Tag Archives: acceptance

On Turning 41

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drseussbdayToday is my birthday. I am 41! Not 29 and holding, not 35. Forget “a lady never telling her age”: I AM FORTY ONE AND I LOVE IT!

When I was younger, I dreaded turning 40. In fact, when my mother turned 40, I planned her birthday party. I ordered the cake. White frosting with black letters and decorations. “Lordy, Lordy… Mama’s 40!” I bought black tulle and we made little veils to wear over our faces, mourning her youth. I thought I was so clever, egged on by her cousin who is a year younger than her. We all had a good laugh. I wonder now did she know then what I know now? Did she laugh because she knew better, or because she didn’t want us to see that she still feared 40? I don’t know, but last year I did apologize for it. Funny how time does that…changes perspective, points out what truly matters.

40 was a big year for me. A year of many firsts. I met my son, for the first time since he was born and was adopted. He is now 24. Last year was the first birthday I’d known where he was, who he was. The rest of the year was filled with firsts for us. First time I’d been able to tell him Happy Birthday. First Christmas. First time he came to meet all the family. First time my daughter met her older brother. All those firsts were enough alone to make 40 the best year of my life. If 40 was the end, I would have been happy.

And yet. It was so much more. 40 was also the year I let down some walls, showed some people parts of me I didn’t normally let show (see the rest of the blog if you haven’t). 40 was the year I learned to speak my truth and hold my head up at the same time. This was the year I decided that people are going to like me or not based on ALL of me, not just the pieces I worked so hard to craft into some acceptable version of myself. Not just the “me” I thought people would like. Because truthfully, that is so exhausting. I just can’t do it anymore. You either see me with all my flaws and glory and love me…or meh! I’m not your cup of tea. Which is ok, too. 40 was the year I decided to live.

What a year it has been! I am surrounded by people who are genuine, who like me, who I truly like and admire. I include myself in that group now. I didn’t always. Once in a while I forget. But mostly I know. If 40 did all that…

LET’S DO THIS, 41!!!

leavesofgrass

 

Eff you, I won’t do what you tell me!

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judgeandjury

When I was 9, my favorite cousin got a small part in the movie “Annie” and I was beyond thrilled.  We grew up together, had lived together when I was younger, and I worshiped her.  On top of that, she was coming out to visit from California around the same time the movie would be released in theaters.  So I got the soundtrack on cassette tape and for the next few months could not be seen without my handy Walk-man glued to my head.  I sang those songs everywhere I went and knew every word by heart (still do!).  My 9 year old heart was filled with love, joy, and “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!”  No, I did not know at 9 that maybe my singing out loud sounded awesome with my background music, but that no one else could hear it.  All they heard was a 9 year old singing at the top of her lungs.  Sadly, the reviews were quick and harsh.  “Your sister is weird.  She is always singing to herself.”  “You need to stop singing all the time, people think you’re strange.” It didn’t take long before I would barely sing above a whisper in the car with my own family.  For the record, I was not tone deaf and I didn’t totally suck at singing.  I once got a standing ovation from one of the cutest older guys in high school when I sang at an assembly.  He was forever one of my favorite people after that (from afar), but that is not my point.

Children do not judge themselves harshly until they are taught to do so.  Living in a small town, with a family full of boys and small town thoughts taught me those lessons early on.  My uncles never missed a chance to pick at me, whether it was for poking out my lip and pouting or having the audacity to be knock-kneed and a tad chubby as a child.  My grandfather meant the world to me, but he was a man who related to others by teasing and joking.  Apparently I was just too sensitive, because I frequently took the teasing to heart.  Perhaps they did not know that with every joke, with every teasing word, I was taking mental notes about myself.  There was no “love yourself, be yourself” movement in small town South Carolina in the late 1970’s.  Just “fit in or stick out”, knowing that sticking out was the last thing you wanted to do.

I remember playing with the girl across the street one day.  We decided the ditches on either side of our street were amazing places to hide and pretend to shoot the cars that came down the road with our sticks we imagined to be guns.  We had a blast!  The next day my brother came home from school and told me that a classmate told him they saw me “writhing around on the ground when they rode by, as if something was wrong with me.”  What does a child learn when it feels that every person around her is judging her?  She learns to judge herself.  Harshly.  Bitterly.  She learns that who she is, and what she does, will never be good enough.  People don’t seem to realize that the one comment they make may just be the latest piece of criticism, tossed on the top of the pile of all the other criticism a person receives.

In my teens, I adopted the bravado of “I don’t care if you like me or not”…all the while constantly judging myself while daring others to do so.  My best friend thought I kicked ass and was fearless.  Some found me unapproachable.  Inside, I was still that little girl feeling like no one would ever truly know me or love me for exactly who I really was.  In stereotypical fashion, I looked for that approval and love in all the wrong places, and eventually exited my high school years and that small town completely broken and lost.  What does one do when you believe that who you are is not good enough and just wrong?  Well, you decide that you don’t want to be yourself anymore.

So began the long process of losing myself.  Things I enjoyed and loved about myself before the age of 18: I wrote poetry, I loved theater, I enjoyed singing.  Ok, scratch that mess. My goal when I left home and started over was to be “normal”.  Yes, I know how messed up that sounds now.  I know that “normal” is not some yardstick to be measured by.  But this is how I learned to hide who I really was from other people, try to fit in, do the things that everyone else did even if I found them inane and just plain ridiculous.  I met a boy.  The first night we went out, we stayed out all night long in his car talking.  He was fascinated with me, and he was “normal”.  I was thrilled!  We started dating, and we did normal things.  His family was wonderfully normal and warm. Of course, I sized them up quickly and presented them with a version of myself that they would find acceptable.  Over the years, I didn’t seem to notice that every time I inched out of that box I put myself in, he showed his displeasure with me.  By the time it ended suddenly and unexpectedly, I had wrapped myself up in his version of life and given myself a whole new set of rules to judge myself by.  The end result was a 21 year old me who barely breathed without him approving it, moved to a new college due to him, and was again left feeling that no matter how hard I tried I was never going to be enough.

I could go on for another 15 years, but I think I’ve laid it out enough. If anyone had any question, this is a blueprint for an eventual breakdown, addiction, and hitting a spiritual bottom before realizing that the problem really was never me.  Even realizing this doesn’t fix it.  It is a daily struggle against those inner voices.  You can’t re-train almost 40 years of learning to judge yourself overnight by just realizing that it was wrong.  It is a constant effort to transition from where I am to where I’d like to be. I can’t go back and fix that little girl.  The only thing I can do now is move forward, and discover who it is I really am.  And those inner voices?  Well, sometimes you just have to tell them to suck it!!

 

Things I suck at…and how I’m still ok despite them

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I promised a friend that if I decided to start a blog, that in between the serious posts we could talk about how we are just not together enough for some things and yet we still survive. So many people have this idea of perfection in life and when we fail to meet those horribly high standards we set for ourselves, the result can be a bit depressing. So today let’s talk about how those things don’t matter much in the long run, and how we are still here surviving despite those things.

laundry

 

Laundry. My old nemesis.  To be clear, I know HOW to do laundry. I am actually quite good at the various skills involved in doing laundry.  I know how to sort clothes, empty pockets, get stains out, use different settings for different types of loads, etc… I even was schooled as a young child on the correct ways to fold different types of shirts.  I COULD be a laundry goddess… but I am not. I always have good intentions, but it seems I can never quite follow through.  There is always a basket of unfolded socks and underwear lying around, as if I expect them to march in a line to the dresser, do a triple flip and land folded in the correct drawer.  To this date, I have never seen this happen.  If I ever do, I promise you will be the first to know!  Then there are those days that I get clothes all the way to the point of dry and then completely forget about them. You know, the old “use the dryer as a place to store clothes” days.  The good news is that a 12 year old’s skinny jeans do not tend to wrinkle, and if they do the wrinkles smooth out when they are stretched on in the morning.  The worst days are the ones when you wash and forget.  The worst one ever, my child was 7 and had a white bathing suit with colored hearts all over it. When it came out of the wash, those were not the only colors all over it and some colors were growing in front of my eyes.  That has never happened again.  Hey, at least I am teachable!

junk mail

Junk mail is the bane of my existence.  Ok, really ALL mail.  Even email.  How hard is it to bring the mail in the house, toss the junk mail, open the real stuff and move on?  Apparently harder than I ever imagined.  I have one of those cute little mail organizers hanging on the wall with 3 sections to hold mail.  I swear I could walk in the kitchen right now and find a cable bill from 3 years ago stuffed in one of those slots.  Let’s face it, those things are useless to some people.  The slots are too small for some envelopes, you actually need a schedule to clean them out, and after a few days they just look junky and are full.  I am one of those people.  Sadly, so is my fiance.  Perhaps we need to start scheduling monthly bonfires to invite friends to.  Solve your mail problems AND makes s’mores. I could get on board with that.  Don’t get me started about my email situation.  I literally have thousands of unread emails.  I think I’ve seen a few refer to email bankruptcy.  This sounds like a great idea, purging your email all at once.  If I actually made the time to do it.

Grumpy Cat

Clutter. Let’s be clear, I am not talking about trash and dirt. I do not hoard, we don’t eat in our bedrooms, and we are not unclean or unhygienic.  I accepted long ago that I will never have THAT house, though.  The one that looks like no one lives there? The one that could be shown off every single day of the year.  But just once, I would like for the coffee table to clear itself of the random things that take up residence on it.  I often think it would be so freeing to just go stark minimalist on everyone here and purge the house.  No one would know it from looking at my house, but I am quite the perfectionist.  I have a vision in my head of how I would like a room to look.  The problem occurs when I look at the reality of the room and realize I don’t have enough time to create that vision and decide not to bother.  I’m working on this. I swear! The old “take 5 minutes to pick up SOMETHING” has been in place for a while.  The problem is that my family can do more damage in 5 minutes than I can pick up.  So we have clutter.  And I just really don’t care.

clean house

I guess the point to this post is that we all have things we are not good at.  We get these images in our minds about how we SHOULD live, how an ideal life should be, and how we should be able to accomplish it all.  It’s easy to look at areas where we don’t meet those sometimes impossible standards, and judge yourself as a failure.  Lowering those standards doesn’t mean you fail. Sometimes it’s all about prioritizing them.  Most days I’m happy that my kid went off to school in clean, unwrinkled clothes and isn’t the stinky kid at school.  I never claimed to be, nor wanted to be the domestic goddess.  I know that drives some people crazy, and to those people I extend an open invitation to come do it all themselves. Knock yourself out!

What things are you not the best at?