finding your way back home (in which i become a stereotypical 34 year old, single woman)
Everyone I know is getting married–or popping one out. Or popped one out years ago. Or all of the above.
This became quite apparent last month when two of my exes got married on the same day, which was also the anniversary of my Mama becoming terminally ill. A fact, undoubtedly, forgotten by these masters of sensitivity. I didn’t want to be upset about it–or to even know about it–but, in this world of likes broadcasted by Facebook, it was pretty difficult to ignore. I’ve tended to date men who are just a touch older than me–so, by now, nearly all of my exes have found long-term loves. Some have even had children with these loves. And they should by now–because, if they hadn’t, they’d be part of the freak show that is the 35+ singles market on OKCupid (no offense to the very nice men I’ve met who might fit that profile who AREN’T freaks).
I am (mostly) happy for them. Really. I got over all of these relationships and gave up all of the associated illusions years ago. I can now look at pictures of exes and wonder what the heck was wrong with me when I chose them. Each had some odd quirk that I now find repulsive. Or maybe it’s just the memory of how they treated me that leaves me disgusted. I dunno. All I know is that, every day of my life, I am good with how it all went down. Even if I’m still mad sometimes, when something pricks open those tossed out memories. For the most part, I’m grateful it fell apart and even more grateful for the insights into my own heart.
At the same time, though–if I’m being completely honest–it feels like being left behind. Because, well, that’s exactly what it is. Friends have tried to make it seem better by telling me how amazing I am, and blahblahblah, but the reality is that I get triggered when I feel left behind. It makes me really sad, and it makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with me and why the heck I haven’t been lucky like them. How is it they’re married or in a seemingly good relationship or raising children? I am clearly a better person– a nicer person–and I surely deserve more than all the tragic BS I’ve been handed. When do I get my fairytale?
And then I step off the ledge and remind myself that fairytales do not exist. I am not Rapunzel. And if a fairytale DID exist, I would surely reject it. And if I suddenly became Rapunzel, I’d cut that damn hair; braid it; and rappel off into the sunset. That’s just how I roll.
The thing is–for the most part–I like my life. I actually don’t mind being single right now. The idea of some tied at the hip relationship seems kind of awful. I think it’s because, right now, my life requires some degree of selfishness. While my friends are being grown-ups, I almost feel like I’m reclaiming the youth I never really got to live. I can take impromptu roadtrips. I can do risky things because I don’t need that much for just me. I can sleep till 10 am, and not one person is going to tell me I have to wake up. I am free–free in a way I’ve never been–free in the way that means the only limit I have on my life (really) is what I institute.
But I am still that girl who looks around and takes it all in. I still want to please people and do what’s expected. For a long time after my Mama died, I felt adrift and I doubted my own ability to be an adult anymore. I found that I was impulsive and my version of irresponsible. I did things because of gut feelings instead of duty. If something didn’t make sense, I wouldn’t follow-through. It was easier to give up, and it was harder to commit. And things that used to be foregone conclusions just weren’t anymore. I spent a lot of time deciding things, only to change my mind five minutes later. For that, I felt unreliable and–because of that–for a good, long time, I stopped trusting myself.
The last year and a half, I’ve gotten better at that–mostly because I felt like I had something to prove. A lot of things to prove. To people who mattered, but mostly to myself. And I realized I wanted to prove these things. It felt so adult, and I put on that mask–that thing that I always wore so easily–and I let myself slip back into some routine that involved massive amounts of self-sacrifice. And guess what? I proved to everyone that the girl I used to be? She still exists.
Only this girl I am now can’t keep doing that, and I hit a wall last month. My whole life I watched my Mama sacrifice her happiness for other people–swallow indignities down like water–and all it got her was dead at 67.
That’s not my life or the life I want to create. So, I did what I do sometimes. I hibernated in plain sight–went underground in a lot of ways–and thought about what I needed to change. I’m still figuring it out, but my life a month from now will be quite different. But the difference here is that I am not going to keep making choices that uphold my misery or keep me in places I’ve outgrown.
The hard part is knowing what should stick. The hard part is drawing a line in the sand and deciding that your happiness is more worthy of investment than the happiness of those that have shown you kindness. These changes are heartbreaking to me because it means letting down someone who is basically like a second mother to me. And I realize now that–despite reverting so easily back into my old patterns–I am still very different because, this time, people know who I am and I have let them know me.
The stakes are higher now–but, I’m not afraid. And not being afraid is what scares me, funnily enough. I’m more afraid of making the move. I know it’ll work out and that whatever is meant to be will be. It’s always that way. The trick is to adjust me–to be open and up for anything. If I approach it all from a place of self-respect and love, it’ll be just fine. Maybe different from what I hope or want. But maybe the surprises will create pockets of joy I could never plan for. I feel ready and strong enough to see things through that I was previously too nervous to embrace.
But there are definite growing pains. This time of year, I inevitably think of my parents and their deaths. Given that their births, illnesses, and deaths all fell within the October-January timeframe, I get a bit jumpy and stressed out this time of the year. I always seem to put a lot of pressure on myself, and the little bits of lonely poke me every now and then. This year, it hasn’t been too bad. I am shocked by how excited I am about Christmas. I haven’t felt that way since her death. But, I guess, all of that combined with everyone I know having people around them to love–well, it makes me want something more than what I have.
I am never going to go searching for love again. It’s pointless and dumb. I now truly believe love will meet me somewhere when I least expect it, and that was probably why all the dumb relationships I had (the ones that amounted to wasted time–that didn’t leave any dents whatsoever) fell apart. I think I just wanted to love someone, and it didn’t really matter who it was. In hindsight, that kind of sucks. I guess I’m a lot more uncompromising and unimpressed. I don’t think I could fall in love even if I met the perfect person right now. I’m just not mentally there. That said, another odd thing has started happening. I am actually quite jealous of people with babies. Now, granted, I don’t want to go through childbirth or labor or even pregnancy right now. I am so not ready. I can’t even put myself to bed on-time because I’m looking up recipes for Japanese food. And those aforementioned risks make me an unstable person. I’d never do that to a kid. I know what it’s like to live in instability as a kid. It sucks. But, the older I get, the more I want a kid. Which is shocking in and of itself. It was only a few years ago that I thought I didn’t have a nurturing bone in my body. And during my first encounter with a newborn, I treated it similar to my first guinea pig–terrified it would bite me or I’d freak out and throw it in the air.
The difference now, I guess, is that I have experience with taking care of people now. I like it and don’t even blink at cleaning up gross messes. I don’t think of it as a burden. And I mostly just miss the relationship I had with my Mama. I know every relationship is different, but there’s an intimacy there that’s just flat-out gone from my life. I think, if I had it again, maybe I wouldn’t feel so dead to romantic relationships and maybe it would be easier to be me. I’m always more myself with kids. I think, as I pursue my counseling program, this will only grow.
Oddly enough, my Mama kind of went through the same thing when she decided to have me. Everyone was having babies, and she just decided she had to be a mother again. Her story was a lot more courageous than mine. She, after all, lost some kids before then–so it amazes me how brave she was–especially when they told her she was infertile–as a 40 year old woman back when 40 year olds didn’t carry to term. But my Mama was a Mama. And I think I’m slowly realizing I am, too. Maybe not as easily as her–and definitely not as gracefully as damn near anyone–but it’s important to me. And that’s, I think, why I’m feeling anxious for it to happen. Because I’m 10 years ahead of myself and have actually rough-plotted my own retirement at 89 (even though I’m 34, and we will surely never die by the time I’m that old). It’s a thing on my to-do list. A thing I know will take me a while to prepare myself for. Kinda like college. I started planning when I was 8, and took all those baby steps until I got there. Maybe that’s what this is–just a change in perspective that allows me to start walking.
The funny thing is that it makes me miss my Mama. It also opens up a whole crazy world I can’t even think–and contradicts things I always thought needed to be. And I am starting to separate from my rules and expectations. Which is all so very odd. To be strong enough to know exactly what I want and unafraid to say that what I’ve always settled for doesn’t work for me. That this is a take it or leave it–and I’m not contorting to fit someone else’s life and dreams.
I don’t need to be a bridezilla with a tiara and poofy dress that I’ll never wear again. I don’t need to waste my life wondering if other people like me. But what I do need is to live a life that doesn’t feel like dying. I need to glitter some plastic snowmen and bake snowflake sugar cookies and give a little girl giant underwear and apples and walnuts and scream Merry Christmas out the front door at midnight. I need to hold her hand and brush her hair and tell her about my amazing mother who wanted nothing more than to be her grandmother. And how I so wish she would have met her.
That will feel like home.