Are you “me enough?”
January 8, 2014
I’ve been tossing around the idea of “being me” for a while now, ever since I first realized that I didn’t know who I was anymore. Aside from the technical fact that you can never really be anything other than who you are, it’s really stressful to feel like you’re detached from your true self.
When I was a kid I knew who I was and who I was going to be. I was going to travel the world, I was going to wear lots of hats, spend a lot of time on the beach and always go to cocktail parties where I’d get to talk and laugh all the time. I was going to raise money for charities and help the world somehow. I’d have a bunch of kids, have friends over for dinner all the time and never worry about money. My dream-husband and I would be a powerhouse team, working together to make sure we planned ahead and retired comfortably and that our kids had every opportunity they needed to be their best. Our home would be a lovely haven where anything was possible and friends loved to come relax and visit.
But marriage changed all of that. Instead of “being me” it became important to build up “us.” Which was fine until my core beliefs about what’s important in life began to be whittled away, without my consent. Instead of traveling all the time, we were canceling travel plans because we could never afford it. Instead of having mutual friends over for dinner and cocktails, we just had his friends over to smoke pot all the time. I wouldn’t dream of inviting my friends over because everything needed repaired, we had holes in walls and floors and always an appliance that was broken. Instead of working together to make sure the kids were awesome, I was abandoned to parenting in spite of the obstacles he presented. There was no teamwork, no pride, no cocktail parties, no travel and no ME anywhere in sight.
Everything “me” was ignored, swept under the rug, criticized and vilified.
When we separated, the idea of falling in love again was the LAST thing on my mind. I actively did NOT want to get into any new relationships because I was so hurt from the way things went down. I decided to be heartless, I swear. I wasn’t going to ever love any man ever again because obviously I have bad taste in men. I KNEW that feeling loved was important and I looked forward to a self-fulfilling life, because I never wanted to trust anyone else to help me get that feeling again. Being with my kids always made me feel loved and I looked forward to the opportunity for us to be on our own so I could fully embrace that aspect of mothering because they grow so quickly.
And it’s worked so far. The gratification I get from being a mom these days outshines my old life without a doubt. Our life together now is so peaceful and so easy. I don’t have to worry that any of us will be yelled at for messes, We’re never recovering from his latest tantrum anymore. It’s a rare occasion now, when I find myself comforting them because of his temper. I’m no longer spending time trying to figure out what on earth he’s so mad about or what I did wrong. I get to focus on the joy of living and mothering, like never before.
As far as romance goes, I’m still hurt. It’s not like I haven’t dated anyone but I’m still in no condition for a real relationship. I’m vulnerable and needy and paranoid and self-loathing and sometimes I suspect that anyone who would WANT an actual relationship with me might be somewhat of a mess to begin with. I ask myself “Who is your dream-man looking for?” And the answer is always that I need to be smarter, prettier, more fit, make better financial decisions, have more free time, bla bla bla. I toss around the idea of a serious relationship and honestly I just KNOW that if someone were to come into my life and “play dad” with my kids I would probably hate them pretty quickly. Dads are undoubtedly at the top of my shitlist.
But the answer to that question above is important. It’s derived from a Tony Robbins course I listen to, I think it’s called “Time of your life.” He asks listeners to describe their dream spouse. What would the perfect lover be like? Would he look a certain way? What are his hobbies? What kind of career does he have? What are his values? Does he volunteer? Does he travel? Does he enjoy music? Does he have pets?
Tony advises that when you have a clear picture of what kind of spouse you want, turn it around and ask yourself “What kind of girl would I need to be in order to have a relationship with him?”
That’s all fine and dandy if your main concern in life is to find a man but mine isn’t. I just want to be me for a change, I want to be my best self and not be weakened by the vulnerability of feeling crushed by a lover who might not even be doing anything wrong. I don’t want to jump into any future until I’m healed from the past and I have such a long way to go. I want to be “me enough” that no matter who he is, I’m not damaged by it. I want to be “me enough” that if I lose a relationship I don’t feel like I’m losing part of myself. I want to be “me enough” that if the relationship is toxic I can say goodbye without looking back.
So how on earth do I go about being “me enough?” I haven’t found a recipe, but I do have a general idea of how it’s been working so far.
By going back to the beginning list of things I want in my life, which represent who I am.
I wanted deep conversations with intelligent people on a wide variety of topics. I wasn’t “me enough” in the past because I had very little time to devote to learning more about the world, moreover I wasn’t really allowed to be very social because I was married to someone who thought that platonic male-female relationships were nonexistent. I’d try to have discussion s with the people around me about the things I was reading and learning on my own and in the college courses I was taking, but no one around me had much of anything to contribute to the conversation. It always felt like I was introducing a new topic. Talking to other men was “inappropriate” and I wasn’t given the freedom to participate in many social activities without the kids. I love my mom-friends so very deeply, but it’s nice to occasionally meet someone who can’t rattle off birth interventions in order of their destructiveness, someone who knows more about geology than breastfeeding obstacles and someone who has never heard of Piaget. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to consciously surround myself with people who have a wider circle of interests. I’ve been able to read more, listen to more educational podcasts, keep up with current events and watch more documentaries. For the first time, in this area of life, I feel like I’m me-enough because I’m still always learning and insanely curious about what makes other people tick. My curiosity is satisfied, but never satiated. That’s me-enough.
I wanted cocktail parties with friends all the time. When I picture this, I just picture myself casually holding onto a glass of red wine, in a social situation where conversations like the ones in the previous paragraph can occur. I picture friends laughing around a dinner table together and smiling, happy people. There has been more of this in my life over the past two years than there ever has before. Not nearly enough, but I guess the situation is improving. It’s not exactly me-enough, but I’m getting there. The tricky part is creating this for myself, from scratch. I’m not shy, I’m not terribly introverted but I am definitely socially damaged by spending so many years cooped up without a social life. Having your husband’s friends over all the time to eat your food and get high isn’t really a social life. Sometimes I don’t know how to talk to strangers. I don’t know how to jump into a social setting. I’m not chickening out, but I’m definitely me-enough to feel like I’ve reached this goal. I’ll get there, wherever “there” is. Is it one night out a week with friends? Is it three nights out a week? I guess I’ll know it when I feel it.
I wanted to travel the world. Over the past two years I’ve been to Las Vegas twice, Los Angeles 3 or 4 times, quick trips to Seattle and Portland and probably a few others that I can’t immediately recall. What amount of travel is me-enough? Part of our custody agreement is that he gets the kids for the entire month of July. I liked this idea because it gives me a chance to take a trip every year. Last year I had my passport all ready for travel and it didn’t happen. I shouldn’t have depended on someone else taking me. My recent trip to Canada was an effort to heal from that disappointment and reclaim 2013 is the lucky year that I get to leave the country for the first time. I did it. It was the best I could do and it helped me feel me-enough. I’m planning ahead better for 2014. There’s no way I’m going to let July pass by without my trip. If I have to do it alone, then so be it. My travel wishes are in my control now and I’m feeling me-enough, now.
I wanted to be a force of goodness in the world, I wanted to operate a nonprofit or host a fundraiser or somehow distribute goodness to the world. I’m feeling very fulfilled in that way, because we just got home from our Socks for Skid Row trip. I’ve also contributed money to important causes and helped a friend raise money for her daughter’s medical bills. I’m not entirely me-enough in this way yet. I don’t feel terrible about it because I still need to be making more money for our family before I can afford to spend a lot of time making money for someone else. I’m me-enough for today, I guess. As my kids get older I fully expect to have more time to devote to an organization.
I wanted to wear lots of hats. I think I was like 14 when I decided this. At that time, to me, a hat represented the ultimate in unnecessary personal decorations. I had one straw hat that I always got compliments on and I loved it. Over the past two years, my collection of unnecessary personal decorations has exploded. I actually have a ton of fun jewelry and scarves and tights and hats and purses and things my old married self would never have owned. Without a doubt, I am me-enough in this category, but I’d love to spend the day scouring thrift shops or lingerie stores. Shopping used to be something I hated because every minute spent was a minute I wasn’t making money and every penny spent was a torturous reminder that bills needed to be paid. Now it’s a reminder that life no longer sucks. I can wear whatever I want now, it’s OK to stand out and be bold and colorful and no one is going to treat me with scorn because I look too pretty. it’s ok to be me and I’m so happy to be me-enough in this way. I still hate shopping malls and I’d rather explore a boutique curated by the vision of one fashionista than a big chain store. Unless it’s Free People. But still, I don’t need more hats, socks, clothes or jewelry in order to feel me-enough anymore.
Are you me-enough?
Who are you? What kinds of things are very important to you? In what way have you denied your inner self in order to make life easier? I’m here to tell you without a doubt that if you pay attention to being a little more YOU, life will be so much better.