This week, I broke through a self imposed barrier. I built a fence around me years ago mostly for my own protection. I lived my life based on survival, and not based on being fulfilled. The restrictions I placed on myself worked for a long time by keeping me alive. I thought I was doing the right thing and staying within the boundaries of what I believed to be acceptable safe behavior. I wanted to be accepted and loved. I observed others and tried to be like them because they seemed like they had love in their life. So, logically I thought that if I behaved like them then I would have love too.
I started fencing myself off at a young age, but the fence was reenforced with every new disappointment. I interpreted moments of my life where I was humiliated or embarrassed as confirmation that I deserved to be fenced in. With every new interaction where I felt a twinge of embarrassment I would add a link to my fence. Following dreams were for others, not for me. Maybe one day I would be deserving enough to feel fulfilled but in the meantime I would spend my time supporting others who deserved it more. And when I wasn’t doing that, I would spend my time being sad and melancholy. This was my life, this was the hand I was dealt. I thought there was nothing I could do about it but live with it.
But as I reached middle age and I no longer had the daily distractions of raising a child, the stagnation of my life started to become unbearable. I slept walked through my days, and stayed up all night as my mind searched for solutions. I thought I needed a new job. I thought I needed to move. I thought maybe it was my marriage. So, I interviewed for other jobs, I looked into moving to a new city, and we went to marriage counseling. But none of these actions felt like the answer to me. None of them lifted the fog of despair that clouded my life on a daily basis. I knew there was something more. But what? I felt so out of touch with my emotions, and when I did look deeper I felt like I was going to fall into a well of sorrow and pain and never return.
Given my survival instincts, walking head on into a painful situation is not something that my mind and body would allow me to easily do. My brain warned me against it, my body shook in fear, and my heart raced as I decided to face my past and find out where that first link in the fence started. Why did I cut myself off and separate myself into a self imposed isolation?
Facing the abuse I suffered by others was hard, but facing what I had done to myself brought me to my knees. I had to accept parts of myself that I didn’t want to see. One of the things that I didn’t want to see was that I was feeling sorry for myself. I was like the kid at the party that hides in the bathroom and then says that no one likes them. I wasn’t even trying to be a part of the party. I was waiting for people to seek me out, instead of putting the effort forth to participate. The other thing I didn’t want to see was that I wasn’t accepting people for who they were, but who I wanted them to be. As a child I couldn’t accept my parents negative actions towards me, so I would think about how they could change so that they could take care of me. I couldn’t accept who they were, as it would have destroyed me. But this coping mechanism stayed with me as I grew up, and it poisoned my relationships. It was hard to look at my own actions towards those that I love. My despair overwhelmed me as I faced these truths. I cried for myself as a child. I cried for myself as an adult, a woman, a mother, a friend and a wife. I cried for me. I cried for any hurt I caused to the people that I love. I also cried over the time I wasted trying to get others to notice me, and others to change.
But once my tears stopped I was able to see the world more clearly. I was able to see my own actions more clearly and how I was sabotaging myself. Then slowly I started to change. I did this by talking to others that were sympathetic to my journey. I listened to educational podcasts that helped me develop the skills to overcome my self imposed barriers. I started to realize that long held beliefs that I had about myself just weren’t true. They were just beliefs, and beliefs are thoughts, and I could change my thoughts. I didn’t have to live my life a certain way based on past experiences. I could change.
I realized that I had been sitting behind my self imposed fence waiting to be rescued as if I was still a child. I was waiting for someone to come unlock the fence from the outside, but I had the key all along. It was exhilarating to start coming into my own power but it also felt a little overwhelming at times. It was a slow process of trying new things that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But as I put myself out there and risked being embarrassed and humiliated I felt the fog of despair slowly start to lift. I felt lighter, I felt happier. I was participating and sometimes that meant failing. But instead of turning failures into permanent barriers I started to learn from them and keep moving forward.
Letting go of beliefs that I thought were facts made me feel my own power. I didn’t have to let other people’s ideas and actions rule my life. I could decide how I wanted to live based on my own beliefs.
Four years ago I could barely move off my couch from the weight of unexpressed sadness that I had kept locked inside for years. Four years ago I had a margarita at 11 AM because facing the day seemed unbearable. Four years ago, every morning when I would drive to work I fought the urge just to keep driving and leave everything behind.
This week I traveled to New York City because I designed a T Shirt for an event called ‘Women Power Our Planet’, which is about empowering women to take control of their finances and in doing so take control of their life. When I got back from New York, I had an art show in Portland where I presented 18 pieces of my original art. I talked to my friends, family and even strangers that attended about awakening female energy and the importance of women creatively expressing themselves.
Every single belief I had about staying within my self imposed boundaries was broken this week. I now have a new belief, and that is that anything is possible if I have courage and the commitment to achieve it.