This beckoning request came to me the other day. I pondered it. It thought me a lot, and for some time. What do I mean by this? How and why did it come to me and what do I do with it? I know something about it, however. I know that, as I open to those parts of me I have either hidden or denied for decades, stuff will Out. This Outing is not a wee trip to a cafe for lunch nor a picnic on the beach. Well, not yet, it isn’t. For now it feels, or can feel, like an invasion, as if someone has gone into my most secret drawer and pulled out something I never wanted anyone to find. Or someone has read my double-locked journal by picking the lock whilst I was busy in my pretending world, floating about in delusive frocks and behind good make-up, arched eyebrows, lipstick, slap.
I have begun an aspiration list. For very many yonks I scoffed at such a thing. This is for children, for young people whose inner beliefs are learned from parents still living, whose vision of their world is a mirror of those who went before, until, that is, the red rebel rises and everything becomes confusion as a young mind fights to find its own voice, its own shape in a world that really doesn’t help at all. Now I accept that even at my age, there is much for me to unlearn because it is never too late to change. Never. I am also learning, as I allow the opening of my secret drawer, the flip through of my double-locked journal, as I expose myself, that self I never ever wanted anyone to see, not never, that personal exposure is really okay. The learned rule book to which I adapted from childhood, through the red rebellion that only created an uncontrollable fire, is no longer helpful to me. The long marriage to a good man who had no idea how to open his own heart and who, therefore, lived in response to what he believed was the right way to do this living thing, just created a broken line of hope with no chance of change. He was not prepared to let anyone check his secret drawer, nor to read his secrets. Not even me. He is gone, yes, but never, not even once in a thousand years, did he tell me how he felt about anything of import. His jealousy, his insecurity, his closed heart, all were just who he had become, reflecting what he had learned. There was never a useful conversation about any of that, no matter what mental and phsyical gymnastics I studied and perfected in foolish hope. I do not blame him. He was who he was and I was who I was and it worked through 49 years of being together.
Perhaps, as I slog through the grieving thingy, feel the sharp bite of loneliness and fear, I am growing stronger. Now the controller is gone, I am left both bereft and free. Free feels delightful at times, horrible at others. Like a pendulum swing, I did go from one to the other. There is nobody now to rage jealousy at me should I sparkle at a good looking man. There is nobody now to monitor my singing in the house (good god no) or the way I suddenly do things. My volume is not commented on. My choice of where I go and to whom is all up to me. As I said, both delightful and horrible. Why is this? Because I have known no other way for almost 50 years. This is learned behaviour and thus, oh glory be, I can unlearn and find a new way. Sounds good, yes? Ouch. How do I do this? Well, after months of panic, I have a glimpse of knowing. I reach out for help. I speak to someone who has experiential wisdom to impart, who (and this surprised me) is not blaming me for anything, not for my. bad habits, my panics, my anxieties, my fears, my floundering. Quite the opposite. They are all about encouraging, about telling me Good For You being brave enough to seek help. I am so proud of you. How shall we work this? Tell me about you.
At first, this made me cry. I don’t remember hearing that before. And it hasn’t changed, even though I kept expecting the emotional slap because that is what I knew. My bad habits, my mental health stuff, my addictions, all of them are like ‘easy’ puzzles to solve now that I have found my helpers. Oh yes it took me a very long time to finally ask. I avoided such vulnerability for years. I even kept my secret drawer and my double-locked journal secret. from myself. However, even though I am still baby-stepping, I feel that I am coming home to me, even as I have no shape to give that ‘me’. I have, heretofore, reacted to my primary relational control and I was damn good at it, so good that I made a shape that has never been my own true shape, like I have been bashing my square peg into that round hole with a sledge hammer for my whole life. And the good news/sad news is that I absolutely know there are squillions of others out there who know what I am talking about.
Well, friends, if I can countenance that change is possible at my age, that there is hope, that I do have a future that is bright and light and fun and joyous, then so can anyone else. This future is mine to walk out. As yours is your own. This habit tracker/aspiration list thing is not to count my sins, far from it. I have a list of good things. Walks, Music, Listening to a Ted Talk, reading an uplifting and encouraging chapter, watching the birds, the sky, writing my blog, saying my prayer, reciting out loud my affirmation “I am enough just as I am. I believe in myself. I am truly loved. My future is bright.’ And reciting it often, especially when that guffaw rises about ‘my future being bright.’The key, however, and hence the list, is that I must attend to each one every single day and not just when I feel like it. I need to re-brain my brain, to gradually and gently and with patience, to lift away old paternal/patternal beliefs and to replace them with new beliefs based on me.
What I did not know until I did reach out for guidance and help is that I am admired for doing so. I thought it meant I was weak. Far from it. Quite the opposite in fact, although I never knew that on the far side of reaching out. Most of us have survived bad management. We can keep surviving. Or we can decide to really live, to really come home to our own lovely selves.