Years ago–when I still watched things on VHS from a tiny television in my bedroom–I watched a movie called Sliding Doors. It quickly became a forever favorite. The idea behind the movie is basically the many paths life can take just because of small things that seemingly mean nothing–shit like missing a train or making that train.
I’m kinda obsessed with such stories. A lot of what my favorite writer, Paul Auster, writes about is the seemingly random way life creates profound change. In my life, these random tidbits–the smallest choices–have often changed everything. A lot of it, though, is being ready to receive the message.
I’ve often wondered who I would’ve been if xyz hadn’t happened. Of course, we usually think of it in terms of the big things. Who was I before my father died? Had he lived, would my life have been somehow different?
Of course it would be.
For years now, I’ve been convinced that his death was my salvation. That I lived because he couldn’t. That his living was killing me.
A lot of what I do in therapy is something called inner child work. Things that involve rescuing the child I was from the trauma I endured. Or giving the child I was the ability to speak to those who are gone forever. A lot of my healing comes from talking to my father as the six year old child I was. The first time I did it, it was surprising–this conversation–mostly because–as hurt as this girl was–talking to him again was joyful.
And I realized back then that I’d been stifling the parts of him that are me for quite some time.
2017 has been a hard year for me, like it’s been for many. I laughed yesterday at this quiz I took a year ago–something that FB reminded me about–a Trump quiz predicting your life if he won the election. My result was “roughed up.” I laughed because–so roughed up. But not because of Trump. Mostly because of me.
I’ve been crawling through a lot of depression this year. Last year was maybe the 2nd toughest years of my life. The first half of it was dealing with my cat’s multiple brushes with death, mostly alone, something that brought up unimaginable anxiety and grief in me. I somehow got her through that–fought for her so many times–and got her to a good place. Once that was over, I had to get my shit together and move from Colorado. I questioned if I should, almost every day. The Universe threw boulders in my path at every step. Nothing went as planned. It was like my exodus out of Westwood on steroids. It felt like Colorado would never let me go.
In the end, I found the courage to leave. But it was like a runaway train. Once we were on the road, landing in this new place was a violent wreck. And I’ve been trying to recover myself ever since. Crawling through the shrapnel that was my life created chasms of despair and fear. The old shit was all over the place, ready to cut me in two if I let it.
For a while, I stayed still–made a home in the bits and pieces of my life. I didn’t move much. I was gathering strength, in a way. I do this. I did this. I recognized this.
When big shit happens, I control things. Mostly myself because that’s what I can control. I go inside, big time. It may look like something else, but this is me–repairing myself. I did it after TFA. I’m sure my boyfriend at the time thought I was crazy. It must’ve been hard living with me. I remember, when I wasn’t at work those days, I would lay in my bed–numbing out to countless cooking shows and design shows and other bits of reality TV. I wasn’t really watching them, though. I was rebuilding my life–in my head. Resting. Unplugging from the universe for a bit. Which meant–to a large degree–shutting him out. Shutting everyone out. Not moving forward. Not engaging. Licking my wounds. And the sad thing is? I didn’t know I was doing it. Couldn’t explain it, really. There was no way to share it with him. It was mad survival mode.
I’ve been in that space since September, really, though there’s been less TV. I’ve done more to be present. But I cut off a lot of myself from people. I did make a few friends in that space, but that was more of a coincidence. They were my lifelines–people I could hold onto because they weren’t connected to what was going on.
This year, I’ve been grappling with a lot of things. A changing friendship. Accepting and changing isolation and loneliness. A nearly unbearable work situation. Financial struggle. A whole lot of physical pain. And crippling self-worth.
I’ve confronted all of these things in pretty profound ways. I’ve grown a lot. But there is always so much more to do. And all of it resulted in this heavy cloud over me. This urgent call to fix my life. Now.
Fixing is sort of my thing. It’s what I do. What I’ve done. Always. And I’m sick of it.
Earlier this month, my roommates left for what seemed like a crazy long time–but it wasn’t really. I had longed for that uninterrupted time alone. Which is odd because I’m normally alone. And I was much less alone than I normally am when they were away.
I did a lot of driving while they were gone. Mostly because I was dealing with pain. Dental pain still. I think it may actually be resolved as of today–but that’s still touch and go. I also just left to explore the neighborhood. I now actually know where I am when I’m here and how to get home. Other than calling a Lyft. It’s made a huge difference. I still don’t love San Jose. I must say that. But knowing that and having it be based in something real–instead of my reaction to it not being Colorado–is important.
All the things that I had accepted about myself–because others put their labels for me on me–or because I had just accepted them without any thought…well, those changed. Like I’m not a bad driver. I drive just fine. I’m just not like him. And that makes him nervous. And stupid shit like hating In and Out. I actually like their burgers. Turns out, I just needed to find a better location.
And bigger things–like I’m unlovable. Like trying to find love is a waste of time.
Maybe because I felt more free, more of the types of people I want to connect with showed up. And no–I didn’t meet my love connection. But I pinpointed more of what I wanted and what I don’t want. I saw my patterns and set boundaries and let go of what was heavy before it broke me.
This past month has helped me close some doors. Doors that were really hard to close. And I’m sure there’ll be grief there–maybe I worked through some of it on the road. Driving has always been this healing thing for me.
Anyway, I feel like I finally crawled out of the depression I’ve been in–with a healthy sense of myself and good boundaries in place.
And then some random thing showed up in my life and cracked me open again. The past has a way of doing that.
I was watching a TV show. I haven’t watched much lately. Work has been insane, and I’ve been out a lot. But there it was–even more bizarre because I always skip the commercials. I think it was one of those online shows that make you watch them. And for once, I didn’t have my phone in my hand.
I first noticed the song…a favorite of mine. Then that it was opening on my birthday. I’m a believer in signs. No coincidences. So, I perked up. Like I somehow knew this was something I needed.
I had heard about The Glass Castle years ago. I even put it on my wishlist at some point. But if you had asked me on Monday what it was about, I wouldn’t have been able to say. And when I read the description, I don’t remember saying–“Oh, I have to read that book.” But there I was–laying in my bed–BAWLING MY EYES OUT.
This trailer had ripped out my heart, gutted me, and then fed it back to me.
I’ve watched it several times since, and I’m just as awed by its effect on me. Full-on weeping.
This movie is based on a memoir and basically tells the story of a dysfunctional family. It’s a story of chaos and magic. And while many of the details are different–at a heart level–this is my story. Woody Harrelson channels my father in ways that instantly shattered me. The way he embraces his freedom–the way he refers to clinging to the edges–the way he talks about cutting through the noise–fuck. Even the adult daughter is basically who I was in my 20s. And there’s this scene where she has this come to Jesus moment with her dad…and it’s basically stuff I’ve told my father in my inner child sessions.
I’m even crying right now.
I needed that reminder. I am my Daddy’s daughter. I do not cling to the edges. I cut through the noise. I show the fuck up. My story is chaotic and weird and hard. But it’s damn interesting. And mine.
But hers, too.
It reminded me of something–something I left behind long ago in my quest to survive.
That moment–that gutted, wailing moment watching that 2 minute trailer reminded me of the power of story–the one thing that has always been mine. How we can live different lives, but share the same experience of suffering. How our lives are intertwined. How we can make meaning.
It reminded me of something really important–something lost in the noise of surviving. I am, at my core, a meaning maker. And all of these things I’ve done to earn a living have been fine, to some extent, but I am a creator–above all else. I am not a fucking fixer. Life made me a fixer, but that is not who I am.
I want bigger shit because I crave meaning. Because I need to create. Because I am an artist. And I will wither and die if I don’t let that part of me exist.
My whole life, I’ve tried to contain that part of me because it was dangerous. It was dangerous because I couldn’t control it. Because it was emotional and raw. It was fun and real and happy.
The day I watched that trailer, I gave myself permission to be that person. And I gave myself permission to leave that fixer behind.
While I will always struggle with wanting to help, I give myself permission to not be anyone’s savior. Saving myself is enough.
For weeks–hell, for my whole life–I’ve struggled with purpose. Or rather, with the idea of making my purpose stable and acceptable.
Creative beings are so needed in this world, but we live in a world that stifles them and makes them play nice. It’s why I abandoned that part of myself.
I’ve had this idea for a path for a long time. But it was always this stepping stone to support that other thing. But what if I could harness my desire to help and do it in a way that didn’t mean abandoning myself?
What if I could take the million ideas I have and make something beautiful that helps people live their lives better and more engaged?
I have a plan. I didn’t even have to list out anything to figure it out. It just felt like the obvious choice. And oddly, I’m here–in the best place to execute that plan. It’s just a matter of doing it. Which–yes–costs money. And takes time.
So, in the meantime–I have some choices to make. Do I keep doing what I’ve been doing? I like this work. I don’t like this narrative. I’ve worked hard and have a great reputation I can translate powerfully to get to a place that at least feels better. So, how do I make it work for me? How do I use this situation to my advantage?
Those things that felt too small? Well, they were. But they may be good rest stops. Alternative realities. Like my TFA rungs.
It’s not enough, though, to rely on someday to save me today. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someday. It’s unkind and unrealistic.
So, here is the get real moment. My purpose–my path–isn’t going to save me. Maybe there is no such thing as saving. And I will get nowhere if I’m drowning in paralysis and misery. My life–even if I’m not living my truth–cannot be predicated upon my job. WTF?! My life needs to be about my life. And not how I’m useful to the world.
It needs to be rooted in self-care and self-worth and love and joy and peace.
I give myself permission–once and for all–to let go of usefulness and salvation.
My only responsibility here is to pursue joy. That’s it. That’s the barometer.
So, while it’s great to have a regular paycheck, I’m not getting up at 4 am for conference calls that are useless. They will just manage without me. I am not working through lunch. I am not staying late. As of Tuesday, that shit is done.
I am done believing what people say. I realize what people say? It’s their intentions–not who they are. I see who you are. I won’t mistake it or hope for something else. My pursuit of joy here? Not letting anyone’s words change my understanding of their actions.
A boundary, yea?
I am done letting anyone else’s actions or words dictate my own. Your expectations have nothing to do with me. I will unpack when I’m able to. I will not communicate when to you unless asked. You are not the boss of me. I will not tiptoe around my own home. I will cook when I feel like cooking, and you can adjust.
I will move when my body feels like moving and rest when it doesn’t. But mostly, I will stop giving my time and attention to shit that drains me. Because draining me stops my ability to create.
I feel really good about all of this.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap.