Being Real by Letting Go

Not Like the Other Girls

Photo by Bruce Dixon on Unsplash

Are you always the odd girl out? If so, you might be my people.

Women have capacity for connection. We have the capacity for real truth, real compassion, and real acceptance. Why then, do we feel so alone? 

I have gotten comfortable with my place on the far end of the personality spectrum. The hyper-frank oversharer whose bullshit radar is set to go off at the first sight of … bullshit. You know, the lonely end of the rink? 

We are doing it to ourselves. Killing our light by lying our way through conversations, not saying what we mean, and accepting our situations despite the intense sense of resentment we often feel. And while a positive outlook can benefit even the most desperate of us, it’s real nice when you reach that positive state of mind organically, so that you can feel it instead of mutter it to everyone you meet before retreating to your bedroom to forcibly unscrew your smile. Being fake is a fast track to isolation.

When Things Fall Apart

After having my first son, I was sick. I was real sick. Days and months ran together and seasons changed without my noticing. Apocalyptic thoughts and extreme anger toward my husband were only some of the challenges I was facing. When I spoke about how I was doing, I had no choice but to be raw in my description. I was living it so completely that I was shocked to find others recoiling at my distress, but I was too tired to lie.

Years later, I would come to find that many of these women had been struggling themselves, and they chose to forego the opportunity to be heard, as well as the possibility of being related to.

Somehow, in all of our ‘progress’, women have forgotten how to accept each other. Every time you tell someone that you’re happy when you’re not, and fulfilled when you’re running on fumes, you are contributing to the crazy psychological suffering that most of us have been trapped in since the days of our grandmothers.

One Anchor is All You Need

Of the women that I shared my intensely dark challenges with, only one ever looked at me and said “it’s okay”. The rest said nothing, and that is where the relationships stayed. I would only go to play-dates if I felt capable of presenting a false self, and most of our conversations were superficial. I lost friends who had been colleagues previously, and who couldn’t be bothered with this ‘new’ me. For someone coping with the loss of their former independent and astute self, these were not exactly the kinds of experiences that facilitated healing in me. It made me feel contagious. But I had one anchor to cling to, and she saved my life. We saved each other.

The next time a woman tells you that she’s struggling, try empathy instead of disbelief. Try a hug, try a drink, try remembering not to help them retract and pretend. Be the woman that other women can come to when they need to hear that not liking their kids today is perfectly normal. Angry with your spouse? Normal. Totally overwhelmed? Normal. Eating antidepressants like candy? Also normal. Want to throw in the towel on domesticity and the child rearing game? Totally. Fucking. Normal. Because life and all its lessons wasn’t designed to be a cakewalk, but it wasn’t designed to be pinterest perfect either. If we give each other permission to tell the truth and still be accepted, we stop the cycle of self-judgment too.

Find Compassion Through Struggle

I haven’t been on top of my mental health consistently since having kids. Moderately high highs, followed by long drawn-out lows have been my reality and the more honest I get with others about that, the more friends I gain. It’s simple psychology. Nobody wants to be the first person to fuck it all up, so I do it for them. After all, we’ve all wanted to burn the whole thing down at some point, haven’t we? 

The friendships that I’ve fostered in the wake of the creation of these ‘safe zones’ have been soul enriching and lasting. We look out for each other. We bring dinner when dinner is needed, we pick each other up after long ugly cries, and we help wherever we can help – because it’s okay to need it. We aren’t superheroes and we aren’t meant to be; our struggles tend toward similar issues of varying degrees and should inspire us to accept ourselves and our needs. 

Start with self compassion, and extend it to the people in your life. You might find the conversations that result lead you to a new level of love for yourself. You might find that you’re perfectly normal. You might even make a friend.

When to Call it

I’ve spent years like all of you, doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I got married young (yes, that’s working out), had a successful albeit short-lived career, and then I had a baby and it kind of all started to fall apart.

So, fuck it. I’m calling it. The rules are changing now.

Photo by Gerome Viavant on Unsplash

Getting Oldish

I’ve just stumbled through another birthday. They won’t quit coming. Up until yesterday I was pretty sure that the best thing about my birthday this year had been that text I got from my best friend letting me know I was not, in fact, as old as I thought I was. She did me a solid; gently reminded me of how to do simple math,

and here I am again… 32.

The truth is, though, that whether that number seems big or small, you’ve got to know that 32 is too many years to have lived and still not know who you are.

40 Long Hours a Week Under Gag Order

I’m not going to spend another second living in a stranger’s body, censoring who I am at my foundation.

I will never again work in a capacity which requires me to take 20 minutes to tell Bob that we have some ‘concerns’, that we see ‘room for improvement’, when all Bob wants to know is who is gunning for him and how long he has to get out before risking (simultaneous) financial implosion and a nail in the coffin of his fragile marriage. Bob knows he’s being managed out. He doesn’t need my aloof ass, at half his age, sitting across from him to manage his performance. All he needs from me is “So Bob, you’re fucked. There’s no way out now after that shit you pulled in the meeting”. A Jack Kevorkian of sorts, putting an end to what could be an extended circus performance. Bob would have thanked me.

What in the sweetest fuck was I thinking when I went into HR? I’ve spent my entire life walking around hoping everyone liked me! Why, when my professor told us on the last day of our first class, that cafeteria conversations would likely come to a screeching halt when we walked in the room, did I think “Well fack me! Sign me up for 30 years of this! And the inability to use the work ‘fuck’ for 50 hours a week?! Oh HELLS YA! I can totally handle that!” Like, really…

Perspective – Get Some

When you step away from a job you don’t like, you feel like the victim of some strange pyramid scheme.. And the inventory of 550 bottles of Amway’s ‘best-selling’ beard shampoo hangs around for years just to haunt you.

Ridiculous missteps aside, my job now is to get back to myself. Along the way, I want to demonstrate to my very young children that there is a difference between being authentic because it’s who you are, and being an argumentative angsty dick. (And it ain’t about attention either, honey, so don’t get any ideas about turning 15 and deciding you can out-attitude your mother because your mother is the sarcasta-bitch O.G. and I will end you). This is about allowing yourself to be who you are so that you can stand to live with yourself for the next 50, or 20, or 10 years. Hell, if you get fake enough just the idea of one more week could put you within arms reach of that nervous breakdown thing! I think that’s when nice men take you on a vacation to the quiet of a hospital room. Very exclusive.

I’m not doing it anymore. Put on your forward thinking brains, let go of the judgment, and let’s get on with constructing a life we can live with.