Saturday, November 30, 2013

Yesterday's post, part 2

I probably shouldn't write this -- particularly not right now -- because I'm frustrated and emotional.  However, I've been told that some of my best writing comes out of times when I am frustrated and emotional, so here goes anyway.

I'm thinking more about #4 from yesterdays post.  In particular,I'm thinking about this idea of how I (as a woman) am supposed to embody a specific definition of "success."  I'm thinking about the measuring stick others are using versus the one I typically use.  I'm thinking about how it is that I -- and other women, too -- can feel like a failure, or a disappointment, or an anomaly, or just feel broken because of those arbitrary yardsticks and the ways we measure up (or don't).  I'm thinking about the fact that I am generally happy...happier than I have been in several years, and have been moving forward in my happiness and confidence by leaps and bounds these past few months.  I'm thinking about the fact that I seem to have a Perceived Happiness Value by which others assess my situation.  I'm thinking about the fact that this Perceived Happiness Value is not necessarily accurate, and about the fact that, because my happiness comes from other sources, I have been and can be judged as unhappy, or unsuccessful, or not normal.  Mostly, though I'm thinking about the fact that this judgment can affect my ACTUAL happiness and my ACTUAL confidence and my ACTUAL sense of self-worth.

That is not how I want it to be.

I really wish I could say "meh.  Ya know" and blow it all off like it's no big deal.  I really wish I could just say, "I'm cool with who I am and how things are going.  I know that when things aren't cool, I can handle it and change things so that I feel like things are cool again.  But right now...I'm actually pretty cool, thanks."  I wish that I could say in actual live conversation, "you know, I understand that what you are telling me is right/was right for you and your happiness...but right now, my happiness and I are okay, thanks.  Right now, I'm happy with the decisions I am making."

And, in fact, that is what it all comes down to: choice.  The freedom to choose your own path and make your own decisions, and the ability to have those choices respected and honored as a valuable path.  Honestly, isn't that what we all want?  Isn't that how we should live and be with one another?

Given, things happen that are out of our control that are not what we would have chosen.  There are times we have to make decisions when we don't have a good choice, or the option that we would like is simply not available.  Sometimes, really shitty things happen, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

But we do have choices.  After the shit happens, you have choices.  Even if they aren't good choices.  Even if they aren't choices you would like to have to make.  Even when it seems like you don't have choices.  Even then you have a choice.  

My decision to date right now -- or not -- is my business, and mine alone, end of story.  My decision to get married and have children right now -- or ever -- is my business, and mine alone.  It does not have to do with whether or not I am meeting these socially imposed milestones.  It does not have to do with whether I am objectively whole, or broken, or healthy, or unhealthy, or mature, or immature, or emotionally scarred or stable.  It does not have to do with how attractive I am, or how unattractive I am.  It does not have to do with my weight or lack of it.  It does not have to do with my fashion sense (or lack of it), or how well (or poorly) I flirt, or how well (or poorly) I can play the games society insists we should play when we date.  And yes, each of these things has been mentioned as a potential factor in my lack of partner situation.

It feels, though, like I am failing.  Like it's wrong for me to be happy without these other things in my life.  Like I am wrong for being happy without these things in my life.  "It's just not normal," I've been told.  There are pressures from people and communities around me that make me feel like a failure for not wanting and starting a family in which I stay at home and take care of a handful of kids.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that -- absolutely nothing!  In fact, I think it is a wonderful and honorable choice for any man or woman to make, and I respect each person who makes that decision.  I respect them, however, exactly for that -- their decision.  It is not my decision right now.  Choices change, of course, and my position on this could very well change.  However, for me, now, at 28 with a recently completed doctoral degree and a job I am privileged to have and love with all of my being, it is not my choice.  Because it is not my choice, it makes the rest of my choices seem wrong, unimportant, and inconsequential.  Because it is not my choice right now, it feels like I am messing up the rest of my life and letting others down.  And, more than anything, I just hate feeling like a disappointment.  

Choices change!  Decisions change.  Circumstances change, opinions change, and there is nothing I can see that I am doing now that would negate the changing of my choices in the future.  In fact, I foresee my choices as definitely shifting in the future.  But does that mean that I am a failure now?  Does that mean that me, as I am, with my choices in this moment...does that mean that I am somehow failing at this big, hard thing called life?

The answer is "no," but there are parts of me that feel like the answer is most definitely "yes."


  1. Who gives a crap what other people think about whether you date or get married or have kids? You? Why? Do their lives look so perfect that they now get to work on making your life a copy of theirs? I doubt it. Lately I've been getting a lot of ..... I'll call it feedback, but what it feels more like unwanted advice. It pisses me off, so I'm working on examining this feedback objectively, deciding if it has value for me, and then ignoring it. In some cases, I've decided to ignore the person giving it as well, because so much examination takes too much time and energy I'm not willing to devote. I have decided to dedicate what time I have to people who don't make me feel that judged in that way.

    You can decide not to devote time and energy to unwanted advice and judgment too, including mine. Learn to smile like Mona Lisa and only tell your stories to people who can receive them in a way that fills you up.

  2. I wanted to say...more or less exactly what Reticula said, actually.

    Once I had a friend very sincerely give me one of those talks, those "I'm-concerned-you're-going-to-die-alone-and-miserable" talks. And I nodded and smiled, and later chewed it over with my roommate. (I haven't had roommates in over 9 years so it was a while ago!) And I realized, with her help, that my friend hadn't meant to imply that my life as it stood was awful. Instead, she was a person who had truly found her happiness in her spouse - they brought out good things in each other, made each other stronger. And because I do love this friend, I let it slide away. She was just seeing everything through the filter of her own path to happiness. And I'm guilty of that sometimes too. If I get to talking to someone about how happy I am (very, thank you!), and especially if they seem to long for some kind of new ground of happiness in their own life, it is VERY tempting to talk about the ways I got here. But that's my filter, my path. It's like when people ask me about how I lost weight. All I can tell you is how I did it; I can't tell you what to do. It's hard. But I remind myself that's the perspective some of my married friends are coming from.

    Anyway - thank you for writing this. Blogs are not any more self-centered than good, grounding conversations with friends, I don't think.