Stepping Into the Unknown
Lately, my life has been a series of new leaves being turned over. I have started doing what I want instead of talking about what I would like to have. I wrote previously about how I was going back to school this semester, and how volunteering for Phoenix Youth at Risk has provided a constant stream of opportunities for change. These changes are taking hold and growing in ways that I did not expect to see realized already.
There is not a magic bullet for getting a good life, or a life that works. It could be GAPS, or Phoenix Youth at Risk, or therapy, or that my youngest is not a baby anymore, or any combination of influences in my life that have brought me to the amazing place that I am in my life right now. Those choices are what I knew, deep down, I needed to make if I wanted more in my life. It was scary, but I chose them. I stepped into the unknown and decided it would be okay. Those things give me a foundation, but they are not the reason that I have happiness.
The one thing I do know is this: something is different in me. Somehow I know that I am worth something now. I value what I want in a way that I never have. I know myself. I respect myself. I don’t apologize for what I want or who I am. My life isn’t really about volunteering, having perfect children, or realizing goals. It’s about the fact that I matter without any of that. I matter because I matter.
I used to think that I didn’t matter. I knew from church that I needed to be submissive to the Lord, to do what I was told, to believe what my teachers told me to believe. I had to get the checklist filled with church attendance, scripture study, and at some future date temple worthiness, marriage and children. At home I was surviving through abuse. I knew that at best I was an appendage to my parent’s lives, an object that things happened to. From my peers I learned that I was smart but socially awkward. I didn’t get asked out or to high school dances. I didn’t conform to traditional beauty or body type. I didn’t matter.
That isn’t to say that everything was negative. I enjoyed church in many ways. Plus it provided a stability in my life that I didn’t have at home. At home we had good times of silliness and shared movies and music. Home was where I formed unbreakable relationships with my siblings, and where I learned to play the piano. At school I found friends that I loved and that were hilariously funny! I was lucky that they were also the types who went to college, stayed away from partying, and were generally responsible. I relied heavily on my friends’ influence, so looking back I am glad that they were a positive one.
But in spite of the positive side, it wasn’t enough to combat the messages I got about being second best due to my gender. I glommed on to the messages of passivity, acquiescence, being pleasing and accomodating, being only able to aspire to motherhood and being a wife. I had my own dreams for what I wanted to be, but they always seemed to take a backseat to what I needed for approval: to do what I was told with regard to what was righteous. I was caught up with all the periphery. I kept desperately collecting all the righteous things I needed to do to make myself appear good enough. But I wasn’t good enough, and no amount of perfection would change my mind.
So I suppose that the answer to the question of why my life is so different now is that I stopped equating me with what I had. I learned to stand where I was, without needing anything. I learned that I am enough. I realized that I do, in fact, matter. I learned that life happens for me and not to me. I let the compulsion to prove I was good give way to the realization that I am perfect the way I am.
I am enough without constantly smiling and making the best of things. I am enough with or without perfect children, a husband, a house, money, advanced degrees, and the ability to be everything to everyone. I am enough even when I am broken down and depressed. I am enough even if I am fat. I am enough even if I am filled with anxiety for the future. I am enough, because I am.
What about you? Do you see yourself this way? Do you feel compelled to prove your worth with outward performance? Do you get caught up in the need to always say yes, do more, accomodate those around you? Did you used to do this? Have you recovered from it?