I Don’t Fit in a Box…

There are so many times when I want to scream the title of this post out loud.  People want you to fit into a nice neat package that makes sense to them.  Except I don’t.  Oh, there are all sorts of words for it.  Highly Sensitive Personality or HSP is one term I’ve come across.  Another one is that I have a high EQ or emotional intelligence or something like that, I would have to look it up.  More labels and more terms to describe the fact that I am a bit of a complex person emotionally.  I don’t do it on purpose, I just was made that way.

Trying to explain to someone why I feel the way I do, I usually have to simplify it for them.  For them A = B.  For me A = B but then it also equals I, P, Q and Y.  Even my husband who is highly intelligent cocks his head sideways at me like a puzzled dog at times when I try explain why I am feeling this way or that.  Trust me, I wish A = B and sometimes it is that simple and other times it’s not.  

A person who is HSP usually doesn’t like crowds and interactions with a lot of people can drain them.  This is true of me to an extent.  Depends on what the crowd is for and who the person or people I am dealing with.  It is not that there is something wrong with me, it is just I am sensitive to things other people are not.  A study published showed that after you reach a certain point of IQ, up in the ther higher intellect levels people rate themselves as less happy than their counterparts with lower IQ’s.  I believe it is because their minds never shut off and there are too many outcomes, too many outliers and too many things to consider to ever feel completely content and settled.  Of course that is strictly my own theory.  Maybe there is a thing as being too smart.  

Some of the most creative and genius people struggled with just day to day functioning.  Look at Van Gogh, ultimately creative and cut off his own ear.  I won’t bore you with other somewhat depressing examples but there seems to be a theme among the gifted. For me it is that I sometimes don’t feel like I fit in even in my own life.  My mind won’t shut off, I’m always over analyzing and over thinking things.  Sometimes I must be reminded to relax and have some fun.  Enjoy what I have.  I always feel I must be achieving something, doing something and being productive.  It’s hard for me to shut down and have “down” time.  I find my down time best spent riding my bike or hiking.  It combines peacefulness and doing “something” which seems to work for my personality.

Sometimes in my work, I have a hard time letting go of the fact I have to wait for someone else to do their job especially when it interrupts my day or puts me behind.  I am sure it is because I do not have control of the situatuion and I just make myself miserable by being angry and anxious.  Laid back people wouldn’t even bat an eye but my Type A ways just works against my inner peace.  I need to learn to take a deep breath and remind myself, the world is not truly ending.  

As I venture into a new chapter of my life where my kids are grown and I’m thinking now what, I struggle with the fact I don’t have a set plan.  Before my life was on this particular track, whether it be surviving and keeping a roof over my head, raising my girls or taking care of my mother so I didn’t have time to think of “what’s next?”  You can revisit your old dreams and then you realize well they don’t matter anymore because you’ve changed and those things don’t seem important.   You’ve even put yourself in a box thinking this is who I am.  Then one day you wake up and you realize the box is too small. You’ve outgrown the parameters of the life you had once lived.

I will admit, it is a bit scary thinking of what’s next in my new chapter.  Right now I’m finishing a degree program I have been working on for 10 years though not consistently.  Most of my adjustments have been that my life has changed dramatically and I am not a caretaker anymore.  Being a caretaker took up a lot of my time.  I now may have a whole day where I don’t have anything I “need” to do and that feels very unsettling at times.  Though I used to dream of that day when I wouldn’t be so scheduled and taxed.  I look around and think, Okay, what do I want to do today?  What should I do? My Type A-like personality starts listing all these things I could do to be productive.  But what am I being productive for?  Usually nothing significant.  Busy work or chores that I can do any time.

As I crawl out of my self-made box, I have started to think of new possiblities.  Publish that book.  Travel more.  Start my own small-business on the side.  Mostly I want to learn how to really take care of myself.  I have a tendency to put everyone and everything else first.  I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and I tend at times to fall back on those types of relationships when things become difficult in my life rather than putting energy into the relationships that are good in my life.  I just recreate that which does not work only to be miserable.  Pretty stupid if you ask me.

I need to not worry about what others think and focus on what I know about myself.  Stop letting my own fears, other’s doubts and my own doubts keep me from creating a life that fully makes me happy and fulfilled.  Not a perfect life of course, that will never happen but there are a few areas in my life I need to work on.  I don’t want others to put me in a box so I shouldn’t do it to myself either.  One of my biggest impediments is my own self-doubt and fear.  And some of it is still following old defense and coping mechanisms of my younger years.  These aren’t needed anymore, so I need to leave those behind too.  Drop the chains in that box I’ve kept myself locked away in because it felt “safe”.

When you grow up in an unpredictable and volatile environment, your need to feel safe is paramount.  You will avoid risks and challenges just to keep things on an even keel.  You are afraid to give more of yourself, to open up your heart fully.  Just as a rape victim might keep themselves unconsciously overweight as a protection against people or men taking notice of her, you come up with defense mechanisms.  Then you have to shed the layers and become who you were meant to be rather than living in fear.  Bad things happen and it wasn’t your fault.  It is only until you let go of your coping mechanisms and behaviors that you can really be free.  And it’s a hard lesson to learn.  And even harder to fulfill but not impossible.  

I’ve been on a long journey to overcome much in my past that I never talk about because frankly it doesn’t need rehashing.  Every day is one baby step into a better life for myself.  Every time I set a boundary, say no, or decide maybe that wasn’t good for me is a triumph.  But now I need to start living my life a bit more in the direction I need to go.  To focus my energy on my talents, my hopes and my dreams or at least figure out what some of my new dreams will be.  I am hugely blessed in this life with a supportive husband, three amazing daughters, wonderful friends and family. I

In conclusion, I’ve come a long way baby but I’m not even close to being done yet.  IT’s time to shrug off my self-imposed chains and step out of the box… It’s time to stop being afraid and just do it.  It’s time to really start living.

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The Storm and Happiness

            How do you define “happiness”?  The dictionary states: good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy. Happiness is very personal because what makes me happy may not make my friend or neighbor happy. Then there is momentary happiness and happiness in general as a way of life. Illusive happiness and centered happiness. And the demanding question “Are you happy?” Are you? Are you happy? Happiness as a mindset. Happiness as a measure of how successful your life is. Happy Birthday. Happy Halloween. There is a lot of pressure for one to be happy at any given moment in their life.

          If you have followed my blog at all, you already know my life has been a crazy, dysfunctional series of ups and downs. My childhood and adolescence was marred by alcoholism and abuse. Anyone who has grown up in this type of home knows that any fleeting moment of happiness is usually quickly followed by something horrific or terrifying at times. It doesn’t take long before you become skeptical at any feelings of joy or happiness because you know it won’t stay, something or someone will ruin it for you. Volatile is your world, not happy. You are always waiting for that other shoe to drop. Happiness is a temporary state.

          Since my mom passed away March 2014, I finally adjusted back into the world of the living. But I had been sleepwalking in my life for a long time. At the end of this last year, I realized I needed to start focusing on myself and what I wanted out of life as I sat down to do my five yearly goals I set each December to give me some guidance throughout the year. This is really the first time since I was in my teens, that I was focusing on goals for just myself. I registered for classes to try and finish my business degree but this time I went in and talked to an advisor. I walked out of that appointment with a list of things to complete and registered for two more classes and my graduation date in early May. After ten years of on and off taking classes online, I was going to finally graduate.

Having a goal and something to focus on has brought me a little bit of anxiety but since I am out of the fog I had been living in, this has given me a new spark. My therapist told me I was in a ‘valley’, your life is so busy and then suddenly you dip off. It takes some time but you recover and start the next journey of your life. Being me, I thought that meant a few months but for me it was really a few years.

This past Monday, the sun was out and I had spent the morning at the college library researching for my history paper. I had stopped at home to see my oldest before she went off to work. Then I had to drive to the grocery store and I really hate grocery shopping but at least on Monday, the stores are not usually crowded. My music is playing in the truck and I have my sunroof cracked when I notice this feeling I was not familiar with. A light feeling, like I do not weigh anything at all. Floating on a cloud. I had been singing with the song, loudly I might add. Inside I did not feel sad, down or pensive. I realize I feel, happy. Contented. Light. I had this feeling since I got up that morning felt this way and had just focused on the feeling because it felt strange and unfamiliar to me.

When you grow up the way I did, and spent decades of your life in miserable situations, you have moments of happiness but this was new to me. I’ve always tried to be grateful but it was usually during another storm in my life. I fixed my marital and financial problems, then my mom became sick again. Happiness is something that is temporary until the next storm rolls into your life. Except this time, it has been with me on a new level. Evolved into something I am not used to but am finally learning to embrace rather than stare at it warily with suspicion.

Twice that day, two people had referred to me as ‘young lady’ and let’s face it, I’m middle-aged at 45 though most people guess my age at 35. Usually it is only the elderly that call me that or someone being a sarcastic ass about my age. The first woman was a mid-20’s librarian at my college and she seemed sincere about the comment when she told me “Young lady your coat fell on the floor.” I had just spoken to her face to face at the circulation desk when I picked up some books I requested so she had clearly saw my face. She was very much twenty years my junior. I didn’t think much of it, she seemed like she was in a good mood.

Later that afternoon, a woman in her early 50’s, not far from my age, asked me a question and added ‘young lady’ to the end. I had left the store feeling bewildered and wondered if people were just feeling good because it was an unusually warm, sunny first day of February. Later that night as I was lying in bed, I was thinking about that odd coincidence and it dawned on me that maybe that light, happy feeling made me look younger to other people. I have no idea if that was true but it was not something that happened to me before. Maybe that should be a beauty tip, if you want to look younger, find your happiness.

Right after my mom died, my daughters and I were in the grocery store, we had split up and they found me again in the produce section bending over a display of oranges. My middle daughter remarks they couldn’t find me at first. I asked her why and they all thought I was some old grouchy lady in her sixties because of the expression on my face. I just sighed and gave up on finding decent oranges. I was just weeks into life without my mom. So maybe our feelings and level of current happiness can make us look older or younger.

Moral of the story, I’ve been learning how to be happy and let it be part of my life rather than just a fleeting moment. No my life isn’t perfect but when will it ever be? I can’t control most things in life but I can control how I react to things out of my control or other people. Allowing myself to be happy is new for me, but I really love that feeling of lightness I’ve been carrying with me. Life will always hand me knocks and challenges. It’s up to me to keep my inner peace, embrace what is good even in the storm.

Sometimes storms can be the most beautiful moments of your life. Give yourself permission to be happy, even in the rain.