This week I will celebrate my birthday. I have always loved birthdays. But my birthday last year was one full of turmoil after confronting my mom to have some space after six years of her forgetting my birthday and acting like it wasn’t significant. Its hard not to approach my day with a sense of “woah, a lot happens in a year” kind of mindset.
I have always written letters to my kids on their birthdays (you can read one of them here http://finallyspeakingmytruth.com/2014/01/08/today-is-beautiful/). It is a time for me to reflect on how much they have grown in the past year, treasure those special moments that shine who they are, and ponder how they have made my life more fulfilling by watching their journey. So as one year of my life comes to an end and another is just beginning, I thought maybe I should write a letter to myself. To acknowledge the shitstorm that I’ve been battling, the things I’ve learned in the process, and the start my new year with a slight sense of encouragement from myself. For those of you who have been witnessing some of my flailing about this year, you know that supporting and nurturing myself do NOT come naturally. But here is my attempt. Fake it until you make it, right?
Dear birthday girl in the never ending life crisis,
Phew! You made it one more year. This year has shown you many challenges and left you with a few more battle scars that are getting harder to conceal. The year hasn’t been pretty to say the least. But those tumultuous roller coaster rides had an amazing way of showing the beauty in life and teaching you what is important in life. As much as you roll your eyes at that statement, you have learned that deep down that there is truth to that. These challenges have taught you some amazing lessons this year, often against your will.
One lesson that you still struggle with daily is to never apologize for your feelings. It’s human to have feelings. To deny your feelings is to deny your wholeness and your humanity. I’ll admit that sometimes those feelings are going to suck. It will feel like they’re are ripping a deep whole into your being. But feel them. Let them penetrate you instead of walling them off in some deep corner of your mind. For if you let them pass through they will open holes in your hard outer shell to allow you to see the profound beauty behind them. Once you find a way to open your heart to even those painful feelings, the beautiful feelings are able to reach your heart more as well. And the joy of your kids will embrace you in ways that you can’t fathom. Trust me, the bliss of your babes laughter and the sweetness of listening to them sing when they think no one can hear is totally worth even the deepest pain.
This has been a year of self care. You are gradually learning that it is ok to take a time out to take care of yourself and your family. It is ok to put your needs first. Letting go of all the ‘should’s’ and ‘supposed to’s’ that society has cast out over the world. Putting yourself first in that priority list. Unfortunately, that is often misinterpreted and judged as selfishness. Our society is really backwards sometimes, don’t you think? We set the bar high on Pinterest boards and Facebook photos of peaceful, happy superwomen reaching perfection with ease. You are encouraged to be so self-sacrificing and smile while continually putting others needs before your own. Then everyone is perplexed when you feel empty and lost. It’s ok to shake of that heavy guilt and tune out the judgments and unrealistic standards in order to hear your own heart again.
It has been of year of testing relationships and friendships. Some have faded and dwindled as a result. Fortunately, none out of anger or harsh judgement, more out of misunderstanding. But some relationships have thrived and grown beyond expectations. Sometimes you test people and they turn away from the challenge, but others can rise to the occasion. You can bare your underbelly with an outstretched arm, and they see your wholeness and grab tight to your hand in return. But somehow even when people meet you where you are, you still manage to be terrified. Sometimes you need to learn to take things at their face value and stop chanting that old mantra of yours. You know the one… The one that says your undeserving of others kindness and even makes you suspicious of others intentions. That mantra is a haunting from your past. And sticking to it will keep you spinning in your never ending circles. If you want to breakout of that rut, you may need to find a new mantra.
Speaking of that circle you’re spinning in. You’re doing so in the comfort of those strong walls you’ve built around you. I’ve noticed you’ve knocked some bricks down in the process. Did you notice nothing horrible happened? In fact, some people have been able to reach their hands in to hold yours. Grab on to those hands. Even if it is just while you sit on the floor in the safety on your wall. Sometimes just sitting still with others can be healing as well. I know letting those walls come down is scary. You don’t need a wrecking ball to break down all at once. Brick by brick is ok too.
Funny thing about those walls and starting to take them down. Those walls you’ve built have served some great purposes. But you may have just built them in the wrong places and reinforced haphazardly. No one will be warm and supportive all the time. That is unrealistic. But some people? Some people throw a heavy cloak of shame and guilt over your shoulders to lighten their own load. You know those select few. Sometimes it’s ok to draw a line in the sand to protect yourself. Hell, forget a line in the sand and dig a moat. A big moat full of alligators and whatever else you may need to keep that moat protected. But don’t dig that moat out of anger or bitterness. That is letting their negativity reach over those waters to still invade your heart. Do so with a parting warm embrace. They are also on their own journey. Respect their journey just as you are asking them to respect yours. Just do so with a supportive wave from the safety across your moat.
Never let others dictate your path. They will never know all the nooks and crannies of your story just like you will never be able to fully grasp theirs. Many have good intentions, but can’t see the pieces of yourself that you have hidden deep in the shadows. Take what help you can that they are offering, but it’s is ok to save some of their advise for another day. Others may say things to try to alter your journey as a way to make their path a little more comfortable. But you are not responsible for other peoples’ happiness. Read that again. Do NOT carry others happiness on your shoulders. But unfortunately that goes both ways. You can’t keep waiting until ‘he just does this’ or ‘she stops doing that’ to find your own inner peace. Relying on others to fix things or rescue you could leave you waiting in that darkness far too long. Get your big girl pants on and pull up your own boot straps. Take a deep breath and dive in at your own pace to the murky swamp in your head. It’s your mess to clean up in order to reach the happiness that is hidden below.
This upcoming year will likely only add to your challenges and push you in ways you can’t yet predict. It is a race only against yourself. You can drain yourself by spinning in circles or try stepping forward in your journey. A balance of staying in the safety of your darkness and taking the risk of vulnerability out in the sunshine. The race is long. Harder than a dozen marathons. But you’re another year older. No one knows what twists and turns this year will bring with it. The only thing certain is the clock ticking forward. Hopefully with the added digits to your age you can uncover some wisdom.
Your wiser self that keeps kicking you in the ass to get moving