How to Grow a Phoenix

4 03 2016
Phoenix courtesy of Michelle D. Bouchard.

Phoenix courtesy of Michelle D. Bouchard.

It’s been two weeks since Boskone. This new person I’ve become seems to be settling in for the long haul. I am glad of it. I never want to go back to being that sorry, terrified, insecure woman who feared the future and did not think she could rely on herself. The woman who thought she could never function alone.

In one way, she was right. She can’t function alone. No one can, or at least, no one should. We need each other. We need a support system of warm, loving, accepting friendship. This can include family, but it doesn’t have to. We need people that we know care about us, to whom we can turn when Life deals us a nasty blow. I have friends like that. I didn’t appreciate it before. I was isolated in my marriage for many years. It wasn’t until I began reaching out that I realized my isolation was self-imposed and unnecessary. I needed to believe that I could be a friend, that others would value my friendship. I needed to open up and say “yes”. When I did, I was amazed.

The one person I needed to befriend most was myself. I am one of those people who judges herself harshly, who says angry things to herself that she would never say to a friend. I needed to learn compassion for this frail human soul. Forgive her weaknesses, celebrate her strengths. I am not required to sacrifice myself. My needs matter as much as the needs of others. Not more important, but not less either.

The wisdom I’ve gained isn’t new; I’ve been blogging about it for years. And for short periods, I was able to put it into practice. But I couldn’t maintain it. I had most of the pieces, but some key ones were missing. (I talk about this in my previous blog)
You've always had the power

I was like Dorothy in Oz. I always had the power, but if anyone had told me that I did, I wouldn’t have believed them. I had to learn it for myself. I had a self-image, reinforced by those who had an interest in keeping me that way, that I was weak. Incompetent. I couldn’t trust my own judgement. I couldn’t take responsibility for myself. I was deluded, neurotic, and needed help. There was something wrong with me; I needed to be taken care of.

I did need help, but only to realize that I didn’t have to be that person. I could be someone different. It would take courage, determination, patience and resolve. I’d have to go all in, commit to this course, no going back. So I did. I trusted in myself.

It’s funny, I got into a debate a few blogs back over the 12 Step Program of AA. I just couldn’t get past the whole “surrendering to a higher power” thing. There was something beyond myself I was supposed to trust in, and let go. It made no sense to me. I had to twist and stretch the meaning of it to force it to fit my perception of reality, so I gave up. Instead, I followed my instincts. There is no higher power. There is only me. I am the one who has to save myself. Far from surrendering, I took control.

In the fine tradition of Hercule Poirot, I needed order and method. Figure out what needs to be done and do it. Ask questions. Find answers. Act wisely. Do not give in to anger or doubt. Be confident without needing to prove anything. Prioritize and keep focused on the goal. Collapse and cry now and then if necessary, but clean up afterwards and have at it again. It’s like hiking: don’t look up at the high, distant peak. Just look at the trail in front and keep walking. Ask directions. Accept advice from those who have walked this path before.

I still have a long, difficult trek ahead of me. A great deal of it depends on the decisions of others. My boss may not retire for another year. Or she may decide to retire earlier. She needs to do what is best for her. I have no idea what my husband will do next, when he plans to move out, or if (as he has now threatened) he intends to fight me for the house. I won’t claim all this doesn’t worry me; it does. But it doesn’t terrify me. I am confident that this new person I’ve become can handle it. Order and method. I may swear and stumble and make mistakes, I may weep and get angry and curse the injustice of it. But I’ll keep walking.

I’ll get there. And if I don’t, what of it? I’ll adapt to the place where I am, and find the joys in it.

Yes, I may lose my home. I will find another. Yes, I may lose much of what is dear to me. I will treasure what remains. I have friends. I have my boys. I am smart enough and strong enough, and I won’t let my fears cripple me anymore. I am far from perfect, but I don’t need to be. The future is unknown, but that is true for all of us. When I look around and see what others have endured, it puts my small struggles into perspective. The Universe isn’t picking on me; we all get dumped on at one time or another, some much worse than others. All we can do is work with the present. Smile at what is lovely. Laugh at what is funny. Appreciate what is warm and happy. If this particular moment is ugly, just keep going. It will pass.

What I have lost is nothing compared to what I have gained.

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2 responses

5 03 2016
Mary Jolles

I think you are absolutely right that you need to be a good friend to yourself: be honest with yourself, forgive yourself, accept yourself, celebrate yourself. We know how to be friends with other people. Sometimes we forget we need to befriend ourselves as well. You are also right that no one succeeds through their own actions alone. The support and encouragement of others is vital. You certainly have ours!

6 03 2016
justinegraykin

Thanks, Mary. This is a strange journey. I’m so glad I’ve had you and Nick to accompany me along some of its stretches.

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