Updated: Jan 1, 2021
My new therapist saw into my soul a few weeks ago and I can't unhear her voice saying "You don't know who you are on your own and you're looking for other people to tell you who you are and validate you."
And you know what? It's okay that I don't know who I am on my own. I haven't been on my own ever in my life. I got married when I was twenty to a man I started dating at eighteen. Like, seriously. I just got here.
But trying to figure out how to exist on your own is really hard. I don't really know how to do it other than to just be on my own, reflect often, and hope it settles in at some point.
And what I'm learning so far is: I can trust myself.
I second-guess myself a lot. Not about little things like where to eat for supper, but big things like "Should I move? Should I do another degree? Should I settle down here? Should I quit this degree before finishing it? Am I okay?" I've always had a built-in person to bounce ideas off of because my decisions directly affected them and our life together. Now, I can kinda do whatever I want. And I love, love, love it! But I also kinda don't know what to do with all this freedom and power.
I started reading this book, "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle. People had been asking me for a while if I'd read it. Apparently, she's a lesbian icon... but I was weirdly not into the idea of reading it even though it's definitely the type of book I should love to read. I think I saw that she'd written a book called "Love Warrior" and I threw up in my mouth a little... Anyway. I bought it a few months ago and let it marinate on my shelf before picking it up shortly after this conversation with my therapist. And I realize now that I am reading this book at the exact moment I need to be reading it. This is the time when I'm ready to hear the things she has to say. I hear them deeply. Glennon talks about this inner Knowing that we all have. And she has a brief discussion of the well-worn phrase, "Be still and know":
"I'd read that verse many times before, but it struck me freshly this time. It didn't say "Poll your friends and know" or "Read books by experts and know" or "Scour the internet and know." It suggested a different approach to knowing: Just. Stop.
If you just stop doing, you'll start knowing."
And it spoke to my soul. Because I do all those things. I ask everyone's opinion, I read TONS of books, I scour the internet, I read academic articles. What expertise do my friends have about whether or not I should move that I don't have? Am I really looking for advice that I feel free to take or leave? Or am I actually looking for them to validate my decisions?
I have laboured so long in undermining my own ability to make decisions for myself. Mostly by hoisting them off on other people (some willing, some not-so-willing), books, and Google. What should I do? I ask everyone except my own self. And I respect other people's answers far, far more than I ever respect what my own self tells me.
I looked around my apartment the other day and thought "Five years ago I didn't own 99% of this stuff. Maybe I should get rid of all this and move into my best friend's spare bedroom for a while." And the thought of being without all this stuff made me feel lighter. And I looked around and thought "What if I really used up everything I have? Wore it out, loved it to death, dragged it in the dirt, slept with it at night? What if I got less stuff by using it?" (I never said I was the most original thinker) and then "What if I stopped being so scared of being without, or using the last of something, or the idea that I might be without something I "need"?"
And my immediate kickback was "You're so crazy. These schemes are so extreme. Get rid of all your stuff, hah. You would regret it. It wouldn't be as awesome as you think it will be." And that last sentence tipped me off. I knew that voice wasn't my own voice. It was the voice of an inner critic long nurtured by me and other people. And for literally the first time in my life I talked back. "You don't know what's best for me. I know what I want, and I can trust myself to monitor whether or not something is a good idea for me. So fuck off."
For a long time, I wanted to live in the small town in which I now reside. And for a long time, that inner critic said "You'll be bored. Living near your family won't be as nice as you think. You're romanticizing everything. It won't be as good as you think it will be." And I listened. I tried to convince myself that I didn't actually want to live here, I only thought I did because... well because I obviously don't know my own mind and am not capable of having realistic or fulfilling dreams in life.
But then. Then I was divorced and needed somewhere to live to rethink what I was going to do with my life, now that all my future plans were dead. So I moved to this little town. And it's everything I dreamed it would be. Living near my family is so fun. Seeing my cousins is lovely. People flock to me for voice lessons (it's no exaggeration). The community theatre has welcomed me with open arms. And it's everything I feared it would be. Making friends in a small town and with COVID has been very hard. Living near my family is hard sometimes. Many of the people I've met here like slow, quiet, certain lives. Which is beautiful, but not what I want for my own life. There's drama galore, and a beautiful sense of community and warmth which is often lacking in the city. I hate having to drive my car everywhere. People don't hire me for jobs because of my level of education. So yeah, I don't think I'm going to live here for the rest of my life. But moving here was one of the best things I've done and, I think, a giant step for Beth-kind in trusting that I can make the decisions for me.
And the longevity of my desires doesn't make them less valid. Things don't have to last forever for them to be a good idea. I can get married young and then get divorced ten years later and still believe the relationship was not a mistake or a waste of time, but in fact a very good use of my time and a success. I can move around and never live anywhere for long, but the fact that I eventually move on doesn't mean that living somewhere was a mistake. I've moved so much in my life that it really doesn't phase me to contemplate a new city. I get itchy. And I've always tried to quash that feeling, but maybe I need to embrace it instead. Maybe I just need to listen to myself.
So I'm trying to find that inner Knowing that Glennon talks about so beautifully. And I'm finding flashes of it when I can get past all the learned helplessness, the second-guessing, and the belief that I'm just not someone I should take seriously. I look to people I've known who've been single for a long time and admire their decision-making skills. I look to myself and realize that I need to cut myself a little slack. I'm doing okay, I can trust myself, I'll know when it's the right time to move or not more, or change jobs or not change jobs. I know myself better than I think I do.