I'm reminded of an old early 80's song that goes... "I've been to paradise. But I've never been to me." I'm not sure I ever understood that song then but I get it now. I've lived a very good life. But it never seemed to be one truly suited for me. Not the real me, not the authentic me. I made what I had as wonderful as I could, but it was ultimately not satisfying. And accepting that was my first big challenge.
My life, a gold box,
Filled with the promise of jewels,
But empty to me.
How could such a good life, enviable to many, bring me so little joy? Because, I would come to realize, it was a life not lived. It was an existence. Free of creativity and passion and the stuff that makes our hearts soar.
In fact, it was not only a life void of those things but it one ruled by fear, mine as well as the fears of those around me. Fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of loss. Those insecurities became my mantras. "I'm not smart enough, talented enough, rich enough, attractive enough, good enough." The emotional and psychological weight of that self inflicted abuse weighed me down physically as well and in my first three years of marriage, I gained 75 lbs. But I can't blame who I was solely on my relationship to my husband. No, the patterns were formed well before that.
As a parent, I have made conscience choices to make a break from how I was parented. If I have given my daughter nothing else, it is the freedom (or at least a large percentage of it) to be who she is, to follow where her life goes, to dream big, to embrace her uniqueness, to love herself. It goes against everything I was brought up with and everything that comes as a first response to me based on my own insecurities. I find myself wanting to "fix" her, much the way I was "fixed" as a child. But I remember how that made me feel and I remind myself of who I became as a result. And I let her go to school with two different socks and her hair unbrushed. And I don't make her stop singing off key (unless I have a headache). And when she says she wants to be an artist or an author, I don't tell her there is no future in that - I tell her, 'go for it'! And I use the word 'weird' as a compliment and she loves it because she knows it means special; not better, just her.
For over 40 years, I lived a life that was a dream to many, sometime to aspire to - an affluent upbringing, an education, a career, a husband, a family, a home, etc. Suburban bliss. And if I could have ignored the pull of my own dream, that dream that was just mine unique to the masses, I could have stayed quite happy until the end of my days, not accomplishing much but being the standard. But that little girl inside, whose dreams were never fulfilled, has been screaming for attention and I just couldn't allow her to go unnoticed a moment more.
Once it had come to my attention, there was no going back.
I want a chance to truly live. To take leaps of faith. To make miserable mistakes. To believe in the impossible. To do it all without fear of failure or ridicule or loss. And to know that no matter how far I may fall in pursuit of my dream, that I can always get up. Because I am not all those things I used to tell myself. The real me is quite the opposite.
I hope one day that my life serves as a cautionary tale. Not because I survived drug abuse to get clean, not because I survived poverty to become wealthy, but because I survived a lifeless dull existence on the road to finding a meaningful vibrant life.