Who am I?

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we, as humans, have a tendency towards letting other people define us.

In my previously living situation, I felt the life draining out of me.  Living with someone who has a lack of ambition and drive made me lose my own spark.  I think it’s important to note that I don’t ‘blame’ the other person for this.  How one person chooses to live their life is not really my concern.  What is my concern is the impact that had on my life.  The impact that I let that have on my life.

It’s clear from past posts that this person and I should probably never have been in a relationship.  Don’t take that to mean that I regret that person having been in my life.  I don’t, at all.  But I’m also not regretting that he is not currently in my life.  The changes in the last 6 months alone have been huge, and I know that that is in no small part due to the shift in who I surround myself with.

I have mentioned that I have secured the perfect job (perfect for me, anyway).  Over the past few years,  I have just ended up in roles, with no real thought to how those roles applied to my needs.  I just went for the jobs I could do with my skills and experience and education.  A few months ago, I sat down and really thought about what I need to be fulfilled.  It’s not enough to just be able to apply my skills, and I had lost a lot of the passion that I used to have for what I do due to being in roles that didn’t ‘fit’ me.  The job that I have now, and the organisation that this role is in, ticks every box on the list, and a few more that I hadn’t known that I needed.  This never would have happened if I hadn’t been aware of what my needs were.  And THAT never would have happened if I hadn’t rediscovered my ambition.

The lifestyle that he led eventually defined me as well as him.  I am grateful, in many respects, that I now have the opportunity to break free of that.  But am I defining myself?  I am in a living situation now with someone who has drive and ambition, who wants to do things and I have found myself getting that back in myself.  Am I still drawing from what is around me, though,  rather than actively defining myself?  This is a rhetorical question – I have no answers.  What I do know is that I want to take a more active role in defining myself.

In a more direct way, people in my life have actively assigned definitions to me recently which is really what started me thinking about all of this.  In one 24 hour period, I was told by separate people that:

a)      It is important to me that people “see” me as being in control, and it is also important to me that people “see” me as being maternal and supportive and nurturing; and

b)      I “don’t care” what anyone thinks of me

AND

a)      I can’t be wrong; that I argue to prove that the “blame” for something lies elsewhere; and

b)      I agree too quickly, and only stand up for something if I am 100% committed and feel very strongly about it

Both of these people are people who have spent more than the average amount of time with me in the last year, and who I would argue know me as well as anyone else.  Yet their view of me couldn’t be more different.

Originally, I was offended by some of the comments, because I felt that people were quick to assign a negative trait / explanation for a behaviour of mine.  “It couldn’t just be that I’m supportive and nurturing,” I fumed.  “Instead, it’s something I’m cultivating because I want people to think that’s what I am.”  Or, “of course I bloody care what people think of me!”   And then I was confused by the fact that two people could see me and the same behaviours completely differently to the next person.  And then I just thought it all through.  THEIR perception of me, their definition of me, is subjective to them and based on their own interpretations and past experiences and considerations.  Why am I trying to sift through all of the information trying to figure out which “one” of the people described above I am?  The truth is, I know who I am – I am AS aware of my faults as I am of my good points.  I have probably spent more time, in dealing with the PTSD and associated issues, engaged in self-analysis (be it independently or with the help of a trained counsellor), than the ‘average’ person.  I have worked very hard to understand who I am, what motivates me, what hangovers from my past still affect my behaviours today.  Yet when faced with information about myself from someone else, instead of considering it and assessing it I instantly tried to accept these traits that were handed to me and make them ‘fit’ with the version of me that I think I am – which is ridiculous.  And impossible, since what the two people were saying directly contradicted what the other person had said.  How can I be both of those things?  How can I be either of those things?  What I am, in reality, is probably somewhere smack bang between the two.

I don’t really have a direction for all of this rambling.  I guess my ultimate point is that if we take on everything that everybody else gives us an opportunity to take on – either indirectly like in the first example, or more directly like in the second example – we’ll very quickly lose sight of who we actually are.  And for this past year, for the first time in many years, I like who I am.  I don’t like everything about myself, and there are still things I’d like to address and alter – but ultimately, I like who I am these days.  I like the direction I’m headed in, and I like the people who I have chosen to be in my life and on that journey with me.  Individual actions or behaviours are not a picture of who I am, merely very small aspects of parts of who I may be.

I define me.  And I will, in future, make every attempt to ensure that only I continue to do so.

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Strange New World

I realised, today that I am happy with where my life is at the moment.

I love – LOVE – my current job.  Plans are underway to buy a “real” house.  I am surrounding myself with people who are on the same page as me, who make me feel supported and who continue to lift me up.  My family has never been closer.

Are there issues?  Yes – aren’t there always?  Are there frustrations with people and events?  Sure – nothing is ever perfect.  It has taken me almost 32 years to come to terms with that.  I am much better, now, at rolling with the punches than I have ever been.  And things have a strange way of working out.  A situation that I recently thought was very bad has ended up being the very best thing that could have happened, and was a catalyst for some other good things happening.  So rather than getting upset and annoyed, I wait.  I wait to see what good will follow something not so good.  I finally believe that things tend to happen for a reason.

This is a good place to be.

Alcohol & Misery…

I fell into an “Old Me” trap this weekend, and have spent the morning beating myself up over it.  So here I am, back on the blog, to work through my thoughts and feelings.

I was feeling down and disconnected on Saturday.  I say ‘down’ but how I actually felt was miserable and self-destructive.  It’s been a while since I have felt this way – to this extent, anyway.  There were many contributing factors, all piled on top of each other which had seen me finally collapse under it all.  And collapse I did.  I don’t remember a time I’ve sobbed so hard for so long.

One piece of advice that I received was to not isolate myself from the people who care about me.  I do this a lot – I pull away or separate myself because I make the automatic assumption that nobody actually cares.  I still struggle – after all of this time – with seeing what anyone else would see in me as good enough to care about.  I feel like most of my friendships are arms-length friendships, or circumstantial friendships.  This is likely to the fault of nobody but myself.  No matter how much progress has been made this past year, I still very much feel that there’s not much about me worth loving.

A group of us ended up at someone’s house after the production that I am in.  I had intended – and, in fact, promised another person – that I would go for one drink only and then head home.  But after one drink I felt a little better.  At least, a little cloudier which in my mind used to mean the same thing.  So I had another.  I was given an out so that I no longer had to drive home.  So I kept drinking – even though a solution was made to get the other person home safely, I was selfish and let them down so that I could keep drinking.

I was an alcoholic up until a few years ago – that’s no secret to many of you.  There was a time when I could easily have downed half a bottle of vodka before 10am.  Never when I was working – but at those times I would start drinking the moment I got home and continue to do so right up until bed time.  So I am wary when any set of circumstances leads me to drink heavily again.  I haven’t had much alcohol since I first found out I was pregnant.  This was the first big session I’ve had, then, in literally YEARS and I can’t help but feel it happened mostly because I felt like crap and wanted to NOT feel like crap anymore.

That having been said, I didn’t stay just to drink.  I am sure, subconsciously, that was a HUGE contributing factor, but in my conscious it was more about proving my worth.  I used to say no to a lot – to stay removed from people, mostly.  I try and say yes more these days.  But this was more about feeling that I’m not much, or not loved, or not loveable so if I could stay and have fun – and be fun – then people would want me around, or care more, or SOMETHING that I’m not sure I’ve fully thought out yet.

What has hit home most of all is that I told people about what happened to me years ago – something that I rarely disclose to people.  It was with purpose – I was trying, in my drunken state, to explain to someone that if you continue to blame yourself for something about someone else, it will be your undoing.  I don’t think I managed to articulate what I meant, and I don’t know that the message ultimately got through.  But I TOLD people this thing that I tell almost NOBODY, and that means I had surrendered control to alcohol again.  I had lost control enough not to edit myself, and while I probably should naturally surrender that control I hold on to so tightly every once in a while, I do NOT want that to happen only because I have been drinking.

Anyway.  The end result was that I ended up in bed all day yesterday, VERY sick and VERY sore and more miserable than I’d been to begin with.  So lesson learnt, I guess.

~ B

Two steps closer…

Tomorrow, I start on a new path.  One that is a big step towards where I want to be and what I want to be doing with my life.

I’m super excited.

Another thing has fallen into place – a momentum has been built, and things are clicking into their right spot in this giant life-puzzle.

I am happy and life is good.  I hope to write a more detailed post shortly, but have been so busy I’ve not been able to sit still for long enough!

Facebook isn’t real life…

It used to stress me when I noticed that I had been “defriended” on Facebook.  I’d be hurt, or upset, or spend an hour trying to figure out who it was by seeing if I could figure out who was missing from the list.

With this journey has come a new strength.  Facebook isn’t real life.  The people who are my friends are my friends in the real world, not just a list of people on a social networking site.

People wield defriending as though it were some kind of power.  But the fact is that, usually, it’s surprising if the other person even notices, let alone knows specifically who it was.  Defriending isn’t a substitute for being honest, it doesn’t replace real world relationships – or the end of real world relationships.

At the end of the day, I’m not one of those people who tries to be the person on Facebook that they want everyone to believe they are.  I’m me.  If we’re not friends in real life, chances are I won’t care if we’re not friends on Facebook.  I’d actually prefer not to have people there, having insight into my life that they don’t deserve, if they don’t want to be there.

The previously mentioned family of my ex-friend have gone on a coordinated defriending spree after my recent blog entries – ironically, I suppose, since what I had to say about them was both honest and generally quite positive.  I made it clear that I did not blame the ex-friend for what has happened between us, and that I didn’t want people speaking negatively about him to me.  I can only assume that reality was too much for them to handle.  We haven’t been friends for months, and yet only now do they choose to remove me from their lives en masse.

How sad that people can’t hear the truth and process it.  How sad that people can’t think for themselves, blindly following the group mandate instead.  If it was supposed to send a message, it did – although, I suspect not the message they had hoped to send.

It reminds me how lucky I am to have my mother as my mother.  She is younger than the parents of most of my friends and people my age, however remains infinitely wiser and more mature.  If she saw the ex-friend in question tomorrow, she would treat him no differently than she always has despite knowing the whole story.  She does not judge, she does not blame.  She believes that unless directly aimed at her, two people’s business is their business and she would never treat one half of a story as fact or pre-determine a person’s guilt.  She is amazing and genuine – her relationships are never defined based on relationships with others.  If someone is good to her, is nice to her, is part of her family, they remain so despite the status of their relationship with me or anyone else.  She is amazing, and in case I don’t say it enough I love her immensely.  I am proud to be her daughter, and can only hope to be half as fabulous as she is when I grow up.

I am feeling more and more free with every change in my life.  I don’t feel obligated to play the part that’s been assigned to me anymore.  I feel like I am allowed, for the first time, to be real.

If you can’t handle the truth, back away from my blog.  I’m never going back to hiding who I am.

People are rarely who they say they are anymore…

What ever happened to people just being who they are?  When did we become a society which generates people who are too afraid to say what they feel, being honest and true to themselves?

I have been guilty of this in the past – wearing masks to protect my privacy, trying desperately to be who someone else wanted me to be.  I found that it wasn’t sustainable.  It made me feel empty.  There are people who would argue that I am still not real – that the me they knew wasn’t the me they believe really exists.  But there is a big difference between not being yourself and keeping some aspects of your life private from people who don’t know you well.  I don’t feel a need to share every intimate detail of my life with someone I’ve just met – trust takes time, and I will keep things to myself if I feel it necessary.  This doesn’t make me any less me.

Last year, I met a woman who did everything she could to present herself as the caring, loving, warm type.  She is, however, actually quite vicious.  We’ll call her ‘X.’  X extensively bitches about people who believe they are her friends.  I don’t understand this at all – if someone bothers you, tell them instead of telling everyone BUT them.  We all heard about the time a friend of X’s invited herself over for Christmas lunch when she wasn’t welcome, how awkward and desperate it was, how she probably slept with X’s brother-in-law, how the brother-in-law had called X begging for help to get rid of her because she just wouldn’t leave. But I don’t think the person in question ever heard about how X really felt about it.

She tries to show one thing with no awareness that everyone knows the truth – and, again, everyone talks about the truth behind her back.  Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, has ever said directly TO HER that they know about her extensive mid-life-crisis and the things she’s done and said.  That everyone is gossiping about the way she treats her husband.  That while she lobs sob stories at people as excuses for the disrespectful way she treats them, we can all see that the subjects of those stories don’t stop her from doing the things she wants to do – that, somehow, they only affect the things she’s chosen not to do and doesn’t have the balls to be honest about.  Everyone just goes on smiling and pretending and talking about it behind everyone else’s backs.

I cannot stand people like this.  I would rather someone be an outright bitch than put so much effort into cultivating a view of themselves that is so far removed from reality.

Which I suppose is what people may think of me while I am in the midst of this honesty streak.  That I’m an ‘outright bitch.’  I’m not – I’m just tired of not saying things, of holding my tongue and being polite.  Too often, “polite” is just an excuse for “gutless” – I’m still polite when there’s a call to be, when meeting new people or in professional situations (for example), but I don’t believe it should be the natural state.  People should be forthright and honest, and this is a big part of the process of me finding the me I want to be.  I still believe in tact and diplomacy – I’m not suggesting that these things be thrown out in favour of being open and honest.  I’m just not going to be the person who bitches and backstabs but is never really honest enough to be upfront when it counts.  There was enough of that in high school, ffs.  We are grown bloody adults.

It’s time more of us started acting like it.

The concept of family…

I’ve been thinking a bit about family lately. About the concept of family and how it doesn’t really gel with what I’ve seen to be the reality of family.

My dad isn’t around – has never been around, really. I think I was about 18 months / 2 years old when Mum left. I saw him briefly from the ages of 8 to 13 but he was nobody to me and I hated that time. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything – I had the man who is now my stepfather in my life from birth, so he filled the void that may otherwise have existed. My mother and stepfather are wonderful, and at this stage of my life I am lucky to have a close relationship with them both.

The rest of my family are distant – geographically and emotionally. It has only been since the birth of my son, their great-grandson, that I’ve seemed to find a common ground with my grandparents. Growing up, they seemed cold to me. There’s history there, with my mum, that affected their relationship and, by extension, mine with them. I have one wonderful uncle and aunt who unfortunately live two states away and we don’t see nearly often enough. I have two other uncles who haven’t even met my son – one lives (literally) around the corner but never cared enough to bother.

When I was younger, I was drawn to people with big, warm families. In high school, I was friends (sometimes) with a girl who had a huge family. They accepted me into their fold, and I spent so much time there that I may as well have been their own. I though of her brothers and sisters as my brothers and sisters. Well, except for one, who I thought I loved (or did love, in that way that young teenaged girls do). It was this that ultimately lost me that family – my friend never forgave me for falling for her brother, and the family closed ranks.  He, of course, broke my heart, so I was left wondering if he’d been worth the loss.

When you’re in a relationship with someone, you join their family and they yours. But when that relationship ends, what happens? If you were actually family, as opposed to surrogate family, I imagine life would continue. When children are involved, you would hope that that familial relationship can continue no matter the status of the original relationship, although this often isn’t the case.

The ex-friend who I spoke about in my previous post has a wonderful family. I remember the first time I met his parents, as his new girlfriend. We sat up with them all night, playing Yahtzee and drinking wine and laughing. They were so warm, so inviting. When we broke up, when I fell pregnant, there was no judgement, no ill feelings – they accepted me and my mistakes, they accepted my son as part of their family despite the lack of blood link.

I saw his mother yesterday for the first time since we fell out. It was unexpected and awkward – it felt cold and for the first time, I felt judged. This made me sad. When I got home, I told my partner about it and his initial reaction was “well… who cares?” This was not him being uncaring – what he meant was that if the person and I were no longer friends, what did his family matter anymore? He then asked “well… what did you expect?”

What did I expect? I don’t know. Not this. Or maybe exactly this.

Her version of the story has come from someone for whom honesty does not come naturally. Who knows what twisted, one-sided version of events she’s received to form her opinion from? I think I almost would have preferred never to have seen her again – to have retained that vision of warmth and acceptance – than to have seen her like this.

I wanted to say so many things. I wanted to tell her that the police had come to my house looking for her son recently, that they were serious and scary and said he was in trouble. And that while it isn’t my responsibility, someone needs to look out for him, and it wasn’t going to be the awful, selfish woman he was involved with so it needed to be her.  I wanted to thank her for all that she had done in the past. I wanted to say goodbye.

Instead, we made stilted and strained small talk and avoided the obvious elephant in the room.

I’ve somehow spun off onto a tangent, although it is related to my earlier thoughts on family. Family – be it blood family or otherwise – doesn’t gurantee acceptance, doesn’t gurantee love, doesn’t guarantee forgiveness. It’s just a word to describe a bunch of people drawn together by a common link.

Real family is what – and who – you allow it to be. It can mean loyalty and trust and love and all of those words commonly used in conjunction, but you have to make it mean that. Family can be the friends who you know you can call in the middle of the night and ask for help.  Family can be the people you choose to surround yourself with, who love you despite your faults – and sometimes because of them.  Family is what you make of it.

I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful people in my life.  They are my family.  And I am theirs.