I come from a long line of people who commit. Well, on my Mama’s side. My Daddy’s side? Um, maybe not.
My Papa was a farmer–one of a long line of farmers–until the Great Depression hit and wiped out his family farm. He then got a job with the railroad–backbreaking labor that this tiny man embraced with his usual stoicism. He did that work for so long, they gave him a gold watch when he retired decades later.
Similarly, my Mama broke her back. Cleaning up after other people’s filth. Eventually at the most exclusive hotel in Denver–the one where Presidents and movie stars stayed. She used to tell me about her visits with Bette Davis–a generous, wonderful human being.
I don’t know much about my father’s side of things–except what I learned through Ancestry. Just that they were farmers, too, but they seemed to have ambition and eventually moved on to more lucrative pursuits. Except for my grandfather–who was an orphan and worked as a butler or something when he was a child. He ended up in a far better place–living the good life in CA. But I don’t know much about him. Except that he had a house and a car and lived in Rialto. He died the year before I was born, so I never met him. My Mama adored him, though. But she knew relatively little about it–despite living with him for a time. Seems the men on that side all had their secrets.
My father was really this vagabond, and he sucked my Mama into his Kerouac lifestyle. I wonder if he was a hippie. I doubt it. He was too much of a Navy guy. I don’t know if he was liberal. That’s a gap. I do know he was fairly racist, due to his service in the war, which is sad and something I likely would have fought with him about had he lived. He had friends of every race, but he would say shit that I still can’t even believe.
Anyway, my father was unpredictable. He injected a lot of chaos into our lives and is probably the reason we were stuck in the cycle of poverty. I almost feel like–because he lived a comfortable existence as a child and a young man–he sought out poverty. It was part of his overall downward spiral, but something he seemed to embrace…like some grand experiment. Like he wanted to know what it was like to starve. Or maybe that was just another one of his ways of seducing death.
I’ve always had this internal struggle inside myself between the values I got from Mama’s side and Daddy’s side. And poverty just provided the trauma to make some things stick. On one hand, I’m a details person–noticing all the cracks and all the things that need me. I love a big challenge and responsibility. I’m ambitious. I’m dependable and loyal. You know–the boring shit. But there’s this other side that’s artistic and spontaneous. Restless. Who just wants to play. And I feel like they’re always at odds. Mostly, I’ve chosen respectable, stable paths where I had to be very good at what I did to survive. Things that required me to stifle the parts of me that were artistic and spontaneous.
I touched on the idea last post that I feel like I’m in the same relationship with my work life as I was with my parents. This subtly (sometimes only to me), neglectful relationship where things aren’t communicated; where I give and give and give and get little back; where I am constantly fixing stuff; and where my needs and wants don’t matter. All while under the lip service that they do. But I’ve always felt like actions are the truth. And the odd thing? I want to make them proud. When I get pats on the back, it’s like my father saying something nice to me.
Isn’t that weird?
The thing is–where I am now is the best work relationship I’ve had. Ever. And for 2 years it wasn’t like that–except for the fixing and the pride stuff. The toxic shit wasn’t part of it in the beginning. But the undervaluing of my worth was–and that might have indicated the rest was coming. I’ve endured some really hideous work shit in my life. I’ve worked for the worst humans I’ve ever known–people who I literally would hide from if I saw them at a party. People I’m ashamed to be associated with. I’ve also worked with great people who are still friends. Each job sort of built on the other. Each one, I learned something from. But each one really continued the abuse and neglect from my childhood–mostly because I was in a lot of denial that any of it even happened and I was too loyal to own my experience.
So, what do you do when you find yourself in a place that started off as exactly right–or what you thought was exactly right–and then devolved? Where you see the potential for healing and know there are good people?
I had a conversation with my roommate yesterday, and he asked me what my dealbreakers were. He said that I needed to establish those and then get out when those boundaries were broken. I confessed that the dealbreakers had been broken already and, if I knew what I wanted to do with my life, I would’ve left after this year’s bullshit. Since my Mama died, I’m pretty intolerant of intolerable situations. I’m not willing to suffer. I leave–to the point that I’ve lost respect for myself for being unreliable and haughty. This isn’t healthy either. It’s another extreme. And I don’t want to make any move until I know what’s next because I am just so done wasting time. But I need to break this cycle of self-abuse and self-neglect.
He said maybe the only thing to do, then, is to stay and accept who they are because I need them right now–better or worse–and maybe the key is to change how I react to those things I know they’ll do. Reframe it, essentially. Oh, and I need to really embrace my feelings–the good and bad. Because I tend to spin everything, and I can justify basically anything when I’m making excuses for people. While I should be grateful, my tendency is to stifle the bad so that it eventually explodes.
Maybe I need to confront the abuse and neglect head-on. By staying and not choosing to suffer. Not being a victim. And maybe, in some weird way, that will help me heal my parental BS too.
In many ways, my work is like my parents. It can be this nurturing place with close friendships and people truly seeing me. People who believe in my worth and value. People who let me do things I’ve never been able to do. And I honestly have never had that and desperately need that. If I leave, it would be hard to find that–this I know. I’m not in a position to go it alone–nor would I want to–so maybe I need to get as much as I can from this to support my future goals.
But what are they? I literally don’t even know right now.
On one hand, I really want to have a child and get married. But I don’t have anyone in my life right now and time is slipping away. Having my own kid is an important piece of that, but I would like to adopt, too. I don’t know what will happen there since so much is just fate or chance or whatever. I do have boundaries on that, but will I be brave enough to do it? I don’t know. But I do know that having a family is important to me. And being a mother seems like it’s mine.
I still want to help people. That’s a big thing for me. But I don’t know that it’s the healthiest thing for me–and maybe when I’m healthier–that’s something to revisit. But I think I need to temper my urge to sacrifice at the moment and avoid fixing professions. Or at least limit them to things that don’t trigger trauma inside me.
Career counseling is a natural idea as is being a trainer. Both combine my love of people, my expertise, education, and helping in a very tangible–less soul crushing way. I think I’d be good at it.
On the other hand–is it enough? Is it big enough? Is that what I’m here to do?
I don’t think so. They’re jobs, and maybe they’re jobs I’d love or at least tolerate. But that restless part of me that is my father craves something else.
The thing is–so does that other part of me. I just call it something else.
Freedom from suffering. It’s a key need I have that stems from all of it. That’s why I want stability. Because I’m sick of suffering and being afraid.
And let’s face it–stability, for me, is money. It’s that trauma of not being in charge of your life. Of not being seen. Of not being valued or worth anything.
I’m realizing that–to be happy–more than writing a list of things I like and things I hate–I need to address those common things.
I need to be able to rely on things. I need the comfort and the foundation that money brings. But moreso, money is a barometer of worth and respect. It shows value. People pay for what they respect and value. You accept what you feel you’re worth. And while I’ve never been a money person–at least that’s what I said–the truth is I’ve always been a money person because I gauged my success and worth on those numbers. And those numbers determined how hard I worked and what I could do with my life. Things like school and supporting others. The days of accepting less than what I’m worth have to stop. It’s abuse and neglect–from them and me.
And I have to feed that side of myself that craves play and fun and challenge. I’m not a fucking dandelion. No shade to dandelions–they’re beautiful–but they’re weeds. They survive best in chaos and are always less than. I’m done with chaos. I’m done with less than. I’m a goddamn sunflower. I’ve always been the one who stood out in my own quirky way without any pretense or cliche. Strong and proud and beaming with a generous soul. That is my functional everything. Bravely reaching for the light–balancing vibrancy with the darkness inside. Protecting and inspiring others just by being. Happy. And my work should reflect all those layers. It should not be about hustling or fixing or saving. It should be a true expression of my joy and my soul.
I think I know what it is I need. And of course it has many arms. And I’ve had some of these ideas before. They weren’t wrong. I just wasn’t seeing them because I couldn’t see me.