It’s a new year and I have been through quite a few changes in the last ten months. In the spirit of putting others before myself, I have decided to share some of my experiences in hopes that they bring others a new perspective and maybe some laughter. These next few posts are going to be about my journey through selfishness, submission, realization, education, boundary setting, some rough times and finally the light at the end of the tunnel. In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “we are going on an adventure!”
You have but one life was not how the conversation started or ended, but it was a pivotal statement for me, nonetheless. The conversation went on to encompass things such as, “find a way to be happy” and “find fulfillment in whatever you do.” Even though I was hearing these words from a friend, my initial reaction was to blame myself which is something I do frequently. If I am not happy then it must be all my fault. I had to take a step back and ask myself why were my first thoughts to blame anyone at all? Could I be capable of looking at the entire situation differently? Could I look at my life differently? While this may seem like I am embarking on some seriously deep writing, I can assure I am not. I would not share anything extremely private and my goal is to always share the funniest parts of my misadventures.
It has taken ten months, but the Find Happiness goal is finally being accomplished. My path to self-discovery has been about as smooth as most of the roadways in Alabama. It has taken a tremendous amount of self-care, introspection, time for myself, heartfelt prayer, and a deep dive into the Boundaries book, which will be discussed later. I have worked up quite a bit of gumption to put myself out there like this, and hopefully, the things I have learned could help others.
The Reframing Phase:
Last summer I finally admitted to myself that I was angry, honest to blog angry with a lot of people, including myself. It’s probably not good to start an adventure with such negative emotions, however that anger is what fueled the fire to get me started. I had to look at my life and ask myself some very serious questions. What if it isn’t about someone else hurting me or me allowing someone to hurt me, but simply me not knowing how to manage who I am as a person and communicate that effectively to others? This ‘new lens’ through which I am seeing my life is like going to the eye doctor and hearing you have 20/20 vision. I am currently in a good place, but I want to share how I ended up on the road to Emerald City instead of stuck in construction on I-65 between Birmingham and Huntsville.
The Awakening… of Sorts:
Following the “you have but one life” conversation I shut down for a short period. Just to be clear, that one conversation I had with a friend is not what changed my life. That friend who was just trying to be supportive had already consumed a few cocktails at the time and out of respect for our friendship will never be named. If that friend possessed a crystal ball and could see what was coming, I have a feeling they would have altered their whiskey laced words. I truly needed some peace and quiet to sort things out or an extended all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean. I had been bottling up so many things for not only years but decades. It’s hard to grow up at 37, but I guess this is a time to use the phrase ‘better late than never.’ My first epiphany wasn’t all my own doing, as I had a little help from one of my best friends. I decided if my partner was driving me nuts, as many men before, maybe I should start by examining my love life. We always blame the ones we love – tsk tsk. Any of my close friends or family members can attest to the fact that my love life has had its fair share of road bumps. In order to make such a painful process more fun, I decided to bring the always soothing feeling of organization into the mix. Self-Reflection Saturday, my affectionate title for the day, started simply with a notepad and a cup of coffee but ended up with a multi-page spreadsheet. That one sentence alone may sound horrifying to some.
Hindsight is 20/20, so the best way to move forward was to examine the past. It wasn’t quite as bad as the ghosts of Christmas past from Scrooged, but it was close. I started out by making a list of all the intimate relationships I felt were significant since I was 18 years old. I had five guys on my list, including how long the relationship lasted, how it ended, who ended it and why. It was barely lunchtime and I wanted to give myself a gold star for my accomplishment. I texted my awesome friend who knew I was in serious self-reflection mode to share the good news. She may have passed out briefly due to the shock of me doing something so mature and difficult, but if she did, I won’t ever know the truth. To my knowledge, her initial response was, “what about so-and-so?” Well ok, maybe I had forgotten someone. Turns out that I had forgotten several folks and over the course of the next three hours my sweet, loving friend reminded me of things I had purposefully forgotten. To the outside world, my list of failed relationships was longer than the Constitution. By the late afternoon, Self-Reflection Saturday was becoming more of a bummer by the minute. I did the only logical thing to do in the situation, call for reinforcement.
Just kidding, I dragged myself to the kitchen to open a bottle of wine. I was going to need some liquid courage to make it through the rest of the night. Sunday morning arrived with little sleep and tear-stained cheeks. I had been able to pinpoint some serious flaws in my past decisions and an extremely unfortunate pattern in how all but one of my relationships had ended. I am choosing not to share what I noticed about my vicious cycle because I am not ready for it to be in print. I do blab for food and cocktails if it’s personal, so if you really want to know just buy me tacos.
Next step – therapy.
Enter the Boundaries Book:
Within a week I had an appointment with my therapist. I marched into her office like Lady Godiva on her mission, relationship spreadsheet in hand proclaiming, “We have work to do!” The funny thing is that I have no remembrance of what we discussed that day in therapy or how I felt after I left. I do have a faint recollection that I went to bed and slept a long time after I got home. Obviously, exhaustion from all the responsible adulting! At one point this past year I was seeing two different therapists. I am not joking although it is slightly comical to admit that in writing. One therapist, I talked to about my intimate relationships and professional life, while I spoke to the other one about my spiritual well-being and marriage. Enter in the anxiously awaited discussion of “The Boundaries Book.”
After sharing my personal disaster in a concise 49 minutes, yes, I practiced, the counselor recommended I order something called Boundaries. At this point I had nothing to lose so I ordered it from Amazon on a Tuesday, it arrived on a Thursday, and by Saturday morning a dark cloud had settled over my whole life. I had no boundaries and that realization was nauseating. No wonder things had been so unsettled throughout most of my life; I had never established any boundaries with anyone. How had this many other people been part of my life for so long when I couldn’t establish boundaries or respect boundaries? I think it wise to not go too deep into my thought process because this blog is supposed to be about helping other people and making them laugh, not taking them to the dark corners of my mind.
It occurred to me that if I had made this much headway in four weeks it was going to be a very long fall. I could never go back and apologize to everyone I had ever hurt and there were no words that could have changed the disappointment I felt toward myself. Logic stepped in once again and I, like Scarlett O’Hara decided to “think about that tomorrow because tomorrow is another day.”
P.S. This won’t be the last time there is mention of the Boundaries book and if you would like to learn more here is a link. Boundaries Book Website