Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Know My Own Strength



"You're a strong woman. Act like it."

These are the words I said to my reflection in the bathroom mirror a couple of days ago. Staring back at myself, I looked into my own eyes, pointed my finger at my reverse image and told myself it's time.

There have been days lately where I've felt like an Elizabethan criminal, being torn apart in four different directions by four horses. There have been days I've felt literally unable to go on, that my life had fallen apart so irreparably that my heart was simply going to stop beating. There have been days where the biggest struggle of my life were getting out of bed, putting on clean clothes and eating a Pop Tart, much less go to work and perform at my best. There have been days where I've actually considered Googling "Can you go blind from crying too much?"  (I haven't Googled it yet. I'm just hoping no.)

But it's time for all of that to stop. I'm a strong woman. It's time to act like it.

I'm not saying the grieving period has to be over. Grieving does its own thing and operates in its own time. There is no rushing the grieving process and no reason to try to do so. But wallowing has a shelf life, and that shelf life has expired.

I have learned a lot about myself in the past several months. I've learned that I can be arrogant and smug. I've learned that I can be horribly selfish. I've learned that I make mistakes and am no better than anyone else. (In truth, none of these things were truly new insights; I've always been my own harshest critic and have always seen myself as so far from perfect that it's plunged me into despair. But I have learned these things about myself in new ways recently.)  I've also learned that I haven't always been as independent as I thought myself. I've learned I am uncomfortable in my own skin. I've learned that I have an anxiety about solitude that is unhealthy. And I've learned that sometimes the people you thought were your closest friends are not, and ones you never thought would come through, do.

But I've also learned that I am strong and have more strength than I realize. I just have to believe it.

For the past four or five Octobers, having done the October Dress Project, I've emerged with a "theme" for the upcoming year - a word or phrase that sums up what I want to work on for the next 365 days. I didn't do ODP last year and never developed a theme for 2017. But I'm seeing a few themes emerge organically - healing and self-love.

This year, that's my goal. I have a lot of things from my life I need to heal from, and I need to grow to love myself by myself. I need to learn that from here on out, there is no one looking out for me except myself and therefore, I've got to be my own biggest fan and supporter.

A co-worker who has been divorced herself told me that after her divorce she committed to a year of loving herself. She didn't date anyone - didn't even entertain the thought - and just grew to know and love herself. She said it was the best thing she'd ever done, and now in her relationships she'll never be as vulnerable as she'd been in her first.

I've decided to do this as well, including making a commitment this year of getting out of my comfort zone, discovering who I am and what I like, and developing a genuine strength that goes deeper than just a thick outer shell. I have decided not to date or even think about dating for the rest of the year, so that I can focus on getting to know myself and my own needs. As I've grown older, I've become like an egg - hard on the outside but easily broken. I want to be more like a tree. Steadfast even at its core, but living, growing and changing, accepting the seasons of life with dignity and grace. Whether flowering or barren, it is unwavering.

I'm overcoming my fear of planning and doing things alone. I am taking back the power to decide how I feel rather than let others control that. I am giving myself space to make mistakes and be imperfect. I am learning to celebrate my wins instead of obsess over my losses. I am protecting my heart and identifying who I can truly trust and who it's okay to just be ordinary friends with (and who needs to go completely). 

This is going to be a long hike. It's going to take more than just one year; it will likely be a recurring, lifelong series of steps forwards and backwards. But the journey starts here, and it starts with these specific landmarks:

- I ran/walked (mostly walked) a half marathon, and I wasn't even the last person to cross the finish line! Thanks to the support and shared agony (the following evening was brutal) of my friend Elizabeth, I was able to cross this item off my bucket list. Crossing that finish line was a huge personal accomplishment for me, but more about the half marathon to come in another post.

- I am going to start camping again. Both with others but more importantly alone. I've always loved camping with friends, but I've never gone alone. Under the tutelage of my friend Chris (one of those unforeseen friends who has emerged as genuinely there for me no matter what) and his gorgeous wife Stacy, I'm going to learn how to camp alone (safely) and find peace within myself and in nature.

- I'm buying single tickets to events I really want to go to. I bought one ticket to see Quiet Company in Dallas the same weekend I'll be in Dallas to see Tripping Daisy. I have a spare Tripping Daisy ticket, but if I don't find anyone to go with me, I'll go alone to that too. 

(I almost bought a ticket to see David Sedaris in Little Rock next month, but upon checkout the $25 ticket turned into a $40 ticket after all the service fees. I haven't decided yet if David Sedaris - as much as I like his books - is worth $40 of my precious now-single income...)

- I bought a day planner, and I'm committing to things for myself and not just for other people. Someone else said recently that if something goes in his day planner, he's committed to it and does it. I didn't agree at first, but now that I have a day planner myself, I get it. I've set aside days to go hiking  or out of town and days to treat myself. And I'm sticking to them, because I'm worth my own time and commitment as much as anyone is worth it. I don't make a habit of cancelling on other people, so why would I cancel on myself?

I'm excited about my year of self-love and healing. I'm excited to nurture good friendships and make new ones. I'm looking forward to spending some time on my own, learning to love myself and care for myself. I'm throwing out my shame boomerang - the inclination to constantly replay and remind myself of my mistakes and my shortfalls and my errors over and over and over, no matter how many times I try to move past them. I'm going to try new things and find peace and contentment in my own company.

This is going to be a good year for me, in spite of all the sadness. I'm going to come out of this thing stronger and whole. I am a strong woman, and I'm going to act like it.

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