The biggest emotion that I have been struggling with, as you guys have seen here in previous posts, has been making myself a priority. I've still really been struggling with that one, even more so since the surgery. My friends are awesome, can I just say that? They rock my world. After the surgery when I finally told everyone that "surprise, I let a doctor break my face," they came through big time. They came with groceries and meals, they came over to help out with the after the kids came back, they brought balloons, books, stuffed animals, and even sent a fruit basket from Florida!
As much as it made my heart swell with feeling loved, it also made my heart feel very heavy.
When I wrote the post about not making myself a priority, all of you had amazing insight into how allowing others to help me, not only helped me, but how it was also good for the "helper" as well. I totally understand that, because on all of the missions trips I have been on, I know how soothing it is for the soul to be able to help someone else. I've never once thought "Oh this is great, look at me, I'm being so helpful and Christian like." No, I've always been grateful that I was given the opportunity to help someone. It felt good that I was able to give someone what they needed. Yet even now, I still have a hard time applying that to my own life when other's try and help me. Even now, when I finally understand and accept that I do deserve help, it still doesn't feel right.
So with all the time I had to sit around being trapped in my head after surgery, I decided to explore that feeling a bit. You see, I do have a healthy sense of self esteem, and it has honestly been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I do think I am a good person. I do think I am funny. I do think I am pretty. I do think I am smart. I do think that the world is a better place because I am here. As self inflating as that sounds, it's really not. It's healthy. I'm not saying that I am funnier, prettier, or smarter than anyone else, I'm just saying that I believe I am funny, pretty, and smart enough for myself. I am all of those things in quantities that are enough to make me happy, and I am happy that I can see that coming from what I have. On top of that, like I said, I have finally accepted that I do deserve good things in life.
So why then, if I feel good about who I am, and I love myself enough to understand that its ok to be a priority, is it still so hard for me to accept help?
It finally dawned on me, that it when it comes to other people, I'm afraid that if I let myself become a priority to them, that I will also become a burden, and that they will leave me because of it.
I think, generally speaking, that the vast majority of people grow up with a fairly common and what might be considered "normal" set of reinforced emotions. I think that it is also safe to say that most people start out life with a fairly common, or average, set of life standards. Now they may have all been raised in different fashions, but for the majority of people, they were born, they were cared for, loved, and cherished. As they grew they learned the meaning of love. They learned what it felt like to be happy. Their parents instilled in them virtues of self respect and self importance by constantly reinforcing the feelings that they were loved, that they were important, and that they were worth something. A healthy sense of pride was also instilled in them. Their outlook on life was based upon the foundation of "I am important. I am loved. The world is a better place because I am in it." As they grew, they learned what didn't feel good, and how to process the negative feelings such as anger, fear, and hurt that resulted from those "not good feeling" situations. Sure, everyone goes through rough times and periods of self doubt, but for the majority of people, they grow up believing that the world is generally loves them, and when they didn't feel like that, they had enough of a foundation to stand firm, and to weed out the negative with a healthy set of coping skills.
Then there are the rest of us. Not loved from the beginning, or simply just being failed along the way. For us, there never were any feelings of security. There was no foundation to build upon. It was a disaster from the start and it set the tone for the future.
I look at myself and I see how it went wrong from the start. My first memories were not of being loved or of being happy. Not much of anything that would ever help me in life was instilled in me. Despite the facade of a family, I was taught from the beginning "You are not loved. We do not want you. You are nothing more to us than a burden and because of you, the world is a little bit uglier." The emotions that I grew up with, the emotions that I was taught to base my standards off of, were uncertainty, sheer terror, and that I was always one millisecond away from being gone. That because of the simple fact that I existed, I was making the world a little bit worse. I was nothing more than a burden to be dealt with.
So to tie that all together for you, most people start out with a general idea that the world is happy that they are there; that the world is a little bit brighter because they exist. As they grow, their goal in life is to get everything that they were taught they deserve to get. The rest of us have it harder. I started out my life as the worst thing that had ever happened to someone and my challenge became clawing my way out of that label, and figuring out who I was and what I deserve.
It's not easy. I always say that I am responsible for the choices that I have made, but I blame my parents for setting the stage for me to make those bad choices. Growing up, when I wasn't being reminded of what a burden I was to my family, I was being bounced all over the place to accomodate my mother and her problems. At one point, I was dropped off at a mental hospital for reasons that I still don't understand. I remember sitting on the couch in the day room one day and I could overhear two of the attendants talking to each other. "Why is she even here?" one asked the other. "I don't know. No one can get ahold of her parents. The social worker said they aren't sure what to do with her, so I guess she is just staying here until they figure out where they can stick her," replied the other one.
No one wanted me, I was a burden all around.
When it came time to release me, I threatened to kill myself. I had learned real fast that other kids were there because they were suicidal, and if I didn't want to go home, then I had better pretend to be suicidal.
I chose a mental hospital over my family.
Eventually they caught on to what I was doing and released me, and not long after that I ran right into the arms of my ex husband. I actually gave him the ring back before the wedding and told him that I couldn't marry him. I knew I didn't love him, and deep down I knew it wasn't right. I remember that moment so clearly it feels as if it was yesterday. We were sitting in his car in the parking lot outside of his apartment. I had just taken the ring off my finger and handed it back to him. He looked at me and he said "This is right, you just don't know it because you don't know what love is. You don't know how to be loved. You have never had anyone unconditionally love you in your entire life and here I am, telling you that I love you and I want you even when I know that you don't love me. That is unconditional love." Everything he said was so true and yet so wrong. Yes, I didn't know what love was, I didn't know how to be loved, but someone that loves you, someone that is 8 years older than you should know better. Someone that truly loves you would not use your deficits against you. They would want you to be happy and would not talk you into something that made only them happy. But I didn't know any better and honestly, I didn't think I would ever be able to do any better than that. I was happy that someone was willing to take on the burden that was me.
As I've mentioned before, he turned out to be extremely abusive. Honestly though, as twisted as it sounds, I would take the beatings and the rape over the emotional torment he put me through any day. He just tore me down any chance he got. He took everything my parents had instilled in me and reinforced it tenfold. Nothing I did was right, I was completely useless, and I was made to feel grateful that he allowed me to keep breathing. He controlled every aspect of my life by telling me exactly what he needed to in order to ensure that I remain broken.
"I have to sleep with other women because you are so fucking ugly. I see that you are eating dinner, you didn't even thank me for working today so that you could afford to be able to eat that meal, and people who are not thankful don't get to eat in my house. I'll just buy your clothes from now on since you don't know how to dress yourself. No one has ever wanted you so you had better be thankful that I put up with you everyday, because the day I decide to stop putting up with you will be the last day that anyone sees you. Do you think anyone will even care that you have disappeared? Who will even notice? Its not like anyone ever wanted you around anyways. You have been nothing more than a burden since the day you were born, and you should be grateful that I allow you to continue to exist."
Anytime I ever tried to stand up for myself, I was quickly reminded of "your own parents didn't even want you and they birthed you. Evolution was designed to weed out the inferior, so you had better just keep your damn mouth shut before nature catches up with you."
I stood no chance in ever gaining any self respect. Then one day when he saw greener pasture's, he threw me away, freed from the burden that was me.
I didn't even allow myself any time to recover before the next guy swung in and promised me the world. This time telling me "Your ex was a waste of oxygen and working organs, but I really love you. You are so lucky that I love you despite how damaged you are." Can you see where this is going?
Yup, I believed him too.
Even when he punched a concrete wall so hard that it broke his hand and he told me "you are lucky that wasn't your face," I actually thought to myself something along the lines of "wow, I am lucky. This guy deems me worthy enough to not actually hit me. I'm so lucky." Loved that guy right up until the moment that he threw me away too, telling me that he wasn't a garbage man sent to pick up the trash that was me and thus solidifying the fact that I was too much of a burden for anyone to deal with.
Growing up, I'm not sure how, but I did love me. I have another distinctive memory, (I'm not sure if I have shared this on here before, so forgive me if I have) of being locked out of the house in the snow with no coat, no socks, and no shoes. The pavement was so cold it was burning my feet. I actually tried to climb under my dad's car because I could see that there was no snow under there, but the driveway was burning my palms. I took something, I don't even remember what, put it on the driveway, and crouched down into a tiny little ball on my tippy toes on top of it. I remember crouching there with tears freezing to my face and asking myself "why bother?"
I have had a lot of moments in my life where I have wondered "why go on, is it even worth it," and thankfully I have reaffirmed to myself each time that my life was worth it, but this, this was the first time. This was the first time where I consciously thought to myself "you need to decide right here and right now if you loving you will be enough for you, even if you spend the rest of your life where no one else sees anything good in you. You need to decide if you will be enough, because if not, just give up now."
Reflecting on that now just breaks my heart. A child so young, with her whole life ahead of her, should be inside with her family, but instead is freezing on the driveway and wondering if she should just die.
Thankfully I decided that I was going to be enough, I was going to love myself, and I can honestly say, despite a few times of needing to reaffirm that thought to myself, that that has never changed.
What I have come to realize in this last year though, is that I don't expect anyone else to see that. Somewhere along the lines, being ok with being enough for myself, turned into "I will only ever be enough for myself, and I will be ok if no one else sees that," and so I let people treat me like trash. Even though I love myself, and I understand what I deserve, I have just relinquished myself to the fact that I'm ok if no one else ever sees that. My whole "I don't really care what anyone else thinks of me" persona works great for me in a lot of scenario's, but it totally screws me over in some of the most important ways when I don't expect the respect that I deserve. Even though I love most every part about myself, my goal has been to not become a burden to anyone else. Because I have always relinquished myself to the idea that I will never be anything more than a burden to anyone, I have spent my entire life going completely out of my way to make sure that my presence in their life is nothing but a benefit.
Things are changing around here for me. It finally dawned on me one day that if I didn't want to continue to get screwed over by people, that I needed to start expecting more from them. I don't want to marry another loser. I don't want to continue to let anyone who wants "in" on my life become a friend. I'm tired of being walked on and used. The foundation of any healthy relationship, is a mutual benefits package. There has to be give and take, or you end up in an abusive relationship/friendship. If I don't want to continue to get used and abused, I need to be ok with not fulfilling every want, desire, and expectation that the other person has of me. If they stick around, even when I take and don't give (as long as its equal in the long run) then THAT is a healthy relationship. If they don't, then I dodged a bullet.
I look at my children, and I know what I want for them. I know what they deserve, and I know what I want to teach them to expect for themselves. I realize that I am the example that they will grow up learning from. I realize that they will model what they expect for themselves, by watching what I expect for me. It's been interesting, because as I am parenting them, I am also parenting myself. When I am faced with a choice and I don't know what to do, I think of what I would want for my daughter, what example I would want her to learn from, and then I apply that to myself. If I don't want my children to grow up thinking that they are burdens to the world, not only do I need to fill up their self esteem tanks, but I need to be able to show them that it is ok to accept help, and that it is ok to expect things from other people.
This whole new "I am not a burden and I am going to expect more" has spilled into my dating life. I'm sure you guys are well aware by now that I am a serial dater. My friends think I am nuts, but I think its healthy. I am learning what I do and don't like. I am learning what traits I want in someone. I'm learning to put my wants, and my needs, into action. I am finally at a point in my life where I am not craving the attention of a man. Sure, I'm lonely sometimes, but it's not a hole that I feel needs to be filled with a boyfriend. I'm loving this whole serial dater thing. I am very, very, upfront with every man that I go out with that I am not looking for anything serious and that I am seeing other people, because my intention is not to hurt or mislead anyone. Its good for me to see that guys do want to get to know me and it is good for me to see that they do see value in me.
By no means am I looking for a man to give me value, but it is good for me to see that I am not a burden to everyone. It is good for me to see that I am a person who is sought after, because it means that I am learning that I don't just need to settle for someone out of fear that no one else will ever want me. It's also good for me to break up with them. It's good for me to learn that I don't need to just be ok with something that I'm not ok with. That I don't just have to put up with something that I don't like. It's good for me to learn that I can set boundaries. That I can say "no," when I don't want to do something. That just because a guy leaves my life, doesn't mean that I am going to be alone forever.
It's not only good for me to learn these things, but its good for me to practice them. This is a good thing people, and I am loving the lesson's that I am learning from it. I love that I can now see that I can go after what I want, and not just try and put up with what I am given.
I see this new found "expect more" trait when I am in the business world. Not only am I better able to set boundaries with my cleaning clients, but this whole not for profit is forcing me to stand up for myself, which is again, something that I am not used too. Anytime you approach an organization or a political figure with a set of problems that you have spotted and ways that you want to change them, they are naturally immediately going to get defensive.
The first few conversations I had with people, I totally got railroaded, they just ran right over me in the conversation. I had a talk with one guy that came at me so hard by the end of the conversation I had no idea what I was even talking about anymore. I want to make changes, I want to help other women, but in order to do that, I needed to change myself first. I need to be able to stand up for myself before I can stand up for the women that I want to help.
My meeting with the senator on Friday went fairly well all things considered. I was sitting at my kitchen table that morning and I was literally freaking out. A lot of the things the social worker had told me had completely screwed up everything I wanted to talk the the senator about. I'm sitting there at the table and I'm honest to gosh talking to myself out loud. "Ok girl, you need to pull it together. Forget about everything you don't know, you don't have any time to fix that now. Let's talk about what you do know. You know xyz, and xyz, and xyz. Stick to that. Ok, how am I going to do that!? Ok, you don't let her get onto the topics of the things you don't know about. How do I do that? Ok, you need to control the conversation. Ok kid, good plan, this might actually work."
I get to the meeting and as soon as she introduces herself, I start talking. I'm not even going to give this woman a chance to direct me into something that's going to put my back against the wall. I was freaking out internally, so I just kept telling myself "look her in the eyes, act dominant, you got this." I was kind of laughing because now I can totally see how political debates go, where they just try to control each other, and when they don't have an answer, they just throw in some relatively related facts and statistics and take the conversation right back to where they want it to be. Thankfully, I am a statistics queen. I may not always be the brightest crayon in the box, but nobody will ever beat me in a statistics competition. My brain is so totally overflowing with facts, statistics, and quotes that it is absurd. Anyways, I digress, but I was proud of myself! No matter how it turned out, I was speaking up. I was feeling like what I had to say was important and I wanted to make sure that I was heard. That is HUGE for me, huge. When I left she said she was interested and was going to make some calls and get me into a few other meetings. Score!!
I think a lot of this change in my mindset is why I'm not letting the nutcase neighbor thing go. The other day I was trying to figure out why it bothers me so much. Like yea, there are all of the obvious reasons why it should bother me, but it bothers me MORE than that. It bothers me more than a lot of other things that should bother me do. Does that make any sense? I finally realized that it bothers me so much because I'm finally standing up for myself. I'm not going to to take this shit from them. I'm not going to just crawl back into my house like a wounded little puppy that they keep kicking. Nope. I am going to keep showing my face around them. I am going to keep trying to get my money from them. I am not going to be made to feel "less than" in the one place in this entire world where I feel happy. This is my house dammit. This is my life and they are not going to just sweep me away because they have decided that they no longer want to acknowledge my existence. Who knows where that whole thing will end up. I have a feeling that one of them is going to explode on me soon and you know what? Bring it on. I do exist and I'm not going to just disappear because they want me too.
So with all that being said, I am proud of myself for realizing this and making the necessary changes in my outlook and in my life. Growing up and in my marriage I was never allowed to have any pride in myself because that would mean that I was something of value and that simply went against everything that the people around me thought. If I was allowed to have any value placed on me, anything that deemed me a worthy human being, well then all of my abusers would be doing something wrong when they hurt me. But since I wasn't worthy and I contained nothing of any value, then the abuse was ok, because who cares when you pick up a piece of trash and throw it away?
I care. I am not trash. Call me recycled, call me the pearl from the sand, I don't care, but I am important. I am not just a burden and until I allow myself to see the value that I bring to the lives of others, then I am going to continue to let the wrong people into my life. The only person that is making my life harder at the moment, is me. I have so many people around me willing and wanting to help, and I don't let them because I am too scared that they will leave me. Well that's just great girl. Why let all these amazing people in your life if you aren't willing to let them show you any of the benefits of them being there? "Hey, let's just keep the people around that suck you dry and don't want to bring any value to your life, and everyone that wants to help you, well lets just keep shoving them away." Great logic there, isn't it? Yea, I get it now.
So I'm ready. I'm ready to accept the help that people offer me. I'm ready to be vulnerable and open up my soul a little bit to the people around me. Will I get hurt? Maybe. Will I be let down at times? Most likely. Will I recover from it? Absolutely.
It will be ok. I will be ok. This new part of my journey is a bit unsettling for me, but the best view is from the top of the mountain, and the climb is easier with a team. There is a reason that people don't climb Mt. Everest by themselves, they would never make it to the top. You need other people to help you when you are weak, to help you when you don't think you can go on. You need other people to keep you on track and help you find your way. That doesn't make you a burden, it makes you part of a team.
I not only have finally realized that I deserve to see the view from the top, and but I'm finally ready to let my team help me get there. I am not a burden, I am a team player, and just as my team is lucky to have me, I am very lucky to have them. The teams that make it to the top, are the one's that work together the best. I am ready to be a team player.
Photo Credit Heart: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eraphernalia_vintage/
Photo Credit Help Wanted: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swanksalot/
Photo Credit Miner: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22081583@N06/
Photo Credit Extinct: http://www.flickr.com/photos/78906930@N00/
Photo Credit Bullet: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nebarnix/
Photo Credit Mountain Climb: http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeace_switzerland/