In my teenage years, I was a bit of an asshole. No, but I mean in a different way than I am now.
This assholeishness resulted in a rocky relationship between my mother and me. It was a rough time…we were both going through our own shit. But one thing she used to frequently say to me was that I was completely self-centered.
And I was, in the way that teenagers are. Everything automatically turned to “What am I getting out of this?” Whether consciously or not, I had no desire to do anything unless I wanted to do it (much like now). The difference was that, then, I did little to mask my impatience, annoyance, and resting bitch face. Put away the dishes? Are you fucking kidding me? Let me live my life, Sue!
So, she was right. I’m not afraid to say that now, because I’ve parented my own teenager, and I apologized to her roughly 1742 times in those six years.
Just kidding. It was way more times than that.
But her words never left me, along with the time she told me not to open my mouth the second I put the food on my fork. Solid advice, btw.
As an adult, I continued to be self-centered, but the definition shifted. I started to assume everything was about me, but not in a cocky way. If someone else seemed aloof, it had to be because of something I did. If somebody called me out on something, I had to be in trouble. I couldn’t see things as they were. That aloof person probably had 100 things on her mind, because human nature. The person calling me out was likely trying to piece whatever had happened together, and I only played the most minor role. But my feeling in every instance was the same sense of smothering guilt I get every time a cop car is behind me.
Oh, shit. What did I do?
Because it had to be me, right?
I noticed this again yesterday. A co-worker asked me about something another co-worker had said, and my face immediately flushed. My hands got itchy. My thoughts went to “oh, shit. What did I do?” And I had done nothing.
It was just ridiculous enough to make me take notice.
When 2017 began, although I don’t make resolutions, I did gently nudge myself to be more mindful of the moment. I was going to turn 42, and for some reason that age has built itself up in my mind over the years. 2017 would be the year I officially became a mother for half of my lifetime. I was 21 when my son was born, and this year he would be 21. My parents divorced in their year of 42, and, to me, were re-born, as they both became who they had been all along.
Plus, it was Jackie Robinson’s baseball number.
42 meant something to me, in a way that other ages never had. So I told myself I would give it the respect I had assigned to it.
Man, did that suck. First of all, I’m still terrible at this whole mindfulness thing. My tendency is to bury every little feeling and then randomly blow up about nothing every three to four months. That’s not a conscious thing, but as I traced the map of my life it popped up as a definite pattern.
So first, I began with identifying my feelings as they happened. It has made me cry a lot, largely about things that were a few years in the past. It has made me randomly angry a lot, which was awful at first but helped me take a breath and identify what was actually making me angry.
And…it has made me get to know myself.
What I learned is what I already knew, that I’m pretty much a ball of self-loathing. It’s the reason I assign myself a central role in everyone else’s life, the reason I assume everything is my fault, the reason I’d probably fail a polygraph when asked to state my name.
But I digress.
Yesterday, I fully realized how unrealistic it is to continue to live this way. I spent a lot of time thinking about it last night. When Josh and I were watching The Path on Hulu (GREAT SHOW, by the way), and he was lost in it, I didn’t assume that it was because he didn’t want to talk to me (I know…ridiculous, but welcome to the female brain).
The thought flow stayed with me through this morning. I took the most beautiful class with the gorgeous Cady O’Quinn. It’s very low-flow, infrared-lit yoga, and she guides classes with gentle suggestions, rather than directives. The music is beautiful, meant to be a backdrop to internal focus.
It’s cool as shit, is what it is. Whether you want to or not, you will take a self-journey through every minute of the hour.
And brother, did I journey. I thought about how much blame I put on myself for things outside of my control. I thought about how angry I get because I struggle with letting go. I thought about how anxious I am because my son took his first actual adult step in moving almost five hours away, and even though he had already been gone for over two years, it feels like I lost him all over again. I thought about my fear in losing my identity as a mother, then as a structured employee. I thought about how much I absolutely love what I’m doing professionally, but that I beat myself up every day for so many reasons because it’s so great I feel guilty. I thought about how hard it is for me to let go and live in the perfect moments that have comprised 42, because of the people who have gone before me and will never know 42.
And then I took a deep-ass breath…and finally, finally let it all go.
My mom was right. I was self-centered. But in all of the wrong ways. The point is, assigning yourself importance in others’ lives carries a lot of unnecessary weight. Because, and repeat with me here, it’s not about me.
So now, I’m going to shift to being self-centered in what I hope is a healthy way. I’m going to feel my feelings. I’m going to concentrate on the only thing I can control…myself. Is it going to be hard? Fuck yeah, it’s already hard. Am I going to fail? Every day. But in the last six months, I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned this – and I’m talking to you now – you can’t carry the team on your back. You can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. I mean, you can try, but that’s super heavy, not to mention actually impossible.
So just do what you can every day, and then step away, relax, and let it go. Try to shift to a point in which you can actually help people by helping them focus on the task at hand, without casting yourself as the starring role of their lives. Don’t attach yourself to outcomes, because outcomes are in the future and that’s not where you live. Don’t let your feelings about something you can’t change consume you.
Just do what you can in the moment. And then do it again, in the next. Do it for you. And, before you know it, you’ll have built this whole, beautiful, self-centered life.