We’re trying to make some big decisions in our family, and they are not easy or clear-cut. Every choice comes with both relief and heartache. It’s causing us to reflect on our roles and identities, and even how we make such major decisions.
It feels really….there’s got to be a more eloquent way to say this…icky that I’m realizing that I’m almost forty and I don’t have much practice leaning on my instinct and wisdom to make decisions that are best for me. I feel guilty and weird admitting this, but I think that most of my life choices have been the kind where I was saying yes or no to someone else’s plans for our shared lives, and it was understood that I should say yes. At least it felt like I had to say yes, because my sense of duty to others is strong, and my need to not be selfish keeps me hostage. I can’t be the rainer on parades or the interferer with dreams or the selfish one. I also can’t be wrong because I don’t feel like I have any right to not be right.
And…that’s fucked up.
I’ve made many choices in the name of not being selfish…but because that was the source, they were not choices made with an open heart and clear vision. I knew they were made against/without my judgement, so I felt that I then reserved the right to be angry and bitter if they turned out poorly. I was terrified to put even one toe down to declare what I KNEW was right for me, or to go out ‘on a limb,’ and make a call, with the evidence being my own judgement. This mindless pursuit of harmony to avoid disappointing others and this paralyzing need to avoid being wrong, were both from a really self-loathing place. It was weak and hurt all of us, keeping my needs and knowing out of the equation. I get that now, as I stare this new set of decisions in the face. I don’t want to do it again. (Much of what I learned in this time, came from incredible authors/leaders who have done and shared their internal work- specifically, Glennon Doyle and the book “Untamed” are giving me big insights and challenges- read these quotes and you’ll see why you need to read the whole damned book yesterday).
So, how do I learn to trust myself? I always feared that my feelings weren’t trustworthy, because there were so bloody many of them and I thought that my depression and anxiety maybe poisoned the whole lot. I felt like an unreliable witness to my life.
Also, there was this inherited understanding that, not only are women primarily supposed to be sacrificial and service-oriented, but on the big decisions, we aren’t to be trusted. We are too fragile, dramatic, and emotional to be making big, corporate decisions that could impact lives. I’m a woman, so deep-down I thought I couldn’t be the final decider, I couldn’t believe the things that I knew. I had doubts that I was qualified to make my own life decisions.
So, here I am, almost forty, and I’m just now learning to trust my feelings and to say them OUT LOUD; to be confident that others should trust them, too…and to be OK if some of my decisions disappoint others.
Yikes, right? But how do I KNOW I know what the right thing to do is?
I’ve learned two things this year. One, men are easily as fragile, dramatic and “emotional” as we are told women are, and they’ve been our knee-jerk leaders and decision-makers since time began, so clearly that can’t be a disqualifier (plenty o’ examples, but the Supreme Court Kavanaugh hearing might be the clearest-Google it yourself, I can’t stand his face). Two, it’s not being “emotional” that’s bad…it’s not being self-aware or in control of your emotions that leads you to shadowy places of anger, envy, pride, resentment…violence, hurt.
I’ve had the space and time to sit in my feelings these past few months, and am realizing that the sandstorm of feelings inside me is not without purpose. They’re whipping around in there, polishing my understanding. When I sit quietly and let all the big feelings do what they’re there to do, not suppressing or relegating them (to the knots in my back, pain in my belly, compulsive tic of checking my phone, verifying my existance by pleasing the people around me, etc), I find a truthier truth. I used to get annoyed when I caught myself staring off into space, mad that I was unfocused, or wasting time. Now I see that it’s the staring off into space times that I’m feeling, considering, reaching deep to determine what I know I know. It’s when I’m meditating, praying, soaking up all the information I have, and baking up a decision in my brain oven. (#broven. There, called it. You can’t have it.)
I’m not afraid of sitting in my thoughts and feelings, because, as dangerous and terrifying as they might seem, I trust that they’re important. They’re mine, and I need to spend time sorting through them. Next, I need to differentiate that which I know, because it’s right and true, balanced and healthy, and supports me…and that which is falling back into old habits that don’t serve me.
This is all so hard, but that’s OK, I can do hard things. (That’s a Glennon Doyle thing, too. You HAVE to read her work. It’s so damned good)