We spend our childhoods being shaped by things beyond our control. As adults, those factors drive decisions, feelings, outcomes. For the most part, we are totally unaware of this imprint. You do what you do because you don't know any differently.
Then a close friends pulls you aside and offers advice. Your sister who knows you better than you'll ever know yourself accuses you of acting like your mom. Your therapist winces when you tell her about something that never seemed that bad in the moment.
Self-awareness is a double-edge sword. It provides comfort when you realize you aren't the crazy one but merely a victim of the insanity that once swirled around you. It paralyzes you as you over-analyze every present-day action in an attempt to avoid old habits that repeatedly steered you down an unwanted path.
"So?" a friend asked the day after I toured a delightful townhouse in the complex I'd come to stalk.
"My offer was accepted," I replied.
"That's amazing! I'm so happy for you!"
"I want to throw up."
"So?" Leslie asked after my fourth date with an architect.
"He brought me flowers and told me I'm beautiful."
"Yes! I love it!"
"I want to throw up."
I spent my entire life trying to be three steps ahead. It was a strategy to survival. If I could anticipate my mother's wrath, I could prepare. I could hunker down, clench my jaw, and weather the storm. The challenge is that all of that maneuvering instilled in me a false sense of control. After all, no one is ever truly in control.
The architect texted this afternoon to say he'd spent the entire day thinking about me. That cooking dinner together at his house last night, he couldn't get over how amazing I looked. That he wanted nothing more than to skip the meal and kiss me over and over.
My instinct was to rebuke his compliments, beat them back with self-deprecating humor. So desperately I wanted to dismiss his emotions as disingenuous. Then I reminded myself that this is everything I've ever wanted. I need to live in the moment. And I need to trust what he says is the truth, because we all know my own version of the truth is unbelievably flawed.
Change is good. Getting what you want is good. Now comes the hard part. Now I need to dig deep to believe it, embrace it, and find absolute joy in it.
Oh my God, I want to throw up.