I am…

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The question, ‘Who am I?’ has been asked several times recently.  I don’t think I’ve ever liked that question.  I’ve spent most of my life trying to be what others expected…I never really learned who I was.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Throughout my journey the last few years, I have let go of parts of me that were means of survival or the expectations of others; and I have discovered parts of the real and true me.  So, why do I still hesitate to answer the question of who I am?

I made two lists tonight – one titled ‘who I am’ and one titled ‘who I want to be’.  Though there are a couple of things on the ‘who I want to be’ list that I hope to be able to add to the ‘who I am’ list eventually, there is one main and very importance difference between the two lists – confidence.  When pressed to describe myself, I can come up with a list of qualities; some biological, some talent/enjoyment related, some hard wiring, but all a part of who I am.  As I look at the list, I feel more connected to certain qualities than others.  It’s easy for me to say I’m a daughter and female because that is biological fact.  To say I am a dancer and a writer takes very little because I have done both for most of my life, and they are as much a part of who I am as the fact that I have brown eyes.  But some of the qualities on the list are harder for me to completely claim.  Some are because there were so many expectations for me to be something different, and some are because I was taught that I could never possess those qualities.  The main issue, though, is confidence.  That is the one thing missing from the list of who I am, and it is stopping me from being who I want to be.

In my future, I hope that I am able to say that I am a mother and a wife, but these things would never stop me from being who I want to be.  I will still be whole and complete without these things.  I desire them greatly, but they are things that are not fully in my control.  Lack of confidence will stop me from being whole and complete, and it is something fully within my control.  It is my choice, and only my choice, to step into who I am – to claim myself and to love myself.  The only expectation being placed on me is to be who I am.  I am no longer in a space of needing to just survive.  The world is open to me.  I can thrive.  I just need to believe in who I am.

 

 

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Crossing The Bridge

I have a fear of heights.  Actually, I have a fear of just about everything.  I don’t like to feel out of control.  As a kid, I never really enjoyed those play structures at the park.  Monkey bars were never my thing – I prefer my feet firmly on the ground.  I liked to swing, but not too high, and never would I jump off the swing no matter how much friends encouraged/challenged me or seemed to enjoy doing it.  I didn’t care for slides (though that might have been because I was pushed off the top of one when I had managed to gather enough courage to climb up the ladder).  Mostly, though, I didn’t like the bridge that connected one side of the play structure to the other.  If it would have been a stable, strong connection, that would have been okay.  But those bridges were always the ones that swung, rattled, and shook with every step you took.  As I said, I prefer my feet ‘firmly’ on the ground.  Every once in a while, when no one else was on the bridge, I would try to make my way across the bridge very slowly.  Intellectually, I knew that the bridge would hold me – I watched enough kids run across it – but I’m someone who has a hard time trusting what I haven’t fully experienced.  I would take a few steps across the bridge and begin to feel a little more ‘stable’ just as some wild child would go running past me, shaking the bridge and causing me to freak out.  I’m not really sure that I ever made it across one of those bridges, but I do know that I’ve helped kids across several times, recognizing the fear and wanting to ensure they had what I didn’t – a hand to hold.  Those bridges still freak me out as an adult.  Which is probably why the visual God has chosen to put in my head is of that stupid bridge.

When I was a kid, I was never really a kid.  I had to grow up really fast, and though my wiring lent itself to a natural maturity, I was forced to exercise that maturity way too often.  In some ways, I don’t regret being a mature child.  It helped to develop some of my analytical skills that I very much rely on in my adult life.  But there are times that I really wish I could have been allowed to just be a child.  There is a little girl who was locked away just so I could survive and be sitting here today.  She never got to fully experience life, and neither did I.

I realized, a while back, that I need to reconnect with that child.  Without her, I am not whole.  In a lot of ways, she never got to grow up – and I sacrificed my childhood to protect her.  She is my emotional side.  I locked my emotions away with her so that we would all be protected.  Emotions were not allowed in our house so I did what I needed to do to survive.  After a while, I forgot about that little girl.  As I grew older, there seemed to be less and less of a need for her.  I missed her sometimes, but I knew it wasn’t safe for her to come out yet.  Over the years, it became ‘normal’ to not feel anything, and I eventually lost touch with that little girl.  The time has come to reconnect, but I don’t know how.

She stands on the other side of the bridge, and there is a part of me that thinks, “She’s safer over there.  If I bring her over here, she’ll have to relive all of those emotions.  And what if I’m still not ‘allowed’ to express my emotions?  She can keep them safer over there.”  Of course, that’s really just an excuse.  At the end of the day, it’s me that is ‘safer’ with her across the bridge.  I’m the one who doesn’t want to feel all of those emotions.  It’s me who wants to stay in control.  Mostly, it’s me who is afraid to cross that bridge and bring her back.  Not only is the footing not ‘firm’, but there is plenty waiting to stop me, distract me, and push me back to the ‘safe’ side of the bridge.

I’ve dug my heels in lately, not really wanting to explore this next path God has for me.  We had a conversation about it recently.  God said He wants me to cross the bridge.  I said, “I can’t.”  He asked, “Why?”  I told him that I was scared.  He asked,”Why?”

We went back and forth for a while, with His only response being, “Why?”  Finally, I said, “I feel like I’m talking to a toddler.”  He said, “So do I.  Stop being so stubborn, and go meet another part of the person I created you to be.”

I know it’s time to cross the bridge.  I’m just not sure I can make it across.  But I cannot be whole without her.  She deserves to be free.  I deserve to be whole.

 

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Standing At The Door

 

In the past two years, my life has changed so much.  Internally, I am not the same person.  Externally, however, not a lot has changed.  I have conquered huge fears and drastically decreased my normal level of anxiety in the last two years.  I have reconnected with parts of myself that were locked away or buried for most of my life.  I see myself in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself before.  I have stepped outside my comfort zone and embraced change.  But it doesn’t feel like anything has really changed.  I still feel so alone.  I still feel like I don’t have many options for support or to simply share parts of my life.  I have no regrets, and I would never go back, but Hope has taken a major blow.  There are several ‘possibilities’ in my life right now – things that could be very good in time – but it’s so hard to hope.  And I’m standing at the door of more internal change, and I wonder, ‘Is it really worth it?’

That major blow to Hope has allowed Fear to step back in and dictate my choices.  I can look back over the last two years and see so many times that I was able to set Fear aside and step out into the unknown.  To follow my heart and have faith that I would be ok.  It would be reasonable to think that those experiences would build upon each other and help me to overcome my fears as I face the next set of changes in my life.  Those things turned out ok (way better than ok in most cases) so why wouldn’t the next changes follow suit?  Normally, I am a very logical person, but irrational fear is not logical.  Hope has stepped aside and Fear has taken over.  It may not be rational or logical, but it is real.

Today is Father’s Day.  In the past couple of years, I’ve come to the realization that I really hate holidays.  It truly bothers me that I feel that way.  I don’t want to hate holidays, but I can’t seem to shake that feeling.  What good are holidays if you have no one to celebrate with?  I have no family, and in all honesty, I’ve never had one.  That fact plays a part in both my desire to have a family and the fear that stops me from pursuing that.

I never had a true connection to my biological family.  I know they did the best they could, and I don’t doubt that they love me.  I fully realize that it could have been much worse, but there was no investment made to build any sort of relationship during my childhood.  Today, my ‘family’ is not much more than a group of strangers.  For so long, I’ve dreamed of having a family of my own.  I wanted that connection – people to share life with; the good & the bad.  I desperately long to know what it feels like to be someone’s priority – to know there is someone who will dance with me when good things happen and hug me when I cry.  I don’t have that in my life, at least not on a consistent or even remotely regular basis.  It’s such a strong desire in my heart, but it’s so hard to truly hope for that.  I was taught that I don’t deserve that, and trying to unlearn that lesson has been a very difficult process.  It’s one of the reasons that I tend to find reasons to run when I sense there could be a chance of actually finding what I long for.  But a bigger reason for running is Fear.

Because I didn’t have a connection to my biological family, I’m scared of repeating the cycle.  I didn’t have a positive model of family or parenting.  What if it’s genetic?  I’m joking – sort of.  I realize that I will make mistakes as a wife and a parent.  Everyone does.  But do I really want to start a family if the only chance at life is the one I had growing up?  Even if I could get past my own childhood, what about the things I’ve experienced as an adult?  I have too many experiences that serve as evidence that the voices are right – I don’t deserve to have what my heart desires.

Like I said, there are ‘possibilities’ in my life that could drastically change how I feel about my life right now.  I’m going through the process and trying to not allow fear to trigger my flight instinct.  I’m trying to hold onto some sort of hope, but hoping scares me.  A family has been my desire for my entire life, and I have not truly experienced that.  I’m not sure how much longer I can keep hoping.  I know there are areas where I need to confront my irrational fears; to change my perspective of what happened in my past; to unlearn the things I was taught that caused me to believe the lies I hold onto.  But in this moment, the fear, sorrow, and loneliness are stronger  than I have the energy to fight.  But…I also know that tomorrow is another day, and for now that’s all I need to know.

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I’ll See Your ‘What If’s’, And Raise You A ‘Remember’

I don’t really play poker.  I love card games, but I never really learned poker.  I understand the concept; I just didn’t really know anyone who played.  I’m also not a gambler.  Most likely, my control issues and having no desire to take risks play a part in that.  But I seem to have found myself in the middle of a poker game.

I was driving home last night, thinking about all of the ‘excuses’ not to step outside my comfort zone.  What if this doesn’t work?  What if it only makes things worse?  What if it’s not the right time?  What if I can’t do it?  I know how this usually plays out – I know that logically, the things I want aren’t likely to happen.

That’s when I heard, ‘I’ll see your ‘what if’s’, and raise you a ‘remember’.

It was one of those statements that made me think, ‘I’m really not going to like where this ends up…’

So…you don’t want to write a job proposal or do anything with it because you think you know how things will turn out.  No one will really care about what you have to say or there will be too much red tape to make it happen.  But what is the real reason?  Fear.  Remember:  October 8, 2010 – You walked away from your job with nothing else lined up.  Two months later, you were hired back to the exact same job.  You didn’t think that would happen either for some of the same reasons.  How did those two months change you?  What made you enjoy the exact same job you were so ready to leave?  Where would you be right now had you not taken the steps outside your comfort zone to either leave or go back?  You overcame the fear, and things turned out fine – just different than what you expected.

You don’t want to pursue a relationship because you think you know how it will turn out.  It doesn’t fit into the expectations you created.  It doesn’t fit into your comfort zone.  Those inconveniences will ultimately make the relationship impossible for the long term so you want to end it before it even begins.  But what’s the real reason?  Fear.  Remember:  Russia – That relationship should have never happened from a logical standpoint.  It may not have ended the way you would have liked, but you can’t deny there’s a reason it happened.  Where would you be if you had gotten married?  What if you had never admitted that you were interested in a relationship at all?  You stepped outside your comfort zone, and it may not have been perfect, but you learned and grew – just not in the ways you expected.

And let’s not forget the beach in Monterey.  You set aside fear and discovered a part of you that had been locked away for a very long time.  You took that next step in your journey and discovered that what you had been taught were some pretty big lies.  How does it feel to be living in that freedom?  You took a risk to search inside yourself, and you found beauty and strength – not at all what you expected.

Why do you still let fear win?

I’ll see your ‘what if’s’, and raise you a ‘remember’.  It’s your call.  Will you go all in or will you fold?

 

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There Has To Be A Better Way…

I really had no intention of writing this post.  There are so many other things I’d rather write about – which may very well be the reason I’m sitting here writing.

Do you ever feel like you’re the pawn in some huge cosmic game?  I’ve felt that in so many areas of my life in the last few years.  The build up of hope (which is not something that happens easily these days…) followed by the inevitable disappointment.  I realize that some of that is a control thing – I like feeling in control of my immediate environment.  I like knowing the answers.  It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned.  But, in one area of my life, the ‘game’ has gone well beyond frustration.  It sucks – it hurts.  I wonder if it’s even worth it anymore…but that goes directly against the desire of my heart.  So do I keep playing the game or do I pretend that I don’t really want what I’ve wanted for so long?

I never dreamed that I’d be 37 and still single.  It kills me that I’ve been saying that same thing for about 10 years.  I HATE being single.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of the benefits to being single.  I’m just tired of them.  My desire is, and always has been, to be married.  There was a time when I couldn’t admit that to myself or anyone else because it would mean admitting and connecting to the emotions that are tied to that.  Before I moved here, I had other people around me who understood those emotions and struggles.  I haven’t really had that here – which just makes me feel isolated and in the middle of that ‘game’.

As of May 9, 2012, the online dating industry has an annual revenue of $1.049 billion (clearly, I’m in the wrong business…).  17% of marriages began by meeting online.  An additional 20% of committed relationships began online.  Since 2006, approximately 40 million people have tried online dating sites.  I personally know people who have met someone online (spouse or committed relationship).  It is simply normal in today’s world to turn to online dating sites to find the person you’re looking for.

I first started looking online almost five years ago.  There have been stretches of time when I didn’t pay any attention to them, but I’ve mostly been a regular on many of the sites.  I live in an area that is highly populated by families, making it difficult to meet single men.  Even though I know I’m living where I’m supposed to be living, the reality of this area being mostly families adds to the ‘game’ feeling.  There aren’t a lot of options to meet other singles, so I’m online.

Of course, all I’ve really found online are more games.  There’s a guy who sparked some interest until he admitted he was married.  He emails me every once in a while to see if I’ve changed my mind about dating a married man. Um…yeah, aside from all of my other issues with it, I want to get married so dating a married man would make sense…

I can’t date a guy who smokes because smoke makes me physically sick.  A guy contacted me, and his profile said he smokes.  I asked him about it (thinking there was a chance he was trying to quit), and he said, ‘Yeah, I know your profile says you can’t date someone who smokes, but I didn’t think you were serious.  Everyone lies on these things.’  Really?  What exactly are you lying about, and what’s the point of trying to find someone if you’re misrepresenting who you are?

A guy that I wasn’t interested in kept emailing me over and over.  He told me that I should be interested in him because he was a member of MESA.  I asked him what MESA was.  His response was, ‘MESA is an organization for geniuses.’  Oh, you mean MENSA…sorry, you may be too intelligent for me.  I finally had to tell him that I rented from a cop so he should really stop stalking me.

It’s hard to tell a little about yourself on profiles.  A few sentences can’t really describe a person.  I often put something at the end of my profile like, ‘Feel free to ask me anything.’  Here is a word for word response I got recently:  ‘Yea, I’ll ask you something, how did you get so ugly?!! Why don’t you go back to Iowa where you belong!! We don’t need your kind of Midwestern White Trash out here!!‘  The cool thing is that not too long ago, that would have actually bothered me – a lot.  But I don’t care about the words – just that it’s another play in the ‘game’.

I used to have a picture of me & a friend on my profile.  It wasn’t my main picture, but I like to put other pictures up that show a little of who I am and what’s important to me.  A guy contacted me and said, ‘Is your friend single?’

I have a difficult time with the concept of long distance relationships.  If I build trust with someone & then there is distance – that I understand.  But to try and truly know someone and build trust when you can’t spend regular time with someone…that doesn’t work for me.  I know there are people who have made that situation work, but I’m not wired in a way that would be conducive to that.  I need to spend time with someone to really get to know who they are (and for them to know me).  Apparently, that’s not normal because no one seems to understand it.

For the first time in my life, I believe that I have something to offer.  I have a confidence that I never had before.  But there’s a part of me that wonders, ‘Does it matter?’  Will I ever find someone who is willing to take the time to know that?  Will I find someone who will make all the ‘games’ worth it?  Or is it easier to just pretend that it doesn’t matter – that I’m ok with being single?

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Contradictions…AKA – Get off your lazy butt and stop running

   Leave it to me to find a way to be lazy and run fast and hard at the same time.  Contradictions are a huge part of who I am.  I am a creature of habit.  I like to be in a routine (a big reason I’m not enjoying my hour drive toLodi– I’m completely out of routine).  On the other hand, I am a procrastinator who thrives on an element of chaos.  There is never a moment that my mind is not working.  Things randomly pop into my head even when (or maybe especially when) I am deeply focused on what I am currently doing.  This has become routine to me.  I have begun to understand that this is my ‘normal’.  Within that ‘normal’, I am learning that almost every aspect of my personality contradicts another.  I am finding that there is beauty (and, sometimes, advantages) in these contradictions.  But…sometimes, they are still just frustrating.

My degree is in Accounting, but my biggest passion in life is dance.  One day, I will do math problems and spreadsheets to relax, and the next…scrapbook and wrap presents.  I can write technical instructions or real life experiences one day, and then poetry or a drama script the next.  When I cook, I have to measure everything exactly, but I refuse to make my bed, and I can’t work when my desk is too clean.  I absolutely love kids, but I do not want any of my own.  I am a rule follower, but I will rebel if I feel that I’m being labeled or made to fit in a box (or the rule holds more tradition than logic).  I hate change & do not consider myself a risk taker, but I have willingly brought change upon myself, stepping into risk because I believed it was the right thing to do.  And I have found that the things I want most in life are the very things that cause the most fear and anxiety.

There has been a question that has been running through my mind since my time on the beach in Monterey last October.  ‘What do you want?’  Though follow up questions have changed, that original question has remained constant.  There are several things that I want in my life right now, but the answer to most of the follow up questions (What’s stopping you?; Why aren’t you moving more aggressively toward that?) is fear.  There was a time when that fear was just around the belief that I didn’t deserve those things so why even try.  Recently, though, that fear has changed a little.  There’s still an element of fearing that I don’t really deserve what I want, but the fear is more strongly tied to what happens if I actually get what I want.  What if I can’t handle everything that comes with being in a relationship?  What if I’m not good enough to do the job I really want?  The fear has shifted from me being disappointed to me disappointing others. 

 I know that I am standing at a door.  I hate doors.  They represent choices.  They represent change.  They represent the unknown.  I don’t like any of those things.  So I sit at the door and stare at it, hoping if I wait long enough, it will open so I can see what’s on the other side.  You’d think I’d be used to opening the door by now, but there’s a routine involved, and I like my routines.  I weigh all of my options and try to decide if what’s on the other side will be worth the energy it will take to open the door.

Last night, I was asked the question once again, ‘What do you want?’  My response, ‘You already know what I want,’ led to this conversation.

‘What are you going to do about it?’
‘I don’t know what I can do about it right now.’
‘Well, you could sit there on the couch, running from the fear – though I guarantee that no matter how long you stare at the door, you won’t be able to see through it – or you can get up, turn the handle, and walk through the door.’
‘What about…’
‘No.  Stay where you are or go through the door.  It’s your choice.  I love you either way, but you have to make the choice.  I can promise that you won’t open the door and get sucked into a black hole.  You won’t step off a cliff.  You won’t be locked in a prison cell.  But what is on the other side may not be exactly what you want.  It could be, but it could also be just another step in the journey.  Or it could be more than you could have imagined.  But making that discovery requires trust; it requires you to get off your lazy butt and stop running.  Face the fear…unless staying where you are is really what you want.  It’s your choice.’

Great…I hate doors…

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Loyalist

I went for a walk tonight and ended up writing in my head.  I got home and began typing those thoughts into a new post.  A few sentences in, however, I realized that I might want to write an introductory post first.

I love personality stuff.  I’m actually wired to love it.  My Myers Briggs personality type is INFJ.  You may not know what those letters mean, but that’s not important.  What is important is that an INFJ is someone who is constantly on a journey of self discovery.  We want to know ourselves.  We strive to understand ourselves.  I love doing research on personality stuff, & Myers Briggs is a good personality indicator.  I’ve done presentations at work using Myers Briggs, and I love that.  But a few years ago, I discovered Enneagram.  It’s another personality type indicator, but it focuses more on emotions and relationships.  If you like personality stuff, you should check it out.  My Enneagram personality type is a 6 – The Loyalist.  In my next post, I plan to refer to a common trait of a 6 so I wanted to give you a little information about The Loyalist.  If you know me at all, you will recognize some of these traits.  (A lot of this material is taken from Discovering Your Personality Type by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson – really great book!)

Sixes desire stability, a safe environment, to cooperate and create with others.  They are disciplined, meticulous, and persevering.  Organizing resources, prioritizing tasks, and seeing projects through are great strengths.  Though they are not necessarily ‘group people’, they like the feeling of ‘belonging’ somewhere – to be a part of something greater than themselves.  Being of service, responsibility, reliability, hard work, and a sense of honor are extremely important.  Though sixes do their best to be solid and responsible, they are often troubled by doubt and anxiety.

Sixes know that when they make a commitment, they do so 110%.  Because of this, they look for assurance that the commitment is worth that energy.  They look for common ground and get nervous in situations where there are too many unknowns.  Fundamentally, sixes are looking for someone to trust because they do not trust themselves.  They do not have much faith in themselves and their own abilities so they look outside themselves for some sort of guidance and security.  In the long run, this only adds to their own mistrust.  They will keep bouncing back and forth between depending on others and trying to prove that they are tough and independent (one of many contradictions of a Loyalist).   Sixes want to have security, to feel supported by others, to have certitude and reassurance.  They do not want to feel abandoned, to feel pressured, to have to accept new ideas rapidly, or to have contradictory expectations placed on them.

Sixes often seem like highly organized and responsible people, but the hidden issue is that they are trying to calm their inner anxieties by trying to make their external world trouble free and predictable.  Ultimately, they know this is not possible, but they will persevere in the effort to make their world ‘safe’.   The real source of anxiety is internal and is perpetuated by their constantly churning thoughts (something I know nothing about…).  Sixes cannot stop second guessing themselves.  With their minds constantly revved up in a hypervigilant state, it is almost impossible to relax.  This is why it is important for sixes to find a space of inner quiet to recharge.

Sixes are full of contradictions.  This is something I will explore a little more in my next post.  We can be dependent on others yet value independence.  We are obedient, yet disobedient.  We search for security, yet feel insecure.  I personally embody many contradictions.  And I’ve realized that it is within those contradictions that I learn the most about myself.  More to come…

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