I daydream about going to a cabin that has an incredible view of spruce and pine trees with rolling hills crowned by the most beautiful blue sky. The cabin would have all the necessities like electricity, running water and any healthy, tasty food I may want. What would I do there? I’d write. I’d be free. With no one else’s needs to consider, I’d allow myself to get swallowed up by memories and imagination. I’d let the words flow onto the screen without censoring them against the fear that someone would disagree, judge them harshly, be embarrassed or be offended. I’d write to make myself happy.
And when I’d need a break I’d go outside with my camera. I’d breathe deeply a few deep slow nature-filled breaths and I’d walk forward without being attacked by biting insects. I’d take photos of anything and everything that interested me and I’d put no time limits on myself. I’d absorb the inspiration that surrounded me, the stillness would change me – calm me. I’d smile – not because anyone could see it and judge what kind of smile it was – but because I’d feel contentment in every fibre of myself. My soul would feel light and burdens would disappear. And maybe if I allowed myself, I could find me. I know she’s there, but she’s hiding, she doesn’t have permission to fully reveal herself.
I remember me when I was as a child. I remember the love showered upon me, I remember feeling like I had some special quality being the youngest. I remember how good it felt to get attention from my siblings. But that was when I was cute. When the cuteness wore off the messages began to change. And the me I was became shaped by others. It was as if each disapproving comment, each insult, each do or don’t, chiseled away at me and I began to feel less than. I sought approval and feared angry criticism. I changed.
The me who faced changing schools and addresses and cities multiple times, who faced the “loving” teasing from my older siblings and the me who feared her father’s anger and disapproval was shaped by all of it. And that’s the way isn’t it? You want to fit in, you want acceptance? You learn what is socially acceptable, you learn manners and you learn the Golden Rule.
Although I didn’t recognize it at the time I was always jealous of certain people who had a certain quality. They didn’t seem to care what others thought of them. In the lower grades they were the kids who pushed to get into the front of the line, they didn’t wait their turns, they didn’t invite you to play rbecause it was the right thing to do, they played only with those kids that they had fun with. Later, they were the ones that spoke up and said when they didn’t like something. They took risks; they didn’t worry if they made fools of themselves. I admired them too. They tried out for all the teams and talent shows and if they didn’t make it they just tried again next time.
I see now, the people I’ve always envied are the ones that give themselves permission. In a sense, they are free. When I worry about hurting feelings, about being criticized, about being ‘nice’, they are the ones out their just living their lives. So why don’t I?
My kids have always and continue to come first. Then my husband and so on. Where am I on that list? I don’t even know. I have allowed myself to be a doormat so often during employment situations, never giving myself permission to reject it; almost always looking for my blame. I look so forward to weekends and then when they arrive I wait for others to wake up. Then I wait to determine their needs for transportation etc. Instead of taking off when the me inside wants only to get away, I wait. What if they decide they want to do something with me? More often than not, the day disappears and I’m making lists, getting groceries and doing laundry – and dreaming of that cabin.
Will I ever give myself permission to be me? I bite my tongue often due to the number of times I was told I need to think before I speak. Trying not to offend anyone, I take it personally when someone takes my words the wrong way. I work all day and come home to cook all the meals and usually end up cleaning up after those who may have spent the day at home. I avoid angry exchanges and keep the anger inside. Sometimes I feel the urge to run away – not permanently – but just for a break.
Of course I love my family and of course I’d never choose differently, but somewhere along way I think I lost too much of me in order to be who everyone else needed. It’s my own doing. I let it happen. The feeling of being never good enough was a great motivator.
Recently, I was convinced that having an escape would solve my problems. We looked for land up north but soon realized we wouldn’t be able to afford to use it until we retired even if we could find something in our price range. I thought a trailer somewhere would do the trick – a getaway. But the many reasons why it was not a good decision were painstakingly pointed out to me. Our house is small in the sense that with five adults there’s not much sense of privacy. The yards of the houses in this neighborhood are small and neighbours are very close. All two-stories, the houses tower over the back yards making fences seem short. I want to escape. The daydream brings me comfort but it also teases me into wondering if it’s even possible. It’s almost like an outreached hand offering your favourite treat and then snatching it away again. Even if I found the perfect setting, could I ever be selfish enough to give myself permission to indulge my dream? The me inside knows I probably would not because how would I dare spend money and vacation days on just me? Me knows she’s not worth that and me doesn’t want to be called selfish.
I’ve noticed some seniors seem to lose their filters – they say whatever is on their mind and don’t care whose feelings they hurt. Well maybe it’s taken them their whole lifetime to free their me, to find their voice, to stop letting others tell them how to live. Maybe it’s taken them until their senior years to give themselves permission too.
I keep the daydream alive – I’ve built this idyllic vision that has become the happy place I go to in my mind. I try to nurture a glimmer of hope that someday I’ll give myself permission – and free me so she/so I can breathe deeply filling myself with contentment and allowing me to take care and free my soul to be authentic.