It dawned on me a few years ago that I had been spending a good portion of my time catering in one form or another to what everyone else needed, wanted, or expected of me.
In a few instances – motherhood, a job, etc. – those things are somewhat necessary, to an extent, but in others it is just downright unacceptable.
When I realized how many things I had set aside and how much of my happiness had come to simply depend on someone else being happy, it made me cringe a little. Ok, a lot.
But how do you go about changing the mindset that everyone else has to come first? That their schedules are more important than yours? That their happiness is more important than yours?
That in order for someone to fully love you, you’ve got to be exactly what they want/need you to be at all times?
How do you convince yourself that you aren’t just being selfish or self-absorbed by wanting your own needs to be met, or catered to, or even acknowledged as more than just some pipe dream that’s severely off-center from reality? And how do you figure out exactly what your needs are when you’ve pushed them aside for so long?
I grew up in households where encouragement wasn’t something that was offered freely or on a regular basis (if even at all). By the time I was a teenager, expressing myself through writing and drawing was all that I knew. I lived and breathed by it. Any form of creative outlet that made me feel accomplished, that would stifle the typical onslaught of teenage angst, was perfect for me.
I still remember nervously sharing some of my poetry with one of my parents once and being asked, after they were finished reading, why it was that I only wrote from my own point of view. As if it were somehow selfish that I didn’t lace myself up into someone else’s shoes and speak with their voice when I barely even knew myself or had a voice of my own.
I stopped sharing it with anyone outside of the occasional close friend (and a trusted teacher here and there) for many years.
In roughly 2003, I started a LiveJournal account (for those not familiar, it was/is a social platform where you could/can add people much like Facebook, only you’re reading their journal versus just their wonderfully hyper-glossed post updates. In other words, reality versus what people want you to see as their reality.), where I poured every piece of my soul after a shitty relationship culminated into a shitty marriage and ended in a shitty divorce. I was young, and naïvely believed that marriage would improve our problems with insecurities and would prove our love for one another, when ultimately it served to make things worse on that front, along with several others.
After the divorce, I still maintained that account up until around 2010, after my last son was born. In that time, I learned how to communicate with others in ways that could bridge gaps of understanding and how to really convey things that I’d never been able to prior; basically, how to somewhat do the “human being” thing that seemed to come so easily to everyone else. Because verbally expressing myself to anyone has always been a weak spot for me (and one I view as a huge character flaw for the simple fact that any time I try, regardless of the emotions I am feeling at the time of attempt, I end up crying. It’s a bit ridiculous.), but now…? I could at least write it.
2011 found me starting this blog, joining a writing community, and exercising the ever-loving hell out of a gift I thought just maybe I still had within: the gift of creating, of telling a story in a way that would capture the reader’s attention.
I was off work for a year, and I utilized that time as much and as often as I could. I took up photography. I wrote like crazy. The encouragement of the community I was in fueled me, made me reach deeper and push harder to get to places I hadn’t tended to in years.
Outside of that community, I had some support from a few others, but no real encouragement, and believe me, there is a huge difference.
I was thriving creatively, but floundering in every other aspect. And then, when I went back to work at the end of 2011, it all crashed down around me.
2012 through 2016 found me losing myself in unhealthy relationships. Literally losing myself. I didn’t take time for me. I did what was asked of me, expected of me, and sometimes what I was given ultimatums to do. It’s a hard patch of ground to re-sow once it’s been poisoned that much, but I’m working on it (and dying for warm weather so I can finally get my camera back out!).
I’m still not entirely sure I’ve found “me” again yet, but I know that girl is in there and I know she’s itching to come out.
All she needs is a little encouragement.