I got new glasses today for the first time in nearly ten years. As a result, I can see things more clearly than ever before. It took a little getting used to because my old glasses have lenses that are oval-shaped with a light wire rim on the top halves. This pair has rectangle lenses with a heavier black wire rim on the top halves. I said this on FB, but they make me look like a naughty librarian, especially with my hair pulled up in a bun.
Anyway, I am blabbing on about my new glasses because they are a metaphor for how I view my life. I have been stuck in the same mindset for at least fifteen years, if not more. No matter how much I changed or chafed at how stagnant my life was, I stubbornly clung to the beliefs, fears, and issues that had plagued me throughout my life. It didn’t matter that many of them were outmoded, tired, or just plain not applicable any longer. I held on to them with the fierceness of one afraid to change. As the view got dimmer and dimmer, I just started squinting more and more to make the world appear approximately the same.
In the past six months or so (actually, since the election, more or less), the old shit hasn’t been working. No matter how much I tried to hunker down and refuse to change, it just wasn’t happening any more. So, begrudgingly, I started to change.
To my wonder, I actually shed some of my old beliefs and fears (though, not nearly enough of them). As I have recounted, I was able to see that there were people who wanted to be friends with me and who were interested in what I had to say.
Then, I hit this week with all this shit raining down on my head, and my instinct was, as always, to pull in my head and retreat into my shell. I hate conflict and discord, so to have a week that was full of little but did a number on me. Every time I tried to stop the negativity from affecting me, a little more would seep its way in. Yesterday’s entry was the result of the cumulative effect of the week smacking me in the face. I fell quickly back into the pit of despair, and I didn’t see how I could get out of the quagmire.
If only, I thought, I could be conventional. If only, said I to myself, I could be the person I am not. Then, said I, then I would be happy.
I am mocking myself now, but I was really in that mindframe for much of the past week. If only I could be who I wasn’t. If only I weren’t such a fucking freak. If only if only if only.
When I posted the previous entry, I was pretty much marinating in the shit. The responses I got were astonishing to me for a variety of reasons, and they warmed my heart. I got love, support, humor, and appreciation from the commenters on my blog (and over at FB, too), and in so many creative ways. I was blown away at the staunch defense y’all gave me. So, for the bolstering of my tattered morale, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
In addition to all that love, I got two emails from friends giving me the tough love. The first one was through FB from a friend I had from grade school through high school. She’s Korean American and now living in Australia. She kindly, but firmly read me the riot act about staying in a situation that only reinforces my isolation and alienation. She encouraged me to follow my strengths instead of dwelling on my weaknesses. She talked about how moving away from MN and eventually out of the country really helped her find herself.
I thought about what she said, and it really hit home. No matter how much I complain about being a freak or strange or weird or whatever, my actual dissatisfaction isn’t with me being different–it’s with me not being enough of myself. My record depression stemmed from me trying to stifle the real me for so many years. You see, no matter how much I decried being conventional, I was still close enough to be convinced if I just tried harder, damn it, I could attain the impossible dream of fitting into the mainstream. I know, it sounds stupid, but I spent many years convinced that if I could just do that, I would be happy.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t want the trappings of a conventional life. I wanted in. I am ashamed to admit it because part of my self-image is of the rebellious one. My mom once said to me in exasperation, “You don’t have to oppose something simply because it’s mainstream!” What I realized, though, is that I really didn’t want a conventional life, and that scared the fuck out of me.
While I was thinking about all this, I got an email from Kel, basically saying the same thing with saltier language. I believe the phrase, “Blowing smoke up your ass” was bandied about, but she made the same point the aforementioned friend had made–no matter how much my friends love and support me, I am the only one who can live my life to the fullest. I have to believe that I have the strength to be the woman I am meant to be–not the one I think I should be. In other words, it’s time to shit or get off the fucking pot.
I have to decide if I am going to retreat back into my shell and live out the rest of my years in numb oblivion or if I’m going to throw caution to the wind and embrace the messy, egotistical, neurotic, loving, funny, wicked, sensual, creative, lazy, sensitive, empathic, nutty, passionate, fierce woman that I am. I have found that doing the latter brings more pain, sure, but it also brings infinitely more joy.
Being conventional is not an option for me. I have to close that door firmly and walk away from it with no regrets. For most of my life, I have loathed to shut any doors because I always wondered about what I was missing. For the first time, I see that closing one door allows me to finally open others. So, in salute to my title, I am finally doubling down on me.
To all you lovely people who commented and helped me through my funk (and I’m almost all the way out), this video is for you. It’s Joe Cocker singing, With a Little Help from My Friends.
P.S. I may not blog over the next few days because I still have so much work to do on my mother’s magnum opus. I just wanted to make sure you all know how very thankful I am to have you in my life.