Free to be…you and me

I haven’t written anything in quite awhile, and I do apologize.  I could make a lot of excuses about how I’ve been living my life instead of writing about it, but the truth is that I have mostly been avoiding writing about some of the harder parts of my life, because I don’t want to drudge up a bunch of emotions.  Let’s call it emotional recall avoidance or something fancy like that.  I have even been avoiding writing in my own personal journal because I’d rather pretend everything is peachy than sometimes admit that it is not, or rather, I am not that at all.  It is easier to lie to oneself than to confront the truth, isn’t it?  Lies sound better but make you feel worse in the end, no matter how bad the truth makes you feel.  The lie delays the hurt, but also adds to it.

I know everyone is spending today reflecting on the past year, and I am no different in this regard.  New Year’s Eve is about looking backwards and forwards at the same time, planning out what to change or keep for the year ahead.  Other than our birthdays, it’s the only celebration of time itself; it is a call to be present in the here and now but ever mindful of the past and future.  We want more time to do the things we love or spend with people we love, we wish for less time spent on things and people who have or may hurt us.  We’re going to change everything in the new time given to us, so we all say each year.  Time is a valuable currency, and we’re all greedy for more.  We think a new year will solve all our problems, because we have three-hundred sixty-five new days to sort everything out, but life has a way of surprising us and filling up our days with events and people for which we never planned.

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

2015 resolution #1: get out of the city more

I could keep lying and say my year was capital and simply post all of the best parts on my Facebook to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were, but frankly, I’m a little exhausted with pretending my life is perfect and wonderful one-hundred percent of the time.  I’m not saying all of this to bum you out or to feel fatalistic, but because I want you to know it’s okay to not feel happy or “blessed” all the time.  It’s okay to feel morose or livid or terrified of the future.  It’s okay to admit to others (and especially to yourself) you really AREN’T “fine” or perfect (whatever THAT means to you).  I think we’re too obsessed with creating societal camouflage for ourselves; that is, creating a version of ourselves on and offline that looks better than maybe how we really feel or who we really are for the sake of “saving face.” I know I am so scared, sometimes, of really showing other people who I am, because I have been hurt deeply a few times.

Vulnerability makes us feel weak sometimes, yes, but I’ve also realized there is great strength in it too.  Recently, I was talking with someone very dear to me, and the conversation turned intensely personal.  He asked if I had ever been in an abusive relationship, and while the question took me by surprise, I felt safe enough to answer.  “Not that I am aware of,” I said, “why?”  He looked me directly in the eye and replied, “Because sometimes I will say something as a joke or whatever, and you’ll do a total 180 as though you’re afraid of having a differing opinion than me.  Your whole demeanor changes.  Did you know you do that?  You don’t have to ask permission to have an opinion, let alone to feel like you’re not allowed to disagree with someone ever.  It just seems like such contradictory behavior for who I think you really are.  I like who you really are, so why do you keep trying to change yourself for me?  It’s okay to be yourself; no one should make you feel otherwise.”

I felt so incredibly exposed, because I realized that I HAD been in an abusive relationship after all, and the abusive relationship was with MYSELF.  In the past year and a half, I have worked so hard to present myself to the world in certain ways that I have sacrificed and compromised too much of myself for the sake of others.  I have abused myself.  I have let boyfriends condescend to me and try to tell me what to think and believe.  I have let people in audition rooms make me think I am not good enough.  I have pretended I am fine when I have been falling apart inside because I have been so worried about burdening anyone else with my feelings.  The vulnerability I felt in that moment with my friend made me feel stronger than I have in months because I finally saw all of myself, but here was a person (among several I have currently in my life) who saw all of me too, and I felt relieved.  I felt relieved to be able to be vulnerable and flawed and human and to have all of it be accepted and encouraged and dare I say, loved, by someone else.  My “mess,” in all its glorious technicolor, is part of who I am, but he and others have helped remind me it’s not ALL of who I am either.

I’m not going to lie and say 2014 was my best year.  The first few months were spent in heartbreak and depression.  There were days I nearly fainted at work because I wasn’t eating; food seemed like the only thing I could control when I felt like the rest of my world was in chaos.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I’d scribble horrible, dark thoughts in journals.  I found parts of myself I didn’t even know existed, and I would rather pretend didn’t.  I am not always such a nice person, and I found out I am capable of saying and doing some terrible things when I am pushed to my limits.  And I am still dealing with some of my anger now; anger at people who hurt me deeply.  I am often scared I am too much for any man because the last one made me feel that way.  I still worry my feelings, especially the ickier ones, are a burden to others.  I often feel lost and anxious when I think about the future because I’m not one-hundred percent sure of what I’m doing, especially when I see what others are doing (and trust me, I know comparison is the thief of joy, Roosevelt).  I know I have let some friendships wither a bit because I haven’t done enough to cultivate them, and for that and those friends, I am sorry.  And I do so, so wish I had had more time with my friend James; not a day goes by I don’t think of him and wonder if I had tried harder to reach out, would that have made a difference?  Would he still be here?

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

2015 resolution #2: more bike/beach trips!

But like I said, life has a way of surprising us with people and events for which we never planned.  I have met so many people in the last year who have healed me and helped me and taught me things.  Many have made me laugh until I cried (which is a far better kind of crying than what I was doing at the beginning of 2014).  I found freedom in bicycling and going back to ballet class.  My church gave me solace and solidity when I needed it the most.  I saw so many amazing plays and musicals and ballets and concerts and movies, which reminded me how much I need and love creation.  2014 was the year I knew true despair and also true joy; in essence, I learned what it is to be human, and that is humbling.  But also freeing.  Not to get all Marlo Thomas-free-to-be-you-and-me on you, but when you finally let yourself BE yourself — the good parts and bad — all the weight is gone.  You are free.  It may mean not everyone likes you, but that’s okay, because the right ones will, and the wrong ones won’t.  It’s the wrong ones who make you feel like you need to lie about who you are and how you feel; they’re not worth it anyway.  They’re assholes.

I know you’re excited and hopeful about having a fresh start tomorrow.  Trust me, I understand how important and necessary a fresh start can be.  So many of us focus on remaking the outer parts of ourselves by pledging to go to the gym or eating better, and that’s fine, but the inner parts need love and attention too, sometimes even more so.  As someone who feels a bit like a phoenix this year, rising from the ashes of her own life, I ask you to check in with yourself once in awhile and really consider how YOU are doing. 

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

2015 resolution #3: stay present!

When someone asks you how you are, why not be honest and really tell them?  You’re not always “fine,” and that’s okay; believe me.  Let yourself be human, because that’s what you are, flaws and all!  I say this because I don’t think these things get said enough, and I know what it feels like to have to be “on” and “happy” all the time when maybe you aren’t.  Whoever you are reading this, know you, all the parts of you, are ENOUGH.

Stay present.  Love yourself.  Love others.  Seek peace.  Have a happy, truly happy, 2015.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  — F. Scott Fitzgerald

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New Year, New Adventures, New York

Happy New Year, kids!

It’s the most optimistic month of the year again!  Everybody is trying their darndest to stick to the big plans they’ve made for the next twelve months.  As Rose said in the mega-blockbuster/tearjerker drama/Leonardo DiCaprio-worshipping/most excellent movie of all time, Titanic, “January was called the ship of dreams, and it was, it really was.”

"Yeah...I'm totally gonna sleep with Jack and then not let him on my floating piece of wood in the ocean."

“Yeah…I’m totally gonna sleep with Jack and then not let him on my floating piece of wood in the ocean.”

(I’m aware she wasn’t REALLY talking about January, but just go with it, okay?)

Now, in theory, I like the idea of the world collectively promising to do better and be better each year (and sometimes, we do and are…a little) but the fact remains most people fall off their game by March.  The resolutions they’ve made have already been broken, and they’ve returned to their old habits.  We all promise to lose weight, read more, volunteer, etc.  By March, we’re sitting on our couches, wolfing down Cheetos and watching marathons of Dance Moms and old episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation (or maybe that’s just me?).

What happens in between?  Somewhere along the way, we get lazy and start procrastinating.  Change is an active choice that requires us to give it our attention.  We must be aware of our actions at all times, so we can catch ourselves when we’re making bad or old choices, and in that moment, actively make the choice to do what we set out to do.  It’s a tired cliche to say, “old habits die hard” (Yippee kiyay, M#$%erf*#$%er!), but it’s true.  Old habits are comfortable and safe, easily slipped into like a favorite pair of shoes (and they better NOT be Crocs, y’all).

A little embarrassed to admit I find Alan Rickman kinda attractive in this film

A little embarrassed to admit I find Alan Rickman kinda attractive in this film

And like John McClane aka Bruce Willis, we just have to grab ourselves a machine gun (ho ho ho) and get rid of the German Terrorists in our Nakatomi Tower of a mind once and for all.

I apologize for that probably completely overwrought Die Hard metaphor.

What I’m saying is, to truly be resolute in your resolutions, you have to make being resolute an active choice.  And who says you always have to wait until January 1st to change your life?  You can do it any time you want, people!  All you have to do is make the choice and commit to it.

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button film

Benjamin and Daisy: always choosing life.

Benjamin and Daisy: always choosing life. (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

 

I started making active changes before the New Year even hit, laying down plans and working to make sure I was happier and healthier before the start of 2013.  This time last year, I was not in a good place; moroseness had settled over me that I could not shake.  In all seriousness, it is difficult for me to admit when things are wrong and when I am unhappy, and I can say with all certainty that I was battling something deep within myself I didn’t realize was even there or perhaps simply chose not to acknowledge.  One of my best friends called me one day last February and basically gave me a kick in the ass, “You’re going to get up, get out of bed, and come over and watch movies with me.  And you’re going to have a good day, because I cannot handle you like this anymore.  You’re going to choose to have a good day.”  And he was right.  He knew I was wallowing and miserable but I didn’t want to acknowledge it to anyone else.  Once I acknowledged it to myself and to someone else, I could move on and start choosing to actively fight against it.  Not everything since then has been all roses, but now I choose to try to see beyond the problems and keep them in perspective.  So far, it is working.  I am still learning to have faith and patience, and that too is an act of bravery and choice.  That day, that phone call helped me realize I am not powerless to change my life; I always have a choice (it reminds me of the scene from Minority Report where Agatha the precog tells John that he can choose not to kill Leo Crow).

I DO have big plans for myself – some of them a bit more long-term – and I am confident that with hard work, luck, perseverance, and some good ole gumption (which is a wonderfully underused adjective), I will be able to accomplish them.  You can choose to truly start LIVING your life any day of the year, not just January 1st, and I hope you have the courage to do so.

I’m excited for some things that are already on the horizion this year and the other new adventures that await me in 2013.  Happy New Year.  Truly…I wish you a HAPPY, new year.