looking and being a more desirable, sexier partner to John? Having a job that pays more than $15/hour? Being well-traveled? Well-read? Knowing how invest the little bit of money I have? Knowing what shoes goes with what dress and how to do the perfect smokey eye? Being able to run a 5K in less than 30 minutes?

I feel like I was given no real sense of direction growing up except, “Okay, Amy, anything your family does or says to do, do the exact opposite.” Really, all that means is, don’t live and decide with fear as a motivator.

I felt like I couldn’t just enjoy what I enjoyed growing up. Everything was up for criticism. The fear I grew up in told me I had to earn that joy by being perfect and if I couldn’t be perfect, there was no point in even trying.

I have had more “day 1” days than I can count. I cannot tell you how many times I have just said, “Oh, fuck it. I will just start over on Monday.” Whether that is with a diet, exercise program, journaling, not biting my nails, or whatever, I am forever chasing after a blank slate. Just let me start over again, I will get it right this time.

This is exhausting and defeating. I am a pretty hopeful person and not averse to taking risks these days, but this constant self-sabotage and need for perfectionism has been brutal for me.

I am the only person holding me back. I am the one selling myself short.

What would a healthy sense of self and healthy life give me? So much.

I could set goals and be okay with myself if I veered off course from time to time because life is not linear. I could stop this back and forth of being super harsh and super enabling towards myself and my bad habits and have some grace for myself. I could have days where I eat lots of fruits and veggies and drink my water then spend the next day eating cake and drinking soda and realize this is just life and I am allowed to do both.

I could fucking relax for once.

Maybe even enjoy the things I enjoy without looking for a way to monetize them or legitimatize them. It really is okay to spend my time writing things no one will ever see or dancing or singing in the shower and not being exactly on rhythm or key. I could go for a walk or go cycling and not worry about whether I met some step goal or burned some exact amount of calories. I could bake cookies just because I want a goddamn cookie. I could sit and watch television all day long and not feel like being lazy is a bad thing.

I could finally just do things for the sake of doing them and not overanalyze them to the point I don’t even want to bother, I feel like shit, and I think I’m the worst person in the world and wasting my precious life. All of that overanalyzing is the actual waste.

Maybe I could even learn how to eat just one piece of candy and not eat way past the point of enjoying the candy because now I’ve got to eat them so they’re gone and they’re no longer around to tempt me because I can’t control myself and eat just one piece of candy.

Maybe I could stop thinking that the most important thing in the world is how much money I have, whether I am out of debt or not, and stop comparing myself to everyone else my age and where they are and what they have financially.

And maybe, most importantly of all, I can understand that I will veer towards the extremes at times but I can have the compassion to guide myself back to the middle.

I often feel like I don’t know what healthy means. I didn’t see it growing up. Not in physical health. Not in financial responsibility. Not in relationships. When I think of all of the work I have done on myself since I was a teenager and all of the work John and I have put into our marriage, I think healthy might just mean a willingness to show up and do the work. To see every conflict as a growth opportunity. To address fears and work through them anyway.

I just want to show up for myself. I have shown up for everyone else in my life. I want to show up for myself and give myself the same grace and compassion I have given so many others. I mostly want to be able to relax and enjoy my life too.

If I can do all of this, if this is a healthy life and sense of self, it will be the most rewarding thing I have ever done.