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.

 

Letters to Myself, Showing Up

Letters to Myself, # 2 – Slow Down (They Don’t Love You Like I Love You)

Quotes about gratitude

(Thanks, Beyonce, for the title inspiration from your song, “Hold Up” from your best album yet, Lemonade)

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Dear Me:

Hey there, it’s me again. I want to thank you for your response in the first letter when you reminded me throughout a really stressful, busy week last week to find and hold on to my joy.

Thanks for allowing Happier Us to stick by my side through apartment A/C issues (and getting the property manager & maintenance supervisor to realize we needed a new unit), babysitting two small, very fun and active girls two days in a row, traveling to and from Savannah in about a 36-hour period (and keeping Cynical Us from screaming “We’re going to die!” as a very exhausted us and John tried to navigate the last 30 miles home in early morning Atlanta traffic), not getting really good quality sleep, and it being so damn hot outside.

In this letter, I want to talk about something else I’ve noticed directing our life and decisions: Scarcity Mindset. The feeling that there is never enough and we are never enough. The way it makes us settle for shit we don’t want, ignore our intuition, mistreat our body, envy others whom we think have what we can’t have because they have it, pushes us so hard to try to make money any way we can to pay off our debt and be financially secure (knowing that in this mindset, no amount of money will ever make us feel secure), and keeps us trapped in comparison and feeds our feelings of inadequacy.

It isn’t our fault. We were raised in a scarcity-based environment. In America, it is called capitalism. Being shamed for our so-called inadequacies, told we can have “it all” if we just work hard enough or have enough money to buy it (ignoring all of the privileges many have that a lot were not given or born with), and being told to rest is to be lazy, worthless, and dumb.

In our family, we were taught that money is scarce as we watched our family members go into massive credit card debt and then one bankruptcy after another and saw no one ever had enough to be happy. We were taught to fear money or see it as evil. We were never taught how to be responsible with it or how to give ourselves the power over it and not the other way around.

We were taught that appearances matter most. Not who we truly were or how we truly felt, but what we and our lives looked like.

Our family tried so hard to seem financially well off and like everyone had their shit together and there were never any conflicts or issues.

Don’t you remember how Daddy was so mean to Mama, the boys, and us on the way to church and how as soon as we got out of the van and walked in the church doors, he became the man all our youth group girl friends wished their father was like, who the women Mama knew in their Sunday School group wished their husbands were like? And how as soon as we were back in the van, his friendly, warm smile returned to a sneer and his honey-dipped words returned to venom?

Or how Lib, June, Brophy, and Robert congregated on the porch, laughing and talking whenever the police showed up because someone (sometimes us) called 911 because their violent fights were so loud and frightening?

From around kindergarten up, we learned that food wasn’t a security either. It isn’t that we were really ever short on food, but it was the shame around being told we couldn’t eat the food we wanted because it was “making us fat” and being a fat girl was a vicious, dreadful sin. It ruined our “appearance” of how a thinner body was seen as beautiful, smart, hardworking, and cared for, and our fat body only showed neglect, laziness, gluttony, and lacking self-care, self-respect, self-esteem, and intelligence.

The more food was held as forbidden to us and the more we were told our body was “wrong,” the more scarce food felt to us and the more we rebelled, binged on it, and hated our self.

And in puberty, not developing breasts or round hips and instead developing rounder, broader shoulders and a rounder version of the pot belly we’ve had since infancy made us even more of a disappointment and eyesore. Here, we learned that love, acceptance, desirability, and attractiveness was scarce, and we were to blame for it.

In these times of scarcity, or perceived scarcity, we are conditioned to rush. Rush to sneak the “forbidden” food and shove it down our throat thoughtlessly, without enjoyment, and riddled with shame and self-loathing. Rush to lose weight in whatever means possible so we can finally be considered attractive, lovable, and worthwhile. Rush to do whatever we can to please others, regardless of the way we neglect our self and our needs in the meantime. And then rush to numb our pain, shame, sadness, and anger by whatever means necessary, which for us was/is food and spending too much time scrolling through the internet and social media.

There is no slowing down in this scarcity mindset. No time to think. No time to consider. There is so much to do to finally get enough so we are finally considered enough, and with every step we take, the ruler measuring success, achievement, control, safety, adequacy, and being considered worthy of love and acceptance is pushed a little further out.

Driven by this mindset, we went to a college we didn’t really like, settled on toxic behavior by men we were attracted to and wanted to feel noticed and wanted by, accepted the crumbs of attention from toxic friendships out of deep loneliness, a deep mother and father wound, and always being taught to feel worthless and like we had to take whatever we could get.

We settled on one job after another because we were told it was “smart” and secure even though they stifled our creativity and left us feeling miserable and lost.

This scarcity mindset taught us love is scarce and we could lose it at anytime so we better not do anything to “rock the boat.”

Things like:

  • Don’t speak up about your hurts and anger.
  • Don’t do or say anything that could be seen as critical or he’s going to leave.
  • Always be pleasant.
  • Don’t talk too much.
  • Don’t be needy.
  • Don’t speak up for yourself.
  • Squelch those emotions, you know you have too many of them.
  • Don’t do anything that could make you seem like a burden.
  • And for God’s sake, lose the fucking gut already, no man wants to look at that.
  • Always remember that whatever has been given can and likely will be taken away.
  • Don’t get too comfortable.

You know, this mindset keeps me up at night worrying about dying and never getting to live the life I want many years to live. Makes me so afraid we will die young and miss out on all life has to offer us. Makes me feel sick to my stomach at thinking about John moving on, finding someone else, and realizing we were never the woman he thought we were or that he ever really loved.

I get angry too, thinking about everything we want to do and how we never seem to have the money to do it because we can’t find or keep a job in a healthy, fun, creative environment. It makes me think of friends and family who are traveling where I want us to travel, doing jobs I want us to do, having money I wish we had, and comparing way too much of myself and life to everyone else.

Where there is a scarcity mindset, there is a focus on what we don’t have and a furious impatience to get it. To have control. To know what’s coming next, how to get it, when it’ll arrive, and how happy we’ll “finally” be when it arrives. I mean, isn’t that all the lie of every diet and/or exercise program we ever try? Every book or movie or TV show about finding “the one”? The sales pitch behind every beauty product and fashion line?

Scarcity mindset is the mindset that sells and makes billions of dollars in marketing and advertising for every possible thing you can think of from diets to religion to fashion to cars to homes and etc. “Let me tell you what you lack, how others perceive your lacking, and how buying this product will finally make you happy.”

Where there is scarcity, there is depression, war, greed, famine, sexual/physical/emotional violence, addiction, infidelity, genocide, treating people who don’t look like us as an “other” and dehumanizing them, anxiety, power-grabbing, fear-mongering, and depravity. Scarcity makes us take whatever we can get, however we can get it, no matter who – including ourselves – gets hurt.

Most of all, it takes us out of the present and robs us of joy, peace, love, and gratitude. It clouds our intuition and depletes the quality of our life. And quality always matters more important than quantity.

Amy, we are enough. Our life is happening as it is meant to, in the timeline it is meant to be on. There is no one set timeline for everyone. There is no need to rush.

We don’t have to worry about not having enough or being enough. There’s nothing we need to do or change about us to be worthy of love. Our very name, Amy, MEANS “beloved.”

If there is anything we can hold on to in our constantly evolving spiritual faith and what we learned in church growing up, it is to not allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the trappings of this world. Everything is temporary but it doesn’t mean it is scarce. Being weighed down by all of the stress that scarcity brings mean not being able to see the constant flow of joy, opportunities for new beginnings, love, and good still alive all around us.

Let’s slow down when we think, rest, eat, and dream. Our body is worth trusting and wants us to trust it. We are so privileged and lucky, Amy, we really have no idea. Let’s focus on our abundance so we can share it with others. When we know what we have, we know what we can give.

There is enough food to fill our belly and to give us pleasure and we don’t have to feel ashamed of what we eat. We can enjoy, savor, and be mindful of how and what we eat and why we are eating. We don’t need permission to feed our body when it is hungry. We don’t need to eat past fullness out of fear we will never get to eat that food again. We don’t have to restrict anymore.

We can move our body for the sheer joy of it and in appreciation of all it has done, is doing, and will do for us however many years we are meant to live.

Let’s not be inactive because the diet mentality is so deeply ingrained and twisted around exercise in our brain that it is hard to separate moving our body from the hope of weight loss, which is really just a hope of being seen as worthy of love and acceptance.

Our body is strong and still somewhat flexible (let’s try some yoga for this, okay?) and healthy, let’s focus on the abundance of this and move our body out of that mindset.

We aren’t our family. Their money issues aren’t ours. Their inability to have healthy relationships and marriages and live authentic lives don’t reflect on us. We are not doomed to repeat their mistakes. If anything, we have learned from them. How about we stop living from all the “what not to do’s” we learned from them and start focusing on what we have overcome, let go, forgive, and move on to the healing and the abundant future awaiting us?

Perfectionism is another scarcity mindset lie. It doesn’t exist, nor should it. We are free to make mistakes and learn and grow from them instead of feeling ashamed of them.

We were not born evil and in need of being made good and lovable by someone else. We were born in the image of God, who is all things love and goodness. Forget all of the fear-mongering, shaming, narcissistic religious bullshit shoved down our throat as children. That was all about control, another scarcity mindset tactic, and Amy, we are free. We are so fucking free to be exactly who we are.

Our marriage to John is beautiful because it is real. It is raw, vulnerable, and ever-growing, and it is authentic, transparent, and real. Don’t compare it to someone else’s marriage. We can’t see into the lives of others.

Let’s not rush the healing, depth, effective communication, and intimacy in our marriage. God willing, our marriage is growing into a mighty oak wrapped in decades of rings with unbreakable, replenishing roots that sway with the wind without snapping.

Right now, it is still a young, vulnerable sapling, only eight years old. It needs love, care, grace, understanding, forgiveness, nurture, trust, faith, rest, unity, sunshine, and patience. It needs time and it will need storms. Don’t be afraid of this.

Let’s not worry so much about money. We have enough to get by on. Let’s not be in such a rush to pay off debt, save money, buy a house, or whatever we see others doing that it’s not yet our time to do that we settle again for work that isn’t right for who we are, forces our self to stifle who we really are and what we really want, and lie awake at night in such unnecessary fear, anger, envy, resentment, and frustration. And remember, just because someone else has what we want doesn’t mean there’s now less of it left for us.

Amy, the way out of this scarcity mindset we’ve lived our whole life in is trust. Trust in ourselves. Trust in God or destiny or the Universe or whoever created us and is running things. Trust in our body to work and look as it was written in our DNA. Trust that we are always abundant in love, even if rejected, abandoned, and hurt by the ones we love. Trust that pain and suffering are a part of life and not to be feared because we also trust there is an abundance of good and joy in the world, no matter what our Twitter feeds tell us daily.

Slow down. Take deep breaths. Live in the present. Feel emotions and know none of them are wrong and all of them are valid and valued. We are not too much. We are not a burden. We matter. Our dreams and passions matter.

Our purpose is to live as our authentic self, love who we are exactly as we are, love others exactly as they are, and know our purpose will shift and change as our story weaves, waxes, and wanes through everywhere we’ve been and everywhere we are headed, no matter how long or short the story is.

Everything is happening as it is meant to. Listen to your gut. Listen to your heart. Take care of yourself. Be responsible for how you treat yourself and others and how your words and behavior affect others. And live in gratitude because really, we have been through hell, but we have never been defeated and we’ve truly never been unloved. There is nothing scarce in who we are, what life has given us, or what life still has left in store for us.

Love,

Me

Beautiful You, Showing Up

No Longer 14

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“How to heal the inner child” is a topic I’ve been coming across a lot lately. I mentioned The Holistic Psychologist’s Inner Child Meditation a few posts back and how hard it was for me to visualize being back at June, Lib, and Brophy’s (maternal grandmother and great-grandparents) house, adult me holding the hand of the child version of me, and telling her she is loved, wanted, and safe.

I read something else recently that said something along the lines of, “When something happens to you and you react to it, how old do you feel in that moment?” I’ve also read that often we stop emotionally/mentally growing at the age where we first experienced trauma or when we were abruptly expected to become an adult.

Yesterday, I searched all of my files and even read old LiveJournal entries, desperately trying to find a poem I wrote as a teenager, then rewrote for a poetry writing class in college called “The 14-Year-Old Mom to My 39-Year-Old Mother.” (It might not have been called exactly that, but it’s what my memory says it was entitled.)

In this poem, I wrote about how, at 14, I was suddenly expected to stop being a teenager and start being a mother because my mother couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t just suddenly feel responsible for my brothers, especially Ben and Caleb who were respectively 7 and 5 at the time, but also for my mother. She and I would get into these horrendous, often physical, fights and she would tear me to shreds and burn me to the ground, and then an hour or so later, she’d crawl into bed with me, hold me, and cry, saying she was a horrible mother over and over again. She didn’t have anyone to talk to. She didn’t have anyone to lean on. She had no friends she could confide in. My dad was no longer there for her to blame for everything.

So I was suddenly supposed to be every one of those things for her. At 14 years old.

John and I were up late talking Monday night, and I asked him what he was like in high school. Did he have hobbies? Did he read comic books? What did he dress like? What did he do for fun?

He said he couldn’t really remember but said he figured he’s not that much different now than at 15 or 16, that most people’s identities are forged in their teen years and they don’t really change.

I feel like, as much as I joke around, I am so serious deep down as a person because I felt forced to be serious as a teenager. I still feel like such a child. I joked to John that I’m always looking for the “adultier adult.”

I felt so hopelessly imprisoned growing up.

My teen years were spent under a crushing weight of condemnation, abandonment, judgment, shaming, belittlement, violence, dysfunction, and abuse. I was never good enough. Always too fat. Not pretty enough. A disappointment. Afraid to make mistakes. Always so fucking angry, as I absorbed all of the emotions around me, not knowing that labels like “empath” or “highly sensitive person” existed, or that both labels described me. I was basically a sponge at the bottom of a toxic waste runoff pond. And I too often spewed out what was poured into me.

I felt so unloved and unlovable. Like a burden. Too emotional. Too much. I was so wounded and sought comfort in things and people who couldn’t really give me the attention, affirmation, and affection that I needed, no matter how much they loved me because they were so wounded and seeking the same.

When I think about my life as a teenager, it was always with thoughts of how to escape. I read everything I could get my hands on, about like I do now. Lost myself in fiction, music, and movies. I had some fun, typical American teenage girl times too, obsessed with the Backstreet Boys, going to concerts and high school football games when my dad finally let me my senior year of high school. All I thought about was how much I wanted to leave, but I also felt so compelled to stay because of Ben and Caleb.

I did not know what to do with my freedom when I got to Mobile and I was three hours away from home. My freedom didn’t feel free because I was so worried about everyone at home and felt guilty that I wasn’t there, especially for Ben and Caleb.

I also did not know what to do without the constant, daily trauma going on around me. I did not how to loosen up. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I didn’t know what to do with the quiet.

When John and I talked about all of that, I told him how the only reason I would go back to my teen years is if it meant I got to do what other teenagers did – have boyfriends, go to prom and other dances, make out in the backseat, hang out with friends at the mall, just be carefree. Adam and, even more so, Ben got to do that. Ben is the sibling most like me, in both looks and personality, but I see so much of who I feel like I will never be in all that I’ve watched him do, both horribly stupid and incredibly amazing. Maybe having me to do all of the worrying for him growing up gave him the freedom not to worry so much and just live his life.

The stories I’ve told myself since age 14 are stories where I’m a victim and a martyr, all laced in fear and pleas for someone to finally tell me I am enough just as I am. I’ve regaled myself with tales of who I will be once I’m thin, get married, get out of debt, move to some new town, feeling so much hope and excitement for that perfect person I will be if I just put my head down and keep pushing myself, and I’ve beaten myself up when none of those things make me happy or my life what I want it to be. Someday I will be loved, worth loving has turned into that mirage of an oasis in the desert in this quest. The finish line that keeps getting moved further away.

I don’t feel capable of the hard conversations, the really vulnerable and deep talks that lay me wide open for all kinds of destruction and pain.

I still feel very ashamed about sex, my sexuality, and my body as a sexual being. When things get awkward and uncomfortable, I either shut down or make jokes or get angry and accusing. My brain has me convinced that everyone my age has got sex figured out while I’m the one still fumbling in the dark and awkward as fuck because they got started long before I did. There are so many times where I wish I’d had sex way sooner and with more people but I didn’t because of growing up in a purity culture and being shamed for being sexually curious from an early age.

Now in my mid-30s, I’m floundering, not knowing what to do next, job-wise while almost everyone else I know is settled into a steady career like I was in my mid-20s. I’m currently procrastinating in trying to find another job because I’m so afraid of winding up in another toxic and boring office job because I don’t trust myself not to settle for whoever wants to hire me.

Last week, when I saw someone mentioning healing the “inner teenager” instead of just the inner child, I thought, This is where I’m at, this is how old I feel emotionally and mentally, this is how old my feelings of maturity and responsibility are.

This is the age range in me that needs healing, grace, and accountability. This is where I need to tell myself it is okay to be exactly who and where I am. Where I remind myself there is no real timeline in life, birth and death are the only real certainties, and no one of any age has it all figured out, that “it all” looks completely different for everyone. Where I start asking myself those questions like, “What would you do if you could do anything?” and I answer from me and not from my expectations of the perceptions of those around me. This is the version of me that needs to be told, “You are safe, you are loved, you are wanted, you are not too much.”

I knew 10 years ago that there was more to my life than spending it in Alabama, caught up in my family’s drama and trauma, taking care of everyone else but myself, and I made the decision to move to Georgia, still the best decision I’ve made thus far. And while I’ve distanced myself from it all physically, I am still distancing myself from it emotionally. Learning that I what I experienced was actually trauma. That I do have some PTSD from being in family dysfunction I couldn’t escape from, with people who couldn’t address the reality of that dysfunction and trauma and just accepted it as normal. Understanding that I am an adult, I’m not 14, and I am allowed to be myself, exactly however that means. That my feelings and voice matter. That I have the power and privilege and responsibility of my present and future, and even more so, I don’t have to figure out my entire life right now, and, goddamnit, I am allowed to make some fucking mistakes. 

know these things, but I still feel caught up in all of those old fears of judgment, condemnation, shame, abandonment, and rejection. There is shit I no longer have to put up with, but I still hold onto it anyway.

But…

I’m allowed to have boundaries now, and I am learning what they are, how to establish them, and how to maintain them. I no longer have to stay in any situations or dysfunction that hurt me. I am always, from here on out, free to let go, walk away, and move on to better, healthier habits, mindsets, situations, and relationships. 

All of this actually really just hit me while writing this post.

I want 14-year-old Amy to know I love her, I’m proud of her, and I am the strong, empathetic, kind, hilarious, thoughtful, and self-aware person I am now because of her. That she doesn’t have to worry about what will happen to everyone around her if she’s not there to pick up the pieces constantly. That everything has turned out pretty well. She can relax and play.

And I think she’d tell me, You don’t have to be sad or angry for me anymore. You don’t have to feel bad for me. You don’t need to be my mother or anyone else’s anymore either. You can let go and have a life of your own. 

And by the way, 36-year-old me, YOU can now relax and play. 

 

Showing Up

Being the Mother I Never Had

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Credit: @decolonizingtherapy // Instagram

As I try to understand self-care and intuitive eating for myself, one thing keeps coming up: Treat yourself as you would treat your daughter. // Be your own parent. // Treat the child within you the way you weren’t treated growing up.

It kind of sounds like psychobabble, but it also makes a lot of sense.

I love my mom very much, but if you’ve been reading long, you know we did not have a very healthy relationship growing up and there are still some potential hot zones I have to tip-toe around even now.

We both grew up in the deep dysfunction of my grandmother June, great-grandparents Lib and Brophy, and uncles Robert and Charles. Any vulnerabilities we allowed ourselves to show were used against us and especially used to shame us. Our bodies and how/what we ate were constantly policed. Brophy, Robert, and Charles all said inappropriate things about our bodies, touched us inappropriately, and made us feel gross and ashamed of our bodies. She was chubby until high school when she lost a lot of weight and her weight went up and down over the next few decades, and there has never really been a point where she has felt great in her body. And being around men who always talk shit about our bodies with their also not-perfect bodies doesn’t help.

Feelings, except anger, were wrong. Having needs meant we were weak. Crying was not allowed.

She learned how to shut off her emotions and needs, and I never did, and out of that experience, she found herself treating me the way she was treated because she saw her pain and shame for herself in me. Because of this, I have felt like such a disappointment and eyesore to my mom my whole life, and a lot of my own pain has come from trying to be a daughter she loves and isn’t ashamed of.

The weight I have gained has been even harder for me because it takes me back to the pain in how she treated me when I was this heavy before. She would feign stomach aches whenever I asked her to go shopping at Lane Bryant with me, and she would leave me to try on clothes alone and then return just as I was ready to buy the clothes I liked. She joined my brothers in calling me a whale and made fun of how I walk and how I carried myself. She said I smelled bad, would never be happy in my body as it was, and told me no “normal” man would love me.

I’ve been through several rounds of therapy over the past 20 years and in each of them, I’ve been told to accept that I will never have the mother-daughter relationship with my mom that I have always wanted and that my mom is a hurt person who hurt me out of that hurt.

In all of this, no one has really ever asked one question: What do/did you want/need out of a mother?

And that is what I am trying to figure out now because I have spent too much of my life hyper-focused on what I never had and what I will never have. I have sold myself short because of the worthlessness I’ve felt, because I could never measure up.

What do I wish I’d received from my mother growing up?

More positive attention, encouragement, and affection. Being told it was okay that I was sad or angry. Feeling like she was on my side. Not feeling like I was already sentenced as guilty before I even opened my mouth. Feeling safe to explore my thoughts and beliefs. Being supported in all I wanted to do. Feeling loved in my body no matter what it looked like. Being encouraged to intuitively eat and move my body in ways I enjoyed.

I know my mom didn’t know or have the capacity to do those things. Neither did my dad. And even as much as June doted on me and encouraged me in the things I enjoyed, like reading and my teenage obsession with the Backstreet Boys, she was still very shut off emotionally and didn’t have the best relationship with her body and food either. I don’t blame my mom or think she is a horrible person because she couldn’t do what she didn’t know or have for herself.

I also can’t just give her this grace and forgiveness and not give it to myself too. I can’t shame myself for needing what she wasn’t able to give me. I can’t keep holding on to the pain and shame I felt growing up and still feel now either.

Yesterday, when I was so upset, I cried in the shower and just asked God to let me let go. Allow me to have a voice of my own and to trust it. To hear it and respect it. To validate it. I am trying to listen to all of those critical thoughts and picture myself as a child or my own daughter telling me she feels this way. It feels so weird and awkward.

So I am starting small.

I wish in all of those times I cried to my mom about how ugly, stupid, and gross I felt in my body and as a person, she’d said, “Amy, I hear you and I am sorry you feel this way.” I wish she had hugged me and told me she loved me, asked me why I felt like that, and helped me understand that how other people talk to or about me is about them and not me.

I can do this for myself.

I wish my hunger had been honored and that I’d been given unconditional permission to eat and trusted that I could do this. I wish I hadn’t been made fun of for the shape of my body and instead encouraged to move it in ways that I enjoyed instead of dismissed because I was “uncoordinated.”

I can do this for myself.

I wish I had felt allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, to speak out and question things and not be shut down. To try new things and not have to be perfect at everything. I wish as her child, I would’ve been a higher priority to her.

I can do these for myself too.

I wish I could’ve been her child the whole time and not at some points, her mother, and most of the time, more like her sister.

There are two parts in all of this: forgiving my mom for not being the mother I needed growing up and giving myself the love and care I needed and also realizing my needs matter so much and are so valid and I am worth speaking up for them.

I have done so much work in the first part even if it doesn’t always sound like it, but I still struggle to do the work in the second half.

I can do it too and also realize that just as my mom couldn’t be the perfect mother to me, I cannot be the perfect mother to myself either.

I found this graphic on instagram yesterday and think it will be very helpful:

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For those of you reading this who have struggled in your relationships with your parents or who never had a relationship with your parents, what has helped you heal and give yourself the love and care you need? 

Showing Up

Self-Care and the Diet Mentality

Diet mentality

Yesterday, I wrote about how difficult self care is especially when you struggle with lifelong codependency issues. I mentioned how another difficult aspect of learning self care is how intertwined it can get with the diet mentality.

This is also another great struggle of mine. Self care and the diet mentality are tangled worse in my head (and I would guess, many others’) than the Christmas lights we retrieve from the attic after we just ripped them off the tree, bundled them up, and threw them carelessly into the attic.

The media often tells us being thin is self care because fat equals high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a slew of other things that, in reality, can happen to anyone of any size, age, weight, and etc.

We are told to eat a “clean diet” consisting of things like organic produce, whole grains, cage free eggs, pasture fed beef, and more. We are also told to exercise daily, drink water, take vitamins, and wear sunscreen.

There is nothing wrong with eating those foods, exercising, or any of the other on their own. They are good things to do if you are physically and emotionally able and have the financial means to do so.

But weight loss is not self-care. Or it is not the main focus. It can’t be. If it is, there will always be this unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves to have a body we may not be meant to have, and that in itself is not self-care. That can lead to self-loathing, low self-esteem, low self-compassion, and can severely affect our relationships with ourselves and those closest to us.

I am a lifelong member of the “When I’m thin…” club. I’ve been trying to cancel that membership for years, but it is worse than those emails you never subscribed to that still come to your inbox regardless of how many times you request to unsubscribe and report as spam.

Because of this, it is so hard for me not to connect taking care of myself with weight loss and dieting. This is especially so right now as I am close to my highest weight ever and being horribly triggered by it because of memories of how I was treated when I weighed this much 14 years ago. My impatience with my body to drop this weight runs hot and fast through my veins. I feel myself getting desperate and wanting to throw myself back in the world of dieting even though at the same time, that small voice I mentioned a couple of entries back is asking me, Why is it really bothering you so much to be this size? Why can’t you sit with those feelings for a few minutes instead of trying so hard to ignore your body and treat it pretty much how you fear others will treat it – like it’s temporary, with disgust and harsh criticism?

I am back here for a reason. Yes, I’m sure part of it is getting older, being more sedentary, having several hormonal imbalance issues, emotional eating, and allowing myself the foods I have told myself were bad for so long and restricted myself from having. But I think there is more to it.  I believe we keep going through things until we really sit down and learn from them. The more we squirm and avoid what is really going on, the longer the issue will last.

And for me, it is that belief that started generations before me that I cannot be feminine, beautiful, sexy, desirable, and have the life I want in this body unless it is smaller. Where I am proud to have my mom’s soft round cheeks (facial cheeks here, haha) and my father’s strength and sturdy build, I am still struggling with the shame of also inheriting my dad’s big round belly and thick calves and my mom’s small breasts and flat butt even though I don’t feel ashamed of them for having them. Why am I ashamed? Because I’ve been told they’re wrong, gross, and ugly on my body, sometimes from the people I inherited them from.

Self-care, to me, has always been something that the thin version of me gets. She gets bubble baths in a tub she fits nicely in, nice soft clothes, beach trips, good sex, dance classes, and more. She deserves them. She worked hard for them. She is beautiful, lean, fit, strong, and sexy.

On the other side, I get calorie counting, zero sugar or bread, exercise that damn near kills me and that I dread, and disappointment with myself and my body every morning when I step on the scale and see it hasn’t budged, I’m still fat.

This doesn’t mean I’ve always treated myself like this. I eat ice cream and pizza. I have taken belly dance and Zumba classes and even performed in front of a crowd (though I’m scared to dance alone in front of John). I’ve even had some pretty good sex with a man who wants to leave the lights on and see and touch every part of me. But there’s still this part of me that feels wrong, like how do I get any of these things? It tells me sure, I guess you can have them but don’t enjoy them too much because the fat version of you doesn’t deserve any of these things. Or it tells me that John is picturing someone else or the thinner version of me and tells me I can’t speak up for myself because how dare I try to derive any pleasure from my fat body.

This sounds so awful, right? It feels awful too, and I have carried this feeling with me for most of my life. Being told not to enjoy the foods I love. Being told I have to exercise to make up for how I eat and there’s no enjoyment in it. Being belittled and having all of my insecurities being brought out in comments about how I walk and carry myself and told no “normal” man could ever love me unless I’m thin and that I could never truly be happy unless I am thin.

So how do I break up this connection in my mind? How do I stop connecting self-care to dieting and weight loss? How can I allow myself to be feeling loved and desired in my body as it is?

I think part of it is seeing everything I’ve recognized here as self-care. I am paying attention to my body and all of the pressure, resentment, disappointment, disgust, and fear I feel. I think it is actually noticing myself. Maybe not yet loving myself or even accepting my body as it is, but saying, “Hey, I see you.”

It is actually sitting with the discomfort I feel in my heavier body. Telling John what is going on when I start shutting down. Not dissociating during sex but actually allowing myself to feel him touching and connecting with me and the intimacy that is strengthened between us during that time. Moving my body when I want to. Catching myself when I start thinking about how much I’ve eaten that day and just acknowledging that I was hungry (or maybe I wasn’t, but something in me wanted whatever it was I ate).

It is definitely not being so critical of myself.

One of the things I think about a lot is how I don’t want to get to 80 years old and be like, Damn, I really spent my whole life worrying so much about my body and size that I didn’t really get to do or enjoy all of the things I wanted to do.

It is being present in my body.

It is going to an exercise class after a year-long sedentary period and seeing how tight my muscles are and how much my endurance has decreased and thinking, Okay, this is where I’m at right now. That’s okay. I can regain that flexibility and endurance. I can also, like I did, enjoy the class otherwise. I did my best last night and feel better for it.

I can’t pretend I will ever fully sever that well-worn neural pathway in my brain that equates self-care with thinness or as something I only deserve when dieting, but I can always acknowledge those thoughts and try to redirect them.

How do you define self-care? What are your favorite self-care things to do? How do you disconnect self care from the dieting mentality? 

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.

Showing Up

2019 Words: “Show Up”

Image Source: Canva

My words for 2019 were originally going to be “Focus” and “Finish.” The thought behind this was this was going to be the year I focused on things like my debt and health and finished the bad habits that got me in debt and have been detrimental to my health.

But those are impossible, black and white, all or nothing goals, and that kind of thinking is the most detrimental of all and allows no grace or room for failure and growth.

Grace and room for growth are what I’ve starved myself from most my entire life and why life feels too hard to live most of the time.

The past several months, basically since my last blog post in December, have been quite challenging.

There has been some good, like I have a new job that pays well and offers benefits I haven’t had in 3 years, and we have a new dog, a 5-year-old terrier mix named Chewy:

But there have been some challenges:

  • When I went for my annual exam back in December, my OB-GYN did bloodwork, which showed my thyroid was very underactive again, my triglycerides were high (though my overall cholesterol was great), and I am pre-diabetic.
  • The worse hypothyroidism is likely the reason for my intense and chronic exhaustion and weight gain/struggle to lose weight over the past year, along with the hair loss and scaly and dry skin and hair I’ve had.
  • My PCOS-related insulin resistance is leading to diabetes, and I have felt really betrayed by my own body while also beating myself up for not eating better foods and not exercising. Trying to get a grasp on IE when my insulin levels and blood sugar are all over the map and I am constantly exhausted and craving carbohydrates feels really hard too.
  • John and I had our worst fight ever in mid-January to the point I worried our marriage was over. In hindsight, it was a fight we needed to have because we both said a lot of things that needed to be said, but it felt so awful and scary in the midst of it.
  • My mom and I had a big fight at the end of December because she wants me to believe in God the way she does and I can’t and she won’t try to understand where I’m coming from and accused me of being defensive and combative when I tried to explain my feelings and it just reminded me so much of our past fights and how powerless I felt in them.
  • I also feel like I will never be able to talk to her about my struggles with Christianity, as I know she feels I will never understand her faith. I do understand how much it has saved and comforted her in her pain, and I am grateful she has that. It is the close-mindedness and political side that I can’t understand, that pains me and makes me feel like I can’t be totally open or safe in our relationship.
  • I started the year with $9200 in credit card debt and felt very frustrated all of January because the whole transition with my new job kept me from really paying anything off right off the bat.
  • The driver job I had for the week of the Super Bowl turned out way differently than as advertised, and I lost a week’s pay from it that I didn’t really recoup.

In the midst of all of this, I have had this little voice inside of me telling me, “Speak up for yourself. Stop just going along with everything. What do you want?

In the fight John and I had, out of anger, he said, “If you just had more confidence, everything would be so much better.” He also said everything was going well and I just “had to fuck it all up.”

That little voice led me to tell John two things:

  • Just because things are going well for you in our marriage DOES NOT mean they are going well for me.
  • While I struggle with confidence in my body and how I look, I am very confident with who I am as a person. I know I am smart and strong and extremely capable and I am confident to show this to others which is one reason I beat out over 600 applicants for my current job. I know I am a good person and know I deserve to treated with kindness and respect.

I have allowed people to run me over for so much of my life. To tell me or shame me into what I believe, think, feel, and how to act. To cause me to shrink and shrivel myself down to nothing. I have allowed people to keep me from inhabiting my whole body, no matter what it looks like, and to convince me it is not and I am not good enough. I have allowed people to convince me that, like John said, I am always fucking everything up with my feelings and needs and words.

That voice telling me to speak up is a small one in a cacophony of a lifetime of self-criticism and self-loathing that demands that I stay small and quiet. But it is growing louder.

After two jobs, one for 6 years and another for 6 months, where I allowed abusive and demeaning behavior because I felt like I had to, just as I did growing up, I am finding myself thinking more of what I need in my new job and how to speak up for it. It’s still tough though. I still feel timid asking my new boss for things and telling her when I am overwhelmed and need help, especially because my tendency is to just suck it up.

My new boss seems to be a very genuine person and doesn’t try to be formal and definitely doesn’t micromanage. She says what she thinks, comes to work in flip-flops, khakis, and a polo shirt, and she believes in me. Said I was her first interview of the day and I set the bar for the rest of the day so high no one else could reach it, and she had to hire me as soon as she could.

But then again, after being burned twice, I have new boundaries when it comes to work.

I started to go with “Speak Up” as my words for 2019, but no, it is more than that.

In speaking up for myself, I am SHOWING UP for myself.

And that is what I need most, to show up for myself in all aspects of the words.

I am showing up for my health by rejoining the LA Fitness gym by my job so I can exercise after work. It is funny how we can feel too tired to exercise but it is by exercising often times that we gain more energy. I also want to feel more wholly inhabitative (is that a word?) of my body and exercise helps me do this.

I have also followed my doctor’s suggestion of increasing my Levothyroxine dosage to light a fire under my thyroid. I started the 175g dosage in mid-January and when he did follow-up bloodwork in mid-February, my thyroid hormones were already improving. It takes about 6-8 weeks to start feeling better, so I am trying to rest more/get more sleep overall and in the meantime.

I also got a much-needed haircut (and went back to my natural brunette color so I can grow out my roots without it being so obvious) to help with the health of my hair and the hair loss.

In addition, I started taking a multi-vitamin again.

I can recognize that my insulin resistance is causing my constant up and down with hunger and this is triggering all of my fears about gaining more weight, becoming diabetic, and that I need to restrict foods which will just lead to more disordered and likely binge eating. I have started looking into seeing a HAES nutritionist and maybe a therapist but I need to figure out if I can afford to pay for either since I’ve found neither that are covered under my insurance.

I am showing up for my financial health by taking a proactive stance with the money I make and how I spend it. I have a spreadsheet with probably 10 tabs detailing how much I make and how I make it (regular job, selling stuff, side gigs like the Super Bowl gig) and how I spend it.

My two main goals for this year are to pay off my credit card and save at least $2K. Since January 1st, I have paid off $960 of credit card debt and will probably end the month at over $1000 paid off because I get paid weekly now instead of bi-weekly. I have also saved up $400 in the past 6 weeks or so.

I will get two paychecks from my Super Bowl gig, one for regular hourly pay which I got in the mail last Saturday and one for the 20% gratuity of each job which I will get in the mail a month from now. Both checks are going straight to my credit card debt. Any money I get outside of my paycheck like from rebate apps I use goes straight to savings. Same with money I make selling stuff online, like over $100 from selling clothes, a purse, and shoes on Poshmark.

I also spoke up and asked John for his credit card to pay for Missy’s mouth infection surgery this week (4th one since July 2017, sadly, and no idea yet why it keeps happening) when I picked her up after work. I’m glad he paid for it because the $815 her oral surgery cost was more than I had in the bank and would’ve wiped out all the progress I’ve made on my credit card debt payoff.

Like many Americans, we learned we owe money to the IRS on our taxes this year thanks to the new tax bill. Because John was smart and maxed out his IRA contribution last year, we owe a lot less than we would have. He paid the $994 tax bill since he has the money from working so much overtime and paying off all of his own debt, and he wants me to focus on paying off my debt this year. We are getting $886 back from the state of Georgia, which is massive and more than we’ve ever gotten back before. He said I could use that towards my debt too, which I will be. I am very thankful for John’s help in this.

It is hard for me to say no to myself just as it is for me to say it to those closest to me. I still want to shop online when I’m bored or sad. I still get tired of eating a sandwich every day at work and want to go to Chick-Fil-A or something.

I am also so incredibly impatient. I know just like with weight gain, the debt accumulation didn’t happen overnight. And in the same way, I won’t pay it off overnight either. Even slow progress is progress, and I am trying to focus more on the present and what I can do now instead of thinking so far ahead.

Showing up for myself allows for me to acknowledge and validate where and who I am in my life. It helps me see me. I so often want to feel seen by others, like John and my parents, but I neglect to really see myself. It allows me to recognize failure is not the end but a re-route to a new road in my journey. I can stop myself in the middle of catastrophizing I am prone to doing and say, Hey! Shit happens, okay? How can you learn from this? What can you do differently?

I was not taught to explore and be curious growing up. I was taught to be rigid and small-minded and always on alert. To rest was being lazy and worthless. To think outside the box or question anything was being disrespectful or ridiculous and isolating. To feel and ask for anything was being burdensome and shameful.

June is the only person who really showed up for me growing up, and even she had her limits when it came to emotions, affection, communication, and needs, and the environment we lived in together was an endlessly volatile battleground where to be vulnerable could damn near kill you or make you wish you were dead.

I am so grateful for that now small voice that whispers to me to speak up for myself and cheers me on when I do. I don’t know where it came from, but I am thankful it is there now. This year, I want to encourage that voice to grow louder and for me to trust and follow its directions.

This is not a year for more rigidity and self-defeat, self-doubt, self-loathing, and allowing myself to be trampled under the expectations and opinions of me, and needs of others.

What do I want?

Who do I want to be?

How can I think, behave, and live differently?

How can I fully live in this body I have as it is?

How can I finally see myself exactly as I am and stop sending myself the same hateful messages sent to me growing up and still all around me in our society?

How can I have a job I like that doesn’t become toxic?

How can the money I earn finally become mine?

How can I focus on each day alone as it happens and stop getting ahead of myself?

How can I do my part to have a healthy marriage with John?

By showing up for myself.

I know by proclaiming these words this year, God/the Universe will throw lots of opportunities for me to prove I am on my team, but I have known for a long time that conflict creates growth and fosters healing. I just pray for some grace and courage to be packed in with those opportunities.

What is/are your word(s) for 2019?