I’m Not Who I Was
*this is a long one, folks*
I’m not who I was 6 months ago. I’m better.
Things in my life are changing and have been changing. Of course change is the only thing we can rely on in this world but sometimes we don’t see the change until it catches up with us. I didn’t know it at the time but my life started taking a completely different turn when my step-father was diagnosed with cancer on Valentines Day, 2010. I was angry for an entire year until we heard the “it’s in remission”. I sort of went back to breathing after that but if you know me or have read any part of my blog you already know that things haven’t gone the way I expected them to for several years now.
I learned something about grief in the meantime: People hurt other people when they are grieving.
When we are hurt we lash out. We hurt people that love us and we hurt our friends. We say hateful things. When we create new relationships it’s more out of desperation or fear or neediness than out of anything else.
You know what? Let me stop right there and get real for a second. I’m going to change the “we” to “I”. Here goes…
What I noticed about myself over the past two years is I’ve reached out to people just to feel connected. I didn’t think about them and I couldn’t have before now. It was extremely difficult for me to deal with the loss of the man who raised me while feeling (mostly) alone in a city with a few acquaintances and no family. I was so confused, lost and hurt. I was in pain. I’d never experienced such grief. I didn’t even know I was grieving! Three months after my father died I went to a therapist to try and figure out what I was still so upset. Sure I’ve lost friends and family along the way but this one blew all of them out of the water – as far as emotional impact.
I didn’t know what I was doing but at the very minimum I was “surviving”. I hear that a lot, don’t you? Ask people how they are and they say “I’m surviving”. Really? Damn. To me that’s a scream for help. When I’ve said “I’m surviving” over the past year what I really meant was…I’m trying to find reasons to stay alive. I was walking around in a state of unrest. I had nothing to rely on but myself and my faith that my friends would help me get through it. I was living in a void. I was looking outside myself for answers. Also, I wasn’t looking to God.
I think we are all just “surviving” in a way. We are so burdened by fiances and making ends meet that we don’t think of anything else. There isn’t much room for self-actualization, mindfulness or God (or others) when we are worried about where our food will come from or if we will have a place to live. I’ve been clinging to those fears for a couple years now and only now am I able to see where it got me.
Here’s the other thing…
My life doesn’t fit into a nicely packaged 9 – 5. It never has and I’ve accepted it never will. I have a rich background of experience but if you were to view my resume you’d see I am never anywhere very long. My aunt says I was born in the wrong era. My friends call me “crazy” or “hippy” or some like to think I’m scattered and confused. My nickname at the last job I had was “gyps”…I was told that meant “gypsy” and “hippy” rolled into one. When I talk to my grandma she says things like “what kind of crazy thing are you doing now”, with a chuckle in her voice. She told me once that she’d always wanted to be a gypsy. If you knew my grandmother this might blow your mind a little bit. It does mine. But I see that she loves my free spirit and enjoys hearing my stories. I drove to Washington DC and then to New York once. Alone. I called my grandma from Time Square and I could just hear the glee in her voice when I told her where I was.
My sister once said to me that she used to envy the freedom I have to come and go as I please but in the same breath she said maybe she’s glad she isn’t like me. My mom says she prays for me. My aunt thinks I’m crazy. (She worked at the police department for 25 years then retired, just like my father who worked at the fire department for 28 years then retired). Of course THEY think I’m crazy.
Not fitting into a box hasn’t been easy.
Being single at my age hasn’t been easy.
Having dreams that don’t include a typical work schedule hasn’t been easy.
Not having a child at my age hasn’t been easy.
And I mean “hasn’t been easy” because I haven’t ever fit into the mold you created for me. The one you continue to create for yourself by doing the things you are doing. Grasping.
And, since when has following your heart been easy? Are you following your heart? I’m trying. I’ve been trying all this time but life got in the way. And now that I’ve removed the noise I can finally hear what it’s saying.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I should’ve been a missionary. Before I left the church I grew up in (around age 24) I was interviewing for an open spot in Bangladesh. We were going to build fisheries that would give the community jobs and food. I was going to be an assistant to the director. But, I didn’t go because all at once I became overwhelmed with life’s challenges and choices so I stayed here. Not to mention every person I spoke to said I shouldn’t go.
After many years of seeking out which faith felt right to me I finally settled on a personal, spiritual path with God. It didn’t really revolve around a certain church or fellowship. I suppose if I had to say I feel my faith is somewhere close to the Unity church and Buddhism. Upon graduating from college I decided my “mission” work could come in the form of the Peace Corp. My dad said “no, get a job”. So, I got a job. And I was miserable. And I’ve been mostly miserable every since.
The moral of the story is, make your own decisions and THEN tell people what you’re doing. Speak to one or two friends or family members that will give you honest, unbiased feedback and go from there. But for everyone’s sake…STOP listening to everyone else! People have their own paths to walk and they will IMPOSE THEIRS ON YOU. So, unless you want to start over again when you’re 50 you should consider the dreams you had when you were young. What’s in your heart?
Also, be honest with yourself.
For a long time I’ve been angry with myself for not living up to the standard I hold for myself. I was on the phone with one of my best friends the other day and I told her I don’t feel successful. She shocked me when she told me that I’m probably the only successful person she knows. She said – you are genuinely honest with yourself and others and she said I’m not afraid to take chances. You are the most “actualized” person I know, she said.
Is that my definition of success? What’s your definition of success? So many people that have 9 – 5 jobs they do because “it pays the bills” are unhappy. In turn they make everyone around them miserable. This does not make for a happy community.
And now, here’s something to think about.
And now that chart in Arabic.
Where are you on the list? Preferably the one in English please. I’ll be honest. For the past 6 months I’ve been worried about security. I’ve worried about food and my basic homeostasis (it doesn’t take much to knock a HSP off kilter). A few months ago I was even reading about how to survive while being homeless. I was considering living out of my car.
Here’s something else to think about. Who do you know that’s happy? WHY are they happy? I asked myself this question and I see it as either two things. One, they have meaningful work that they enjoy or two, they have children or a family that brings them complete happiness. Isn’t it silly that the people writing books and making the most money are the ones that are doing what they love and making a living (more than just a salary, but they are rich) by telling everyone else all they need to do is what they love?
Isn’t that ludicrous?
(I can’t believe I spelled ludicrous correctly on the first try (and second))
Okay but we are the ones buying books of people doing what they love and the only thing they are doing is telling us to do the same thing they are doing. We buy the books but they’ve been on the journeys. Why don’t WE go on the journeys? Why are we making decisions to be miserable? Why aren’t WE writing the books and sharing our experiences of growth and God and love and happiness with each other?
Listen. I’m pretty darn poor. When I was asking myself what I feel success is I had many thoughts swimming around in my head but mostly I realized that I could be more successful if I wanted to work harder. But guess what I realized?
I don’t want to work any harder. Well, I do want to work harder but not at what you think.
What I want to work harder at is capturing the essence of bliss and feeling it in my life. Applying that contentedness to my own energy and, in turn, sharing it with others so they too can be at peace.
Do you hear what I’m saying here? I’m saying I’m okay where I am and you should try to be. I will not subject myself to the torture that comes along with constantly trying to be more “successful”, which to most people only means making more money and getting a boat. Or whatever people want to acquire. Not that a boat wouldn’t be cool I’m just saying I am tired of being mad at myself. I’ve seen miserable wealthy people and I’ve seen miserable poor people. I’m tired of holding onto a standard of success that says I am only successful if I achieve a certain status. Well what about retirement? Well, what about it? Listen people. I’m a little bit worried about tomorrow but here’s the truth. Our lives don’t last. We all die and we don’t know when that will be. If I’m still working when I’m 65, that’s okay by me. It will keep me moving and increase my quality of life. I won’t feel like I’m unsuccessful because I’ll know I made the choice to be content where I am.
The personal success I’ve achieved comes from the inner work I’ve done and continue to do on a deeper soul level. Our society has failed its people when our self-esteem and well-being is tied to anything relating to money. Owning a home or a vehicle are examples but I see them as getting in the way of the real stuff. Acquiring “things” are just that. Things. I see people all around me who abuse their loved ones for the sake of things.