Last autumn, I had a clear vision of what my goals were, the path to get there and I was ready to leap. I was quitting my job, committing to writing, jumping into the unknown. Now, I must confess, it turned into more of a hop, maybe even just a slight skip.
Cut to a year later, I’m still working part-time, have only dabbled in my first novel’s rewrites, and seem to still run myself ragged until my eyeballs are on fire and I’m living on ibuprofen. Before you whip out your tiny violins, I know I am entirely responsible for where I’ve landed.
There are few times in my life where I thought Coward! I thrive on change and growth, except for this little itty-bitty monstrous part of my personality that thinks I must solve the problems of everyone around me. When I was preparing to leave my job last year, all I could think about was how difficult it would be for my employers to transition the multitude of tasks I’d taken over in the last decade.
Unlike Beyoncé, though, I’m replaceable and I finally gave notice this week. I had just found another excuse, among a minefield of excuses to not do what I needed to do. It’s an alien thought, that I should focus on doing things that make me happy and shed those that do not. So first world – who am I, Tony Robbins? Surely life should be filled with hardship and struggle and misery.
I come from a long line of self-destructive martyrs. In childhood, I learned to be empathic in the household of eggshells. What’s their mood? What can I do to make them happy? Are they okay? Anything to prevent the misery that would ensue if the scales tipped. The punishment, the yelling, the derisive commentary on my lack of…everything. It warped my ideas of what I needed to do to be happy – to feel, at my core, loved and accepted.
As an adult, I have successfully navigated many of the pitfalls associated with my upbringing. I realized that I had a compulsive personality early on, having run through booze, gambling, sex and smoking in rapid order in my 20s. I managed to break free of destructive relationships, got myself to therapy, met and married someone kind and even-tempered. And I’ve worked hard to be a good parent.
The room that contains my life is cluttered, though. I’ve hoarded every negative comment, every false expectation, every circular thought process. They’re boxes, stacked haphazardly in a room that has a weird odor of stale cigarettes and day old burritos. I have spent years stepping around and over boxes, and lately squeezing between hoarded piles of self-doubt and self-loathing.
When I’m in the middle of this room, I’m overwhelmed with no sense of direction. I’ve taken my sweet time to deal with it. I’ve tried not to pass along the hand-me-downs of shame and bitterness. I’ve archived the more self-destructive habits. I’ve shredded mental pictures of mistakes. But being a huge proponent of recycling, I’ve kept the circular thought processes and behavior patterns that inevitably lead me to exhaustion and depression.
It’s time for a clearing out. The Qi cannot flow. While time moves forward, I stay stuck in the middle of this emotional garage sale. I ache from the contortions I’ve taught myself, in order to move among the boxes, twisting and turning this way and that. I have a choice and I’ve been a coward not to make it. Change is hard, but the alternative, banging about in this crowded, musty room for the remainder of my life, seems untenable.
Trying to move or change anything in a cluttered room is often a futile exercise. There’s no leeway to try different locations or angles. There’s no room to see what really fits. It’s just shifting the mess around. The ugly, unkind lamp is still cruel and dismissive. The old chair of regret still triggers painful memories. The box of unrealistic expectations still reeks of cat pee and disappointment.
I’m getting rid of a lot, while still retaining a huge trunk of fears. I tossed a patchwork throw of blind optimism over it. The room is opening up. It turns out, there’s a window. I might buy a plant to put in front of it. I think it would be very happy there.