Part of being an inspirational page owner on Facebook, for me anyway, is trying to convince people that they can become authentic and they will still be loved. It means sending out messages, often in poster form, encouraging people away from that life of quiet desperation and towards a life of their own making, full of love, joy, and happiness. I work very hard to plant seeds that give people permission to be themselves even if it means not totally conforming to what most of us seem to think society wants from us. I am hoping to let people know that you can become a socially acceptable non-conformist, but few people seem to trust that.
I often hear, “I would love to do this, but…,” or, “I wish I could do that, but…” These statements are always followed by why they cannot do this, that, or the other thing, and in the end if comes down to their fear of bucking what society and the media feeds us, telling us all what we should be doing, and wanting, and attaining. It would seem that we are all supposed to be working ourselves into the ground, squeezing our families in when we can, and most definitely, we should be trying to please everyone even if it means denying ourselves. I used to buy into that, too. In fact, I owned the company. I cannot buy into it anymore and I so wish that more people understood that life is all about choices, and we DO have them in nearly every part of our lives. The real question is, are we willing—are we brave enough to make choices that others might not agree with, or see as a little too different to fit into their comfort zones? Are YOU brave enough, if you are living a life of quiet desperation, to make serious changes, and not to follow the pack?
I have a friend who is in her mid 70’s and I do not think she has ever known real happiness and contentment. She worked herself silly as a younger woman and stayed in a marriage that made her miserable. She lives in a large, gorgeous, home that is decorated within an inch of its life. You cannot find a single surface, floor included, where there is not some piece of brick-a-brack every six inches. Her deck has lovely patio furniture with cushions that must be brought inside every time there is a threat of rain, and under the patio furniture are rugs that get soaked when it does rain. She is constantly on the go, doing for others at the drop of a hat, never able to relax, or just to say “no.”
If she leaves the house without being well dressed and in full make-up, she worries that people will talk about her behind her back. When she entertains, even a barbecue, no one can relax because she cannot relax. She has a grandson who is an absolutely wonderful, kind, giving, and grounded young man and of him she says, “Yes, but he’ll never be rich. Not enough ambition.” What must I look like to her, I wonder? I wonder, but the thing is, I do not care.
She looks tired or scared a lot of the time, and every night she drinks too much. I know at this point in life chances of her changing are slim, but how I would love to see her relax and just find the joy in herself and in life. I would love to see her just plain happy, and yet, I used to be just like her. I was constantly on the go, chairing this committee, or that one, or serving on this board, or that one, or more often, all of them. At the same time, I was raising a lot of very young children, and married to a surgeon which meant frequent entertaining, and when I entertained, my goal was to out do those who had gone before me.
I had to be the best at everything and as much as I truly cared about all of the things that I was doing, the reason I was doing them was to feel better about myself. I had been raised with the notion that perfection was the only acceptable result, and I constantly missed the mark. It got to the point, shortly before we moved from the community in which I was the go-to person for most everything, where I was out of steam completely, but found myself yelling at my husband who had already moved, “I will not leave this town with anyone thinking I am anything less than perfect!” He had suggested I drop a thing or two and I could not conceive of doing that. And just like my friend, I drank every night after I got the kids to bed to ease the pain of another day of being less than perfect.
Of course, that desire to be perfect was a swell cover for many pains that were far deeper, and in the end, that drive to be perfect took me into some places darker than black, and deeper than any bottomless pit, and it very nearly killed me. However, I had to be knocked down more than a few times before I became willing to make changes in myself, and how I lived, and to be true to myself, and my temperament, and to get to the core of the pain I was hiding from with the need to appear perfect, and the drinking, and the excessive activity. It took a lot of work, and massive amounts of courage, and a real commitment, and a long, damn, time, but I have found a place where I fully accept myself and am happy in my own skin. When you get to that place, anything is possible, but far fewer things seem attractive, necessary, or even close to acceptable.
It is no longer attractive to me to pursue perfection. I would be lying if I said I was totally over the need to be perfect. The word perfect is one of my favorite words to hear, especially when it comes to my cooking, or writing. However, I can now easily accept the phrases, “very good,” and “nicely done.” Before, those would have been seen as insults. I no longer find it necessary to please everyone to the exclusion of myself, nor is it necessary to say yes to every opportunity that is offered to me. I derive my sense of self-worth from within—from God and from how I operate in this world. It is no longer acceptable to me to strive beyond what is healthy for me, nor is it acceptable to have things I do not need, buy things I cannot afford, live somewhere that is far too big, or act like I am anyone but me–the genuine, essential, flawed, imperfect, happy, joyful, me.
Some may view me as lazy. I know that I am anything but lazy. Some may think that I need to acquire more things, or have more of what people think that everyone needs, like cable TV, for instance. I do not want or need cable TV, nor does my son need anymore exposure to vile programs or inappropriate media stories than he already gets other places. I do not need anymore things, or shoes to match this, or a handbag to go with that. I now know exactly what I need and that is God, to love my family and friends, to work to pay the bills, and to write to honor God and the gift He has given me. I have goals for the future that I pray will be a blessing to many, and dreams that I know I will see fulfilled. God did not create me to be perfect, or run myself ragged in the pursuit of an illusion, or to deny myself and what He has placed in me. Add a bit of solitude and quiet and my life could not be better.
I live a life so simple and honest that it is hard for many not to see it lacking in some way. Yet, I know from what they tell me, that they want the same things. It is just too scary. The path to get there just looks too scary to take. I had to go very far inside myself to find my path and it is only the right path for me. Today, I encourage you to be brave enough to find your own unique path, even if it does not conform to what society wants for you. Have the courage to go deep enough inside yourself to know who you are and what you really want and be willing to get rid of all of the rest, even if it hurts. I encourage you towards a life of simplicity, joy, peace, and genuine happiness. How badly do you want it is the real question?