Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No Holding Back Allowed

It would seem that it was a conscious choice for me to go down that road of conformity as so many people do, but when I look back on my twenties it doesn't feel like it was done with my approval. The lessons learned during my upbringing and my duplicating them seem to be more important than forging the kind of life that I wanted for myself. This is how my life started to play out as I began the business of becoming an adult.

I was loud, strong and opinionated during my early childhood; specifically so during my teenage years. It seemed I was always in the face of figures of authority; questioning, defying and generally not accepting things 'just because' they said so. I rebelled and commandeered attention to my positions held because it was the right thing to do.... then.

When I approached my mid-thirties and reflected back on my years, it became evident that I had sacrificed the me who was so strong early on. I abdicated my choice in determining how to move forward when I started deceiving myself about who I was. Asking the question ‘When did I start lying to myself?’ didn’t help me to make any course corrections either. I gave in simply to 'fit in', took the path of least resistance or, many times, just reacted to life rather than determining what was best for me. I got a job, worked all week to party all weekend long, paid my bills, had failed relationships, got married, got divorced, bought a house, remarried and settled into a good but uneventful life with my husband and children. It was a good life and safe.

I frequently ask myself now, approaching my fifties, what made me conform in my early twenties and when did the lying to myself override my natural urge to throttle the establishment?  And that which was once so strong inside me, why couldn’t it find the strength to break free and let loose what so obviously was being held back? The only answer I keep coming back to is that the influence that was around me at the time seemed to deserve more attention from me, or warranted more credit than my very own input.

The insecurities borne in dysfunction only added to hold me back from a path of my own construction and gave me permission to let myself down. Me lying to myself made the choices more comfortable and made it easier to digest the unacknowledged dissatisfaction that was ever present. In looking back, I realized there were so many situations where the outcomes could easily have been predicted by my lack of involvement in the process, but I let it happen anyway.

The one decision I would remedy, if I could change anything from my past, is that instant when I semi-consciously allowed myself to depart from a state of feeling fully engaged with who I was to that state of being where I really became more of a bystander and follower. Before I resigned myself to that ‘traditional’ life I was proud of what I put out into the world. Sadly, and obviously, not enough though. It felt as if I had shifted from a place of strength to one of conforming to the examples around me. It seemed as if it wasn't me directing my life anymore, or me being the main contributor in who I wanted to be. It was a feeling of going with the flow rather than rocking the boat that seemed to be more important at the time. My life didn't turn out bad; it just wasn’t all that extraordinary either. In other words, it was the 'standard' life, far from what I had imagined for myself when I was much younger. And again, not that it was bad, but the emotion that this self-deception of the past evokes in me now, helps me to understand where it originally went off track.

As I reflect back now, I know that who I am today is a person I can still be proud of, and that where I reside intellectually is still an amazing place regardless of what I did not do in my life. Luckily, the lessons I learned over the years have shaped me well, and I am grateful for who I am now.

Today, I challenge myself as well as others to always push the boundaries of what they accept for themselves. The benefits I reap from challenging myself are enormous. The likeability factor alone that I feel I’ve achieved is huge! And I’m not referring to others thinking I’m more likeable, I’m talking about the fact that I like me more now than during the time where me didn’t seem to have much say about anything!

I think my friends benefit from this rediscovered frame of mind because it makes me a ‘catalyst for good’, theirs and mine. When the experience I bring to the table of our relationships pushes the people I care about to live their lives in a more productive fashion, it’s a win-win situation. Their gains, while propelling themselves forward, forging through obstacles or just remaining true to their personality and character; oh, what rich lives they will lead! It is worth it for me to personally be a witness to it. But more importantly, to see them experience what helps them remain in total control of themselves… priceless.

And yet, there is still a part of me deep inside that regrets pushing down the possibility of who I could have been when I didn't hold firm to the notion that who I was at that time in my early twenties was good enough and deserved to just BE. Still there is regret.

The regret comes from a place of "What if?" meaning that it probably shouldn't be explored because we all know that we can never really satisfactorily answer that question. If we are to deal in reality, then how my life turned out is exactly as it should be because of the choices and decisions I made, whether consciously or by drifting on automatic. Playing devil's advocate, envisioning that it could have been any different is what makes the feelings of regret so strong but also incredibly irrelevant. I can't go back and change anything now!

The subduing of my person-hood that began so long ago and what lasted for so many years has left me with the current feeling of “Man, I've really got some catching up to do!” I need to propel myself into taking the chances I had been so reluctant to take before and live my life exactly the way I want to now. Precious time was lost! I feel so empowered with my eyes wide open and brain fully engaged in the process of the life still ahead of me. So, maybe it's a good thing after all, this regret.

I think they might call that ‘The cycle of life’…

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