Saturday, January 02, 2016

No Sorrys - On self reliance and letting go of guilt

I haven't blogged in a while, which isn't to say I haven't been writing.  I keep a regular journal and try to write at least twice a week.  Sometimes I end up journaling more than that and sometimes less.  When I go on vacation I might write before I leave and not until I come back.  That's the way it goes.  I have been working on writing other things more.  Didn't end up finishing a novel for NaNoWriMo, not even close, but I wrote 14K words I wouldn't have written otherwise.  I'm not going to stress about it.  I'm not going to apologize.

The fact that I can write these words says a lot about how I have changed in the past few years. Stress and worry were once a big part of my life.  My relationship with my ex, which was profoundly unhealthy for me in a number of different ways, played a significant role in this, though it is not entirely to blame.  Anxiety was something, is something, that has been a part of me for as long as I can remember.  This anxiety manifested itself in a number of different ways.  A story my mother likes to tell is how when I was in preschool I tore up my picture because it wasn't good enough.  This lack of satisfaction was one manifestation of worry.  I worried I wasn't good enough.  I worried about other people having more fun than me.  I worried about people being more successful than me.  I worried that I was lacking.  This kind of anxiety really overcame me during my marriage, because my ex's constant harping on my faults caused me to feel even lesser.  The house wasn't clean enough for his liking, I wasn't active enough, I didn't have sex with him enough, I wasn't good enough.  When I was pregnant and asked for his help lifting groceries, he would tell me that he knew that my upper arm strength was an issue before I got pregnant and that I really should have been working on that so I would be strong enough to carry our baby.  Why I didn't kick his ass to the curb at that time is something I no longer linger on.  In some respects he was correct, which is probably why I excused his piss poor behavior and actions.  Even when he would attempt to "compliment" it often took the form of negging.   "You're a big girl, you can do this."  He would say.  As if I were a toddler trying to walk.  What an ass.

This is not a blog about me bitching about my ex, however.  Rather, this post is about what I have learned and gained in my time since I have been away from him.  In my relationship with him, I felt simultaneously pressured to do more and not rely on him for help and also needing/ feeling desirous of more help.  Something would be too high and I would ask him to get it for more instead of getting a step stool and getting it for myself.  Somewhere in my mind I think I felt that infantilizing myself was what I should do to make him feel stronger.  Even when he would yell at me to get things for myself, somewhere in my mind I felt that I needed to rely on him in order to prove his usefulness and mine. My entire relationship with my ex was one of apologies.  I constantly felt like I had to apologize that I wasn't a better cook, that I wasn't better at cleaning, that I wasn't better at pleasing him.  I have a natural inclination to please people, to want to make people like me.  The fact that I couldn't make him happy was infuriating to me and severely damaged my already bruised ego.  Nothing I could do would make any difference.  I felt helpless.  The more helpless I felt the more dependent I became.  It was an endless cycle.  On the one hand I was in love with him and convinced myself that that was enough and on the other hand, I had made myself so dependent on him that the idea of leaving him was abhorrent to me. I really couldn't see how I could possibly manage on my own.  Until I did.  And then I knew

There was a moment, a moment shortly after we legally separated, but before I moved out, when I realized what I had been doing to myself and what our relationship had done to me.  I remember it very clearly.  Our house has an attic where our suitcases were stored, and the leaf to the dining room table etc.  Climbing the ladder had always scared me.  Going up in the attic made me nervous.  I would ask him to go into the attic if we needed something and he would harp on me about my ability to go into the attic myself and how I needed to stop relying on him to do things for me.  For some reason the more he would complain about me not doing things the more I felt I needed to.  He made me feel lesser and as a result I didn't feel that I COULD do things.  Until the day I needed to go into the attic to pack my bags before I left that house for good.  And on that day I pulled the string to the drop down ladder and climbed into the attic and got the suitcase.  And I realized how easy it was.  And I realized that without him around to do things for me I HAD to do things for myself and surprisingly, amazingly, I could.

A little less than a year ago I met my boyfriend.  I am not going to chalk all of my current happiness onto him.  That would be unfair to myself.  I became happy and I attracted somebody who was good to me.  I gradually learned to be more self confident, I discovered what I could accomplish on my own, and I met somebody who complemented me.  But there is something that my boyfriend has done for me that has been deeply and profoundly important to me.  "No Sorrys."  "No sorrys," he says when I try to apologize for the most innocuous things, for the fact that I have a headache and don't want to stay out longer, for the fact that dinner didn't turn out great, for the fact that I haven't folded my laundry in 3 days.  No sorrys, no apologies.  I come over to his house and his kids' toys are on the floor: no sorrys.  He comes over to my house and my dishes haven't been done: no sorrys.  Now in the case of somebody actually getting hurt or actually deserving of an apology we give it.  But in the case of bullshit?  Of life?  No apologies.  No sorrys. No worries.  We accept each other and know we are both doing the best we can.

It has been incredibly, overwhelmingly freeing not to feel that I have to apologize for being the way I am.  For wanting to hang out and watch Person of Interest on Netflix instead of going out drinking, for enjoying short walks or hikes instead of backpacking, for harboring a desire to explore the world but stay at nice hotels instead because I enjoy being comfortable, for not doing laundry until I run out of clothes to wear to work.  The deepest, most significant thing that I have learned is that me, me as I am not as who I wish I was, me with no makeup and visible roots in my hair, me is enough.  I am good enough.  I am worthy of love and can receive it unconditionally.  That such a thing is possible.

This is not to say that I don't try.  I do try.  This is not to say that I don't make some semblance of an effort.  But I have endeavored to stop apologizing, to stop worrying what people think, to stop giving a shit about things that aren't important.  I actively have to remind myself this every day.  Internally I still harbor some anxieties but by recognizing them, by understanding myself, I can say relax, don't worry, and actually listen.  In this way I can be more honest with my boyfriend than I have ever been with anyone before.  Because I can be honest, because I can feel that I don't need to apologize for my feelings, I can speak more openly now with others without feeling I constantly need to please.

So often I used to hear that women should stop apologizing and I didn't understand what it meant.  My ex would never apologize to me when he had genuinely hurt my feelings and so I took these words to mean that everyone should just be assholes to each other.  I didn't get it.  Not apologizing doesn't give you carte blanche to be a jerk, but it gives you the right to have your opinions, your feelings, your personhood, without feeling like you should apologize for just being there, for being human.  This does NOT mean that you are always right, that you are never wrong, that you have nothing to learn from others, that other opinions aren't valid or worthy, that you shouldn't apologize when you have actually made somebody feel bad.  What it does mean is that you have the right to say "I really don't like this thing that you like and we can like different things that is ok" and if the other person says "well no you are just wrong" you have the right to say "yeah you can go fuck yourself."  And if this person is a friend you have the right to unfriend them on Facebook.  It ALSO means on the other hand that if you feel that confrontation would lead to an awkwardness you don't want to have to deal with, that if you DON'T want to call out a relative's casually transphobic comment, you don't HAVE to and the liberal police won't come and take your card away.  It is OK.  You don't have to apologize for wanting to maintain peace, you don't have to apologize for "starting something" when something bothers you, you don't even have to apologize for for saying sorry even when you know that you need to stop saying sorry so much.

No sorrys.  Live life without feeling guilty about who you are.  Live life to the fullest.  Or not.  Or stay home and snuggle under a blanket while other people are climbing mountains.  Or read.  Or don't read.  Or watch a show.  Or stop watching in the middle because it isn't that good even though people tell you it is supposed to be good.  Just be who you are.  That's what I have learned.  That's how I have been trying to live my life.  I can't judge the person I was 3 years ago.  I can't apologize for being young, for being naive, for being who I was.  And I shouldn't have to.  I like who I am now.

1 comment:

PurpleRN said...

I'm working on this myself.