Monday, October 8, 2007

Another Chapter

This was the final chapter of my book. It's a favorite of mine. I'll be interested to know what you think of it.

As a very wise woman once told me, “You can change.” I changed. It’s harder than hell but it can be done. The most difficult part is convincing people who have known you for years that you have actually changed. Many people don’t like change and don’t deal with it very well. They cling to the past as if to a lifebuoy, afraid of what’s ahead even if what’s behind was worse.
People try to keep you in the past, or continue to make references to how you were instead of letting you move forward. They don’t necessarily do it maliciously. They may not even realize that what they’re saying or how they’re acting is hurtful. They haven’t come to terms with their past experiences and allowing you to move forward would force them to deal with their own issues. I understand this and am happy to have found a way out of the maze. I try to live in the present, not the past or the future. I try to live every day as if it’s the only day that matters because it just may be.

Changing is a constant struggle and requires unwavering attention and introspection. Sometimes to accomplish it, you have to distance yourself from your past. You have to put space between yourself and the memories of who you were. Sometimes that space requires a physical move – far away where you can start fresh without all the people around to remind you of how completely you screwed up your life. It can be emotionally isolating but also very liberating. It requires making a decision about what’s most important – placating other people, or making yourself happy.

I don’t blame anyone for my bad choices. That’s the easy thing to do and it shifts responsibility for my decisions to others. Once I left home the decisions I made were all mine. No one forced me to do anything. Some people influenced me more than others but no one controlled my mind. I accept full responsibility for everything that happened to me. I live every day with the knowledge of my past mistakes but I don’t suffer from them anymore. I learned from them and moved on to a much happier life.

I don’t see myself as selling out for not taking my family and others to task for what they did or said to me years ago. I see it more as me taking back control of my life. They no longer have the ability to make me feel bad or inadequate because I won’t let them. They have no more power over me and what I do or how I feel. My choices in life are no longer dictated by what they might think or feel about me.

People who aren’t content with themselves will never be content with another person. Dragging another person into my issues isn’t going to solve them. It’s just going to make two people miserable.

I haven’t forgotten anything from my past. That’s both a problem and an advantage of having a good memory. I remember everything – good and bad, funny and sad. No matter what emotion or circumstance, except for a few hours in Haiti, I remember it all. I remember the situations, the emotions that accompanied them and the pain they caused. However, I no longer feel the pain nor do I suffer from the memories. I learned how to put the pain away and have replaced it with the comfort of knowing I not only survived it, I grew and prospered.

I’ll never forget. I don’t want to. It keeps me humble and in touch with what’s important. I’m not just a survivor. I’m a thriver. I made a conscious choice to live my life being happy. I may be temporarily affected by what people say or do but I have no intention of allowing anyone to permanently change my choice to enjoy my life.

I did some pretty stupid things in my past but I don’t do them anymore and I don’t allow others to make me wallow in them either. Holding on to memories of how you were wronged is not going to make things right again. Forgiving (or at least forgetting) will. We have to move forward and leave the wrongdoers in our past where they belong.

Choices can be proactive or reactive. You can live life from the outside in, always focusing on external things to provide you with stimulus and meaning, or you can live life from the inside out by giving external things stimulus and meaning. You can live by your own decisions or you can live based on the decisions of others. You can live your dreams or you can live the dreams of others. It’s your choice. You have to define yourself not allow others to do it for you.

I haven’t resolved all the issues in my life, but I have arrived at a place where most of the things that were so important and urgent 25 years ago are now either non-issues or under control. I have a true sense of appreciation of life. I have something a lot of people who’ve had cancer or any serious disease will never have. I have the opportunity to continue working on my issues and looking for solutions.

I have hope for the future and a present full of good friends, a wonderful job, several “families” and two darling dogs who think I am the greatest – especially when I give them treats. And best of all, I no longer aspire to be a drama queen. In fact, I’ve grown very fond of my easy, comfortable, low trauma way of life. If I wasn’t me, I might just envy me!

I have lots of love in my life but not the love of my life. That’s okay. One of those unresolved issues is a fear of relationships. I don’t want to be a hotel again and I don’t want to check into any more hotels. I have too much self esteem now to do that to myself again. There’s a real difference between being alone and being lonely. I recognize the difference and I’m happier alone than I’ve ever been in a relationship. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up the idea of finding true love, just that without it, I’m still good.

I’m at a point where I’m so sure I’ll screw up an intimate relationship that I won’t even allow myself to get involved in one. I no longer suffer from the dissolution of my relationships, I just quietly lament not having any in the first place. Do I want one? Yes, I do. But wanting something and being open to it can be mutually exclusive. I want a relationship, but I’m not open to it. I know myself too well to put another person through that. The interior scars are too deep. It’s my own fault for letting it go on for so long.

Writing this gives me another opportunity to maintain my perspective. I can focus on the fact I had this health issue that overwhelmed me and redirected my life for over twenty five years, or I can focus on the fact the health issue was the catalyst that allowed me to change and become who I am today. What an interesting conundrum. Did I have the disease, or did I allow it to have me? Or, both? And does it really matter?

I love old movies and one of my favorites is “White Christmas”. In that movie Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang a song that I use now as my mantra when I’m starting to get overwhelmed.

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
Writing this and reliving all these memories is exhausting and liberating. When I started it seemed like a huge overwhelming monster of a chore. I could barely write more than a few paragraphs without having to stop and do something to distract myself.

But somewhere along the line it took on a life of its own. The farther into it I got, the easier it was to write and the more the words flowed out of me. Now as I sit here putting the finishing touches on it I feel a lot lighter and happier. I wonder why it seemed like such a daunting task. It almost makes me want to go out and hug a tree or something. Or, maybe I’ll just stay inside and eat a truffle and hug my dogs.

Life should be a blessing. Always maintain your perspective. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Never give up hope. You can change.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

I do think age helps, don't you? At least for anyone who's willing to address and then let go of the past.

I wasted years being frightened of other people, and now I'm at a point where I just don't care enough to be scared. I talk to people. I write what I want. I admit I'm a Christian. I let hot guys who hit on me see me with my 8 year old who's nearly as tall as me. I don't always wear high heels. I cuss in front of my kids. I submit my stories and develop online relationships. I openly adore my husband.

I'm me and I'm happy and I never could have been this way at 30. You sound the same way. Confident and happy.

Bernita said...

One word. Admirable.

Church Lady said...

A beautiful post. I can relate on so many levels, especially about people not willing to see the changes in you.

My DH has been doing that lately ("you're not the same as when we met..") Well, duh! I'm working very hard not to be. That person was weak, full of insecurity, and would do anything to please others. I'm 41 and much stronger, though have a lot of work to do. Your writings about this topic are inspirational.

I'm reading Anne Lamott's "Plan B" which reminds me a lot of you. Have you read any of her books?

I love all your chapters. I hope you will do something with them, other than letting them stay on your harddrive!

Church Lady said...

Hey, AW! If you have time, go visit Moonrat's blog and look at the zucchini! ;-)
She's linked on my blog as "Book Ass"


The Anti-Wife said...

I'm happy most of the time. There are times when life seems to throw shit at me in big buckets, but thankfully they don't occur too often or last as long as they used to.


The Anti-Wife said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm a little overwhelmed with other parts of my life right now, so they will reside on my hard drive for the duration.

Ello said...

Hey AW - lovely chapter and I agree with Bernita - very admirable. You are a survivor and a strong woman! All my best to you and when you are ready, turn this into a magazine article so you can inspire a whole new generation of women!

The Anti-Wife said...

Thanks, Ello!

Maddy said...

Well it works wonderfully to me.
Best wishes

wordtryst said...

Very inspiring. It's good to be reminded that we don't just age: we grow. Some of us, anyway. Hopefully. In spite of all my challenges, I wouldn't want to be the person I was twenty years ago.

The Anti-Wife said...

Thanks. I love reading your blog because it's like a conversation with a good friend.

I wouldn't want to go back mentally or emotionally, but physically - well I'd be willing to shave off 25 or 30 years.

日月神教-任我行 said...