"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Confession: I'm Flawed

I would like to follow up my last post about living free of worry about others' opinions (which is different than living in angry rebellion against others' opinions) with a concrete story.  This is a way that my new practice showed up in real life.

Oldman and I were scheduled to go to the beach on Saturday.  We rented a beach house with a bunch of friends in the Outer Banks, and planned to leave from Spartanburg, South Carolina, where we had been visiting a friend, very early Saturday morning.  The goal was to be at the beach by noon at the latest.

Friday night, we had a fight.  It started as a slow, simmering fight that I thought might blow over.  It didn't.  It lasted through the night and into Saturday.  It became a big blowout fight and there were tears and yelling and all that goes along with a good ol' fashioned fight.  Ugh.  It was exhausting.

We did not leave for the beach early Saturday morning as planned.  We did not even leave Saturday afternoon.  We left at 6pm, which got us to the beach at 2am.  Everyone else had already been there all day, eating and beaching and doing fun things, and now they were asleep.  I noticed shame about Oldman and I coming so late.  I worried that they were all judging us for it.  This felt like a heavy pressure on my chest.

The next morning (Sunday), I awoke and instantly remembered the shame and felt the heavy pressure on my chest.  I heard everyone else moving about the house, eating, talking about their plans for the day.  I did not emerge from our room because I didn't want anyone to see that I had been crying.  I did not want anyone to know that Oldman and I were fighting, and that we were not the perfect, happy, newlywed couple.  So I stayed in my cave, buried in a self-created cave of shame and despair.  Gross.

Finally, around 4pm, I was pretty hungry.  Oldman and I had FINALLY gotten to a point of peace, and I was ready to emerge and participate in the world again.  But what to do about this shame?

"Do you want to go get something to eat?" I ask Oldman.

"Nah.  I just ate.  Why don't you see if someone else wants to go with you?  Meet everyone."  These were actually all his friends, only one of whom I had ever met before.

"I can't!" I gasp.

"Why not?"  He puts down the game he is playing on his iPhone and looks at me quizzically.

"Because I hate being the spokesperson for us.  I don't want to make up some story about why we got here so late and why we've been in the room all day and why I have huge, post-crying bags under my eyes."  Duh.

"Soooo, just tell them the truth."  My jaw drops at this suggestion.  "If anyone asks, just say, 'dude we had a big fight.  Marriage sucks.  It's hard.'"

"I guess I could say that.  But it's their vacation.  I don't want to ruin it with talking about our fight and our marriage problems and blah blah blah."

"Do you think we're the only couple who fights?" he responded.  "There are three other couples here, two of which are married.  They don't give a shit about whether we fought or not.  They'll probably agree with you about how hard marriage is."

I felt the clouds part and the sunshine come through again.  I had no idea how much extra suffering I had been creating by worrying about what everyone else was thinking.  In truth, I was over the content of our argument hours and hours ago.  Most of my suffering was around my unnecessary and unhelpful shame.

"Yes!" I exclaim.  "I'm just going to say we had a fight and how hard marriage is!"  I am laughing now.  "Marriage sucks!  This is so hard!"  I'm almost yelling, and now Oldman is laughing at me too.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done!" Oldman responds, also shouting.

"Marriage sucks!" we say together and collapse onto the bed with laughter and a lightness that has felt miles away for the past two days.

So here is my public confession:
Sometimes marriage is wonderful.  Sometimes it is very hard.  Sometimes I am happy all day.  Sometimes I cry all day.  Sometimes I have no idea what to do.  Sometimes I know exactly what to do. I'm pretty sure this doesn't make me crazy.  I think it just makes me human.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm Back. And I'm Enough.

I haven't blogged for a whole month. I told myself I was taking a break because I wanted to rest and enjoy my new marriage with less tasks to fill up my to do list during the day. But I realize now that it had much more to do with my growing paranoia about what other people thought of my life.

Quitting my stable job "in this economy" (if I hear that phrase one more time I'm going to scream) left many people wondering - either wondering what was wrong with me, or wondering what amazing adventure I would have as a result. I had allowed myself to feel like I "owed it" to everyone else to do something spectacular to justify my puzzling, counter-cultural move.  I had built up my journey to a level that was impossible for me to fulfill, and I didn't know what to say about it anymore, so I stopped talking about it. 

Because the truth is that I don't know what I'm doing.  I usually don't. I can say what I'm doing right now in this moment, or what I have already done, but I cannot in truth say what I will do tomorrow or any day after that.

Stopping blogging has not helped me to overcome the obsession with the approval of others. On the contrary, it has cut me off from my community and left me without a creative outlet for my musings.  And, not surprisingly, my desire to please just manifested in other ways. In a desire to please my husband. In a desire to please my parents. In a desire to please my yoga teacher, my life coach, even the guy who works at the bike store. Why was I giving everyone else the power to define my life? How had I so thoroughly lost sight of what I want?

And finally the exhaustion of spending all day trying to say and do the exact right thing all the time so as not to upset or disappoint anyone in my life broke me.  I lost it and checked myself into the hospital.

Being at the hospital, going through the intake process of considering whether to stay and seeing all the "sick" people around me woke me up.  It helped me to realize that I don't need a hospital or a psychiatrist.  I needed me.  I needed to ask for some help, yes, but the person who could help me most had been in me all along.  I had allowed her voice to become buried under everyone else's voice, and everyone else's opinions, and everyone else's values.

So I left the hospital, went back home to my parents and my husband, and had a frank conversation with all of them about some things that I needed to change - starting with a change of scenery.

Oldman and I packed our things and headed south to visit a friend in South Carolina.  Once we arrived, we separated.  He went to stay at the friends' lake house by himself, an hour away (at my request).  I stayed with my friend, which is where I am now.  I am not talking to Oldman or my parents while I am here.  I hang out with my friend when she gets home from work in the evenings and we have a great time, but mostly, I am by myself, with only my bike for transportation.

Today, I rode my bike into town to read at the local coffeeshop.  When I stepped up to the counter to order, the barista just stared at me, as if in a daze.

"Uh, hi."  I said.

He didn't respond.  Just stared.

"Could I please have a small coffee, for here?" I asked.

He stared for a few seconds longer, then shook his head as if he was emerging from a dream.  "I'm sorry," he said.  "You must think I'm strange.  I'm not crazy, and I'm not hitting on you, but you have the most amazing energy."

I could feel myself blush.  "Thanks," I smiled.

"No I mean it.  I don't know what you believe, but I believe that the world is all made up of energy.  We're all vibrating, and you are radiating some incredible energy.  I can tell just by looking at you and hearing your voice that you are a good person.  You really need to just keep being yourself.  You need to remember that."

My shoulders, which I didn't even know had been tense, released downward.  My jaw loosened, and something deep in my gut relaxed.  I felt a smile come over my whole body.  "Thank you so much," I said, hoping I wouldn't cry.

"What did you want?  A small coffee?  It's on me, girl.  Rock on."  Then he handed me a mug, bowed to me, and walked away from the counter.

And right there, in that moment, I remembered that I was enough.  This complete stranger, whom I had no thought of pleasing or gaining his approval, had reached into the haze of self-doubt I had been wandering around in for the past month and told me in no uncertain terms that I was enough, exactly as I am, right now.

In the past, I have gone through a cycle of trying hard to please people, failing miserably, and then saying, "Fuck everyone then, I don't care," followed by a dramatic, often self-destructive rebellion.  I say that there is something other than people-pleasing and rebellion.  There is a third choice.  One that I am making this time.  I don't exactly know what it looks like, and I'm committed to finding out.

So I'm back.  And this is my new manifesto:

Forget advice. Forget what my parents or my husband or anyone else thinks is the right way for me to act. Forget having other people's approval be my main motivation for my decisions.  Loving people does not mean giving them the power to define me. Forget self criticism and guilt.

Yes to being my full, wild self. Yes to loving whatever and whomever is in my life, regardless of whether my behavior satisfies them or their behavior satisfies me. Yes to being loud sometimes. Yes to being silent sometimes. Yes to chilling the hell out and living in my body instead of my mind.  Yes to being enough.

Monday, August 6, 2012

And Now I'm Married. And Taking a Break.

In case you're one of the few readers of mine who isn't also my friend on Facebook, newsflash: I got married.  Yay!

Aaaand I'm going to take a little break from blogging.  After a solid year with this blog, I think I've earned one.   Don't worry, I'll be back. :)