“You Won’t Recognize Yourself,” He Said
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.
Almost two years have passed since I filed for divorce. Sometimes I remember what my psychic pal, Mark, said about 3 years ago in a counseling session when he told me that in 3 years I wouldn’t recognize myself. His comment terrified me, but I see now that it was meant to console me. Life has changed drastically for me in the past 3 years, and if I thought it changed a lot between May of ‘04 and May of ‘05, my daughter reminds me how much I’ve changed in the past year.
One of the biggest differences Shannon says, and I agree, is that I had a strong pattern of expecting the negatives—and being totally off-kilter if I didn’t get them. If someone didn’t respond to an email or text message a certain way, then I automatically began to kick myself, figuring I’d done something wrong. If someone responded in a wonderful way, I’d take it at face value, and then within a very short time, I’d start to question my initial instinct about the message and assume I’d misread it and that I’d, again, done something wrong. I didn’t know how to be happy with a great response or accepting of no response, even when no response was necessary. It was a deeply ingrained pattern and positive responses were so unfamiliar that I didn’t know what to do with them so I found a way to beat myself up every time.
Now I can send a message to a romantic interest, a friend, or a coworker and get no response, and while I’d like a response—a good one—I don’t require it to live and breathe. And I don’t automatically assume I didn’t get a response because I’ve done something wrong.
Another big change is that I no longer discount my own emotions. Most people would assume I mean my darker emotions—anger, jealousy, etc—but I also mean my sweeter ones. If I love, then I love. No apologies. That doesn’t mean anyone else has to do anything at all about the way I feel, but I acknowledge my own feelings and deal with my own emotions without denying them, tamping them down, swallowing them. They’re a big part of who I am. If I hope, if I dream, they’re my hopes and dreams, and I don’t have to feel bad about having them just because someone else doesn’t understand them or disagrees with them. The same goes for my fears, too. They’re there, I’ll be open with them, and if they scare someone else away, then so be it. Better that than my not acknowledging them and working through them.
A side effect to that in the past was to show my submissive side. That can find its roots in the Animal Kingdom, I suppose, when one animal defers to another to show, See? You’ve nothing to fear from me. I won’t bite you. Now please don’t bite me. There’s power in the emotions, though, and they bring out an odd combination in me of dominance and nurturing that would seem to be in direct conflict but, in me, they go hand in hand.
And then there’s the people-pleasing, which has extended not so well into hearing repeated theories of “You need to….” Even when I’m not listening to other people telling why I “need” to do or what I “should” do, I’ve been hearing it for years and it creeps back in insidiously even from the most well-meaning folks. Rather than tell them to shut the fuck up and stop trying to live my life, I’ve been respectful of their opinions and listened, even if they’re not respectful of MY opinions and how I live MY life, and they’ve taken my willingness to hear other ideas and alternatives as begging them to direct my life. So I’m more likely to call people down on their meddling, sometimes to the point of hurting feelings if being gentle isn’t working, and sometimes to the point of ending friendships. Very few people have the privilege of that kind of input into my life any more, and usually only when asked for their opinions.
I’m at an interesting point in my life where I’m feeling very independent, rebellious, and goal-oriented. My independence. My rebellion. My goals.