In my push to normalize life, I’ve jumped into more than a few situations that I shouldn’t have. I’ve offered to take on more than I was truly ready to handle emotionally or mentally, pushing myself to expand my horizons, jumping in to help save the world in any way I could.
Basically trying to bury myself in a protective layer of denial to convince myself that I was fine.
I would gladly volunteer to take on a new responsibility, with the idea that I needed to “keep busy” and feel productive, to prove that I added value somewhere other than to my kids and inside of my home. I would remember those times that my usual self could handle multi-tasking and juggling different groups and activities, and keep our home and family running and intact, so I should still be able to do that now.
But I wasn’t my usual self.
I threw myself into the idea of taking a 40 hour training course to volunteer at a women’s shelter for domestic abuse victims. My heart was truly in the right place, I felt a deep desire to help, to make a difference in something bigger than my world. I wanted to find my purpose. I know, I already have a purpose, to be the best mother possible to my sons and to raise them to be wonderful functioning adults. But I needed a purpose that was just about me, for me, to make it all seem like part of a bigger plan.
I needed to feel that there was another meaning to my life just waiting to be unearthed, and of course I felt that it should include being strong, possibly even changing the world in someway. In my own backyard or on a bigger scale, but making a change somewhere that would make a real difference. I wanted to be that strong woman that kept pushing forward.
But I wasn’t that strong right now.
Along with this idea, I was consistently told that I should get “back into the game” and start dating. It would give me something different to focus on, be the start of a new chapter! It would take my mind off of the crap year (or two, to be honest) that life had thrown at me. I needed to get excited, to feel giddy and desirable. This would help me take care of myself emotionally, to know that I could – and would – find and be in love again. (because isn’t that the answer to everything?)
But I didn’t feel lovable, or want to be responsible for someone else’s feelings or expectations any longer.
I’ve had more than my fair share over the past year. In so many areas of my life that it’s hard to keep track of all of them now. Volunteering, family commitments, friends, school, kids, dieting, exercising, just about every area I can think of at this point.
The arc of action was the same almost ever time.
I would determine that this (whatever it was) would be the answer to pull me out of the emotional desert that I was living in, it would redirect my energy for the better and life would be sunny and filled with rainbows and unicorns. It would be my “thing” and I would own it. I would embrace it excitedly each time, too.
Filling out the paperwork, researching the options, taking the courses. Shopping for the right foods, marking my calendar to keep myself accountable and fully engaged, telling my friends and family that I had found my path to better days.
For real this time.
Then I would crash. Or maybe it was more of a melting. My resolve and excitement slowly being replaced by uncertainty, leading to talking myself out of following through, or even believing that I could. Feeling overwhelmed and undeserving I would withdraw.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
It took me the better half of that first year, maybe longer, to realize that I was expecting too much from myself. I was trying to run, when some days I could barely walk. Every time I would realize the truth in my failure, and convince myself to just wait until I was truly ready, I would knee jerk react to a question/favor asked and say “yes, I’d love to take that on!”
I was pressuring myself to “get better”, to be strong and move on. Push through.
Quit crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself, pull it together. It’s time to smile, and even if you have to pretend that you are okay, go about your life as if nothing has changed so everyone else will feel good around you again. Instead of wallowing, you should focus your energy on something positive for something or someone outside of yourself, to distract your mind from the noise that is constantly whirling around in your head.
Choose a point on the wall and focus, just stop thinking about it.
Those are deeply rooted habits of self-perseverance, well practiced by now. Most times I could successfully do this, push through and focus on the bigger picture. I could make myself small and less important for the greater good, be a team player or a leader depending on what was necessary at the time.
But this time I ran out of the energy to push it aside and keep it hidden. Or maybe I just couldn’t find the energy in the first place? It was as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room and I was the only one gasping for air, while the rest of the world went on breathing and living like they normally did. It was just me that had the problem.
So I gave myself permission to fail. I allowed myself to quit trying so hard, or trying at all.
It was time to sit on the sidelines for awhile and watch those that can, do it. It wasn’t helping me to keep throwing myself into things as a distraction, to take on new hobbies or responsibilities or causes, trying to prove that I was okay and ‘normal’ once again. In the end, it really only led to me being miserable and disgusted with myself.
With every email or phone call that I had to make to retract my offers of assistance or to back out of a commitment, with every promise that I had to break because it was still too much, I felt small and ridiculously stupid. My attempts at redefining who I am were only making it glaringly obvious that I didn’t really know who I was to begin with, and that I could fail in more ways than I had ever imagined.
I could disappoint more people, some very good people, more than I ever had before.
It was time to take a step back and take a deep breath. Take a break and slow down. What was the hurry? Why was it so important for me to be “normal” as quickly as possible? Part of it was for my kids, for my family and close friends. I didn’t want to be that person that sucks the life out of the room, who dwells on things that can’t really be changed, and yet doesn’t look for any other solutions or options.
I didn’t want to be that guy.
The other part, if I’m honest with myself, was the idea in my head that my ex was happily living his new life without any real setbacks or challenges, as if it was all just a small bump in the road. Disturbing for the inconvenience, but nothing earth shattering that truly altered his way of life. If anything, his life had just gotten a bit easier and more relaxing, he was living the life he had always wanted. It was all so easy for him.
Why was it so hard for me to find that same path? What was the life that I had always wanted?
Maybe that’s the problem, this was the life that I had always wanted. I wanted a solid family, two parents committed to each other, a couple built to stand the trials and tribulations of life for a lifetime. I wanted to have that TV family that I so desperately wished for as a kid, the one that stays in love and stays together forever. I thought that we had that, too. But we didn’t. So now what was I hoping to find? What is a happy life supposed to look like now?
I have no idea.
But I keep trying to figure it out, one step at a time. One false start after another. Eventually one of these starts will be the real deal, I just have to keep trying.