Last week, I did this values exercise for my myself and my business. It started off with a plethora of attributes, like accomplishment, service, justice, equity, power, and respect.
I started with 10 words, then ranked them, then came down to five. The first two surprised me, mainly because deep down, I didn’t think these were what I should ideally pick: freedom and financial stability.
This week, I have to come up with definitions for these five words, which may surprise me again.
I’ve been emotionally pushing against having very little freedom and not much financial stability. The thought that keeps stabbing me in my head is that I shouldn’t be here.
I should be living somewhere else, around my people…or off traveling, exploring new lands.
I think of the shut-in housemate who is retired and divorced and drives Uber and Lyft. He’s either driving or in his stinky room, lying on his bed without sheets, blankly staring out into nothing…
I am not in the twilight of my years yet, but I feel like him…just some unused sack of carbon, sitting around, doing nothing of importance.
I feel wasted.
I don’t feel free because financial instability has been plaguing me for the past two years, the two years where I’ve been struggling to create a real life for myself.
And I want to reframe this time period so badly, but all I can think is that this part of my life is marred by continual failure–and it’s all because I don’t have those two values or goals consistently flowing in my life.
I want to be proud of myself of believing in myself, of putting myself out there, of finding work. And some days, I am. Not everyone can be entrepreneurial. Hell, I’m not even sure if I can be. It’s not something just anyone can do. I’ve had people also come to me.
It’s taking time to redefine was success looks like, but I’m even impatient with that process.
It’s really of no comfort right now that I’ve been sidelined, let alone that I am not measuring up to my own ideas of basic self-sufficiency. It eats at my sense of self.
Who am I if I can’t pay my bills or feed myself?
(And what do I think of people who can’t do those things either? How come they receive compassion from me and I can’t give it to myself? Maybe we’re made of things that have nothing to do with money…)
I know something bigger than creating a successful business is being created in my life, but this whole poverty thing is a lot distracting–even though I know it’s temporary…
What’s trying to strangle me, in this period of waiting and wondering, is grief.
In my 30s, two big career dreams have had to die.
The first was becoming a child psychiatrist. And although I’m happy to be a writer and editor, my passion for mental health can get really technical–and I love that (and uh…need to market that about myself).
I’ll always be a little sad that I won’t be able to help people in the way I had initially wanted–doubly.
Yesterday, someone I follow on Twitter had asked about whether they could cut seeing their psychiatrist since their appointments are usually brief. I told them that sadly, psychiatrists can’t bill for psychotherapy anymore, and now, all they can do is med monitoring, which is checking in to see how the meds one takes are performing. It’s important for them to keep track of how the meds are doing, but the appointments are 10 minutes at most.
And that would have been my life, even more frustratingly so with children.
Also, those dreams are from a woman who barely exists anymore…
At 17, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to get married, have my first kid, and be done with my medical training by age 30.
But those goals seemed like inevitabilities. Why wouldn’t I be a doctor, married, and have a child?
I’m still a little sad that I disappointed my younger self. Even now, I still think that I really should have been traditionally successful, even with all the ridiculous challenges and obstacles which stood in my way.
What I wanted seemed like a given to happen. And maybe that had to do with how many people saw me as pretty darn great–especially academically.
I still see having a family happening, but the timeline is just jumbled up now. I can’t see that far anymore…
Who I was when I made that plan is not who I am now. And it’s funny that I thought who I was as a person would be so stable.
Maybe I should have seen these changes all along…
The way I started to see God and people and myself started changing in college, where I felt free, and even compelled, to question everything.
Who I would have married at age 30 would have been a completely different person than who I’d be open to marry now.
I’m happy about that. Very.
I’ve failed myself over and over in how I thought this whole life thing would turn out, and how little control I have over outcomes. That’s a grief that I’m still working through…or working through me.
Freedom and financial stability maybe maddingly elusive for now, but I’m really happy, proud, and even delighted about who I am as a person.
It just seems that I was wrong about would be around for this better me.
The second grief is over lost communities. The first one was lost after I left the Church. I’m mostly over that.
I’ve said on this blog often that I came down to Florida thinking I’d find these fellow writers that would be my community.
I’m finally the person I’m supposed to be now, choosing the career that I should have chosen decades ago.
So where is the parade and trophy and applause?
What I got instead was an intense and bewildering spiritual initiation that I’m still in the throes in.
It’s still taking time to heal from the betrayal and the rejection–both from myself and from others.
But as I said last week, I have to remind myself that I don’t really belong to most people. And I’d rather take solace in that truth instead of clinging to the lie that I’ve lived most of my life–that I am some everyperson.
When I embrace that prickly truth, though…I do get excited that there’s still hope that the home I find within myself will be found in other people, too.
My people are out there; they really are.
But a lot of my life has been about sifting through who is not for me. And that has been rough.
Last week, I talked about this friend who had come on Facebook, accusing me of ending our friendship when they had been really rude towards me, and yet there was no evidence of that terrible conversation–and that really freaked me out.
I thought we could work through our differences, to find a place of healing. But those missing messages let me know that they were trying to scrub away the dirty parts of our friendship, the part that actually caused it to end. And, well…I can’t someone who scrubs the only record of our friendship for years like that.
On Monday morning, I told them that we were done and that I was no longer going to read their messages. I unfriended them and their partner. I barely looked at what they sent back.
“I am shocked…” is all I saw. I plan on deleting that whole thread sometime, but that message goes unread for now–as I had said it would.
If anyone had read our conversation, no one would be shocked about how things went down.
To cut off someone who I’ve known for most of my life but seems to be in some self-hating loop of how they are trying to be everything to everyone (the same thing I heard three years ago)… came from a place of finality and resolve.
I deserve friends who are trustworthy and honest with themselves.
The old me would have fought harder for our friendship. But just like three years ago, I realized that I had been trying too hard without many benefits.
And that’s one thing I told them–friendship doesn’t have to be this hard or complicated.
That made me quite sad for the next few days–unexpectedly. I had left things pretty much in their hands in 2016. I was done then. But to resuscitate this corpse of a relationship and then kill it again…it took its toll. I had to drag myself through my daily routine.
And it wasn’t just them. It was just the overall trend of people leaving or having to usher people out of my life this year.
It’s getting pretty old.
If I feel sad about how my life has turned out, I can give myself permission to feel that. And that’s been tough, to be honest with myself about how bad things have gone, about how much unfairness I’ve had to endure.
Sometimes I think those truths will crush me. I’m tired of trying to outrun them.
On the other hand…if there’s an opportunity that I can see coming on my horizon, I can give myself permission to feel a little hope.
Part of me–OK, most of me–wants to fast forward to this really crappy and disappointing part of my life.
Yet I keep marveling at how life continues to worsen and how I continue to become a better version of me.
This isn’t to glorify my suffering or anguish–or even to make sense of it. All I can do is endure it and hope it ends sooner than later.
I’d really like to be cruising on Easy Street right now. I’d really like to not have my character shaped and reshaped. I’d really like to not be growing so damn much spiritually.
But this is all I have, including my sadness and anger that this is all I have. To be able to embrace whatever I have in front of me, with some grace and dignity–that may be a better rubric to grade myself with than whether I have the freedom to take off and travel at a moment’s notice or even that I have “my people” around me.
I was trying to say this last week, but one thing that’s been bugging me is this idea and truth that you need others to have true and lasting success. No one is a self-made person.
Everything I’ve been trying to do with business seems to be dead, or at least dormant–in my eyes, anyway. I know there are signs of life starting to stir…but it doesn’t alleviate the nagging questions of how I will pay my bills every month. Every month since May, it’s been a mystery.
When those nagging financial pressures make me lose sleep and grind my teeth, it’s hard to have the patience that one needs to build something that will last.
Yet I’m growing a garden. I’ve planted a lot of seeds. And I just have to keep showing up, watering and weeding…and things will grow.
And yet every month, the mystery of the bills being paid gets solved. Somehow things work out–not the way I want to, usually, but they do work out.
I’m not homeless. That’s really the only rule I can use to show that things are OK.
But I’m ambitious! Darn this relentless ambition! And I see other people succeed, so I start to ponder–why not me? And why not now?
This meme (which looks like it’s from The 700 Club) is how I feel:
I’m in my garden with maybe a sprout or two peeking out from some rich soils of hope and desire…and that’s it.
I have this message ringing in my head, that I can’t be successful on my own. And then I have this isolation that isn’t really by my doing–it’s just what poverty does.
When I look around me, it’s that widening circle of people I’ve been feeling and seeing.
So if I haven’t found my peeps, and my business is dormant, then it’s my fault, right? This is what I think.
There must be a way to solve this. So what more can I do?
I frantically look for answers to improve marketing–and find the answers, and start implementing them…
Its fertilizer for the garden. But the growth still takes time.
I’ve practically given up socializing with others in person. That’s where I don’t feel aligned with Florida anymore. I don’t miss seeing anyone in town.
I just don’t have enough imagination to think about who my people are in that regard. And that’s OK. If I’m a moving target of a person right now, even though I definitely deserve love and support, then there’s no reason to pull anyone new into this maelstrom.
It seems what matters more now is focusing on my desires, on what I want (besides, well, other people along for the ride).
So maybe there’s another reason for this terrible feeling of stuckness. And I know, I know…I keep coming back to this place as if I haven’t been here before.
So as I’ve said this before…maybe I’m not supposed to be moving–leaving Florida, traveling, getting on with my life.
Maybe I’m not stuck at all.
Like I’ve said numerous times, this year has been about alignment, and I’ve been so misaligned…and, well, I hate being “wrong.” I hate feeling like I’m deficient or less than–especially in comparison to my own standards.
But that whole idea of trying to be more for people who aren’t even trying…that’s one thing in my life that has been getting some serious realignment–especially as I’m struggling. I have a standing invitation to put myself first a whole lot more.
Another persistent thought I have is how if everything was “OK,” all these old wounds wouldn’t be addressed, that I’m even looking at having very little money in the wrong way.
Again, I don’t want to glorify my suffering or suffering in general. Poverty really shouldn’t be, period.
I just know myself. When everything is OK, I’m not really paying attention to much spiritually. Life is lived a little more on the surface.
We usually reach out for spirituality and greater meaning because everything is not OK.
I just erased a rather depressing section of this post, but it was good to write out how I truly felt.
But this still won’t be that cheery…
TL; DR–As adolescent as this sounds, I really hate why my life is right now. But it’s my life, and I will continue to keep trying to change it for the better.
This seems to be the hump that I can’t get over. This is my life. And, it’s the only one I have. I don’t have few spare ones queued up like I’m playing some video game.
The last time I felt like this–helpless and stuck–I was an adolescent. I was 18, stuck at home on a forced gap year because my father was (and still is) mentally ill.
And of course, I had a huge spiritual growth spurt, probably one of the largest I’ve ever had.
I never really thought I’d be able to leave home, but then spring came and my dad’s unquiet mind changed. And I was freed.
The hump I can’t get over is that although this is my life, there’s a lot out of my control– just like when I couldn’t go to college “on time.”
I keep wrestling with what’s out of my control and the ghost of what more could be (and should be) under my control.
And I’m tired. This isn’t a fight I can really win.
And oh! How I wish I could be zen and just accept everything as is. I’m trying to write and think and pray and crawl my way there. But I keep getting lost…
My unwillingness to accept things as they are has kept me alive. It’s also made me miserable.
It’s hard to accept that I’m doing the best that I can and that it’s enough–because that means the way things are…well, how can I examine all those things, truly? There are so many variables, known and unknown, influencing me and my life.
In that grey space, in the unknown…there’s grace waiting for me. And I keep dodging her. I feel there has to be another way except through.
So, as I take grace’s hand, I know that I can’t keep waiting or hoping for things to get better.
This is my life, with all the uncontrollable, pathetic, and shameful parts that I wish didn’t exist. And I don’t have to be strong all the time. I can cry, even if it’s just on the inside, over dead hopes, dreams, and relationships.
Maybe I can bury them, like compost, in my garden…
I’m a little too American to end this post without some sort of hope. The hope is that as I feel disconnected from mostly everyone, needed healing is taking place; great self-understanding is growing. And I can’t really see any other way for these things to have taken place in my life.
By the way–I don’t the Universe is taking me offline because I’m so toxically codependent. But I do think that as I am more whole and healed, I can have more whole and healed relationships.
In the meantime, I have to try to keep sane, because I still want to not live here, to move, to be free and financially stable. But, I’m not used it being this alone. I’m scared I’ll get used to it. And maybe I should get used to it, so I can be choosier about who is in my life now.
I need to use this forced solitude to my advantage.
So if I shut out what I think should be happening and what is happening with everyone else and embrace what is happening with me–both the glorious and the unbearable–then I feel I’ll be able to do this life thing a little bit better.
Sounds so easy to do, but that’s where grief comes in. I’m grieving an old way of living.
It’s funny and strange: every time I write about the state of my life, I feel my higher self trying to gently shake some sense into me. I feel so stupid that I don’t get this; it’s as if I don’t want to get it.
My hopes are indefatigable.
But right–that American ending that I promised.
I have been learning to savor the good things, like any conversation I have, a cup of tea or hot cocoa, a smooth falsetto voice from Roosevelt, or any meal I have.
Just last week, for the first time in a while, I thought about how I had finished a couple of assignments and got paid instantly, and was able to buy food for myself within an hour or so. It was all instantaneous and miraculous and beautiful–eating the literal fruits of my labor.
I have been able to be grateful in true and meaningful ways that come shooting up from deep and real parts of me, like geysers.
What really gets obnoxious is how despair (and poverty) can shade and color even the good things in the darkest and bleakest of blacks.
I have to have a monk’s type of concentration to see the good. I definitely don’t have it right now, but it is being worked in me.
Last week I was playing this game where this character who turns into a dragon was being controlled by this woman. This older woman who worked for the woman told the man that to overcome the mind control, he had to look at the good in every situation, no matter what.
The character had his pet killed and his best friend betray him, and he was able to turn those situations around. He remember the pet as it was when it was alive, and he understood that his friend thought that he was doing what was best for his sister.
Granted, I can’t be terminally Pollyanna about my life right now (or ever), that really stuck with me.
But I am trying to see more of the good that is being created in this little tiny room that has become my life. Practically speaking I can at least say that I’ve learned how to pare down my life what I need.
Every second that ticks by, every breath I inhale and exhale without thinking, every electrical pulse that shoots through my brain–those are the seemingly inconsequential but essential building blocks of my life.
I have to savor as much of the good as I can.
I may have mentioned that this latest song by Sia, “I’m Still Here” is my anthem for 2018. I need to mention it again because this is the frame that I need.
It’s a song that I can easily listen to on repeat. She’s so great with anthems about endurance and resilience (“Titanium” by David Guetta comes to mind).
There are so many of us who are silently and secretly fighting battles. I hope this song brings your some comfort and strength.
Here’s the chorus:
Oh, the past it haunted me
Oh, the past it wanted me dead
Oh, the past tormented me
Oh, the past it wanted me dead
Oh, the past it haunted me
Oh, the past it wanted me dead
Oh, the past tormented me
But the battle was lost
‘Cause I’m still here
Well, thank Goddess: I’m still here, and I’m lighting the long way home.
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