I’ve been in a period of regrouping as of late. I’ve felt off track, or off the right track.
This isn’t the first time. I have a long history of becoming deeply involved in the wrong thing. I’m actually doing much better these days than back when I was a younger adult who stuck it out too long in the wrong relationships and the wrong career and ended up so sick I couldn’t leave my house.
I’ve learned how to let go of the wrong things sooner and how to avoid getting involved in absolutely wrong things in the first place.
I’m doing better. These days when I realize I’ve wandered onto the wrong path, it’s at least a path somewhere in the neighborhood of the right path. I know this, even if I haven’t yet figured out where the exact right path is. I’m close. I can feel it.
Still, there’s room for improvement. I would like not to be so susceptible to being led astray. It’s not even the lure of bright shiny things that woos me. It’s that I want so badly to be part of something meaningful, I’ll follow the wrong path too far, for too long.
It’s fear. Fear of being unseen. Fear of being seen yet rejected. Fear that the voice deep inside telling me I’m not enough is correct.
I feel like a teenager trying on lives to see which fits, only in middle age all this hemming and hawing feels absurd. I’m deeply envious of every twenty-something I meet who is confidently walking down her own right path. I hope that somehow I’m enabling my children to feel confident about what’s right for them despite the trouble I still have with trusting my own instincts for my life.
Recently I realized that whenever I’m asked the question what do you do? I feel frantic, as if it’s a test of my worthiness to exist and I’d better come up with the right answer or else I might be kicked off the globe. For a long time I’ve blamed my reaction on this capitalist society of ours that measures worth according to earned income, but I’ve reconsidered. Society shapes people, yes, but people also shape society.
I chose to leave a career that made me miserable. I chose to be home full time with my kids. I chose to try to make a go of a new career that would satisfy me creatively and allow me the flexibility to spend ample time with my family. The truth is, my family comes first in my life before any career, and that has meant my income has been extremely limited. I should not feel unworthy because of this choice. I should not allow society to make me feel unworthy.
I am a person who has struggled throughout my life with feeling unworthy and trying to prove my worthiness. Sometimes as a result, I end up taking on wrong things so that I can experience, if just for a moment, what it’s like to feel valuable.
These days I’ve been trying to refocus, to see myself differently, not as someone who needs to produce but as someone who deserves to live a good, peaceful life simply because I exist. I’ve argued this point regarding other people in other circumstances, and then one day I realized that I haven’t applied this logic to myself. I have found it easier to be compassionate toward others than toward me.
What is wrong with answering the what do you do? question with “I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for close to fifteen years and I’m also a writer”? Why has this not felt like enough to me? I have been doing valuable work for all those fifteen years. My family, our home, our life together is evidence of this. I am valuable to them, I know. And the value to me of my hours spent writing exceeds any monetary income I haven’t yet received.
There is more I want to do in my life, more I want to accomplish. Fear prevents me from becoming all that I would like to be. Fear keeps me from having the whole life I envision when I allow myself to dream it. Courage would require me to listen better to my heart guiding me toward the right path. It would require me to trust that I won’t be alone on that path, that I will find companions there.
I imagine that finding the right thing will feel something like finding the right life partner, that the right thing will be imperfect and challenging but will bring me so much joy and peace I won’t want to let it go. I will recognize the right thing because of how well it fits.