Before I start, this is me in 1983. When I see this picture, I want to know: When did this girl start losing her voice? When did she begin to lose her fun, playfulness & truth? How did she learn, and who taught her that she wasn’t precious just the way she was? PS – and why the hell was I teased and marginalized for being fat?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been numb. People would ask what my passion was. I had none (or I made something up that sounded cool). Remember when planning five years out was the thing to do to achieve your passion? It may still be, but I now consciously ignore all that stuff. Anyhow, the goal was to envision life five years in the future and work backward to lay a straight and narrow yellow brick road leading to attainment. Again, I could not do this. My rationale was that I may not notice if there was another yellow brick road I was supposed to follow and instead passed it by because I was so focused on getting to my definition Oz in five years? The truth for freezing when I tried to do this exercise was because I couldn’t see a year in advance much less five.
As far as I knew, I was the only human that couldn’t get a futuristic look into the future. “Vision boards,” someone said. I can’t even create a collage without my armpits sweating! Why? Probably because it would look dumb and stupid sitting next to someone else’s. Truth. Years ago I was taking a creative writing class at The Loft and this was one of our sessions – collaging. I brought in magazines to use and share but ended up sitting in the corner with drenched armpits. What the fuck was even supposed to go on a collage? Ninety minutes of pure hell resulted in the largest photos I could find being slapped on a piece of tagboard (the big ones covered more white-space). My creation had no meaning but I’m sure I made up a good story as we went around sharing. Others in the room made inspirational pieces of art that represented their lives and what was important to them. Again, I failed.
Most of my life has felt like a failure. Not because I didn’t succeeded or do well, but rather because I was predisposed to not being good enough from an early age. I didn’t even know what success was supposed to look and feel like. Once I finished or achieved something, I just raised the bar for myself never reflecting and being proud of the accomplishment. Chris would often ask, “Can’t you just stop and enjoy what you’ve done?” Guess not. Besides, I was too busy living in the moment with raising a family, working and trying to fit into the social status of looking like I had it all pulled together. The hockey moms already talked behind my back: “Who does she think she is coming into the rink late in her nice clothes and designer handbags.” I am not lying here. When this was being said to others by what I thought was a semi-friend, I was standing right there. Who did I think I was? Really, lady? I was a woman whose work led me across the country, who worked my ass off and who tried to do my best. Truth is that together with my husband, we raised three fucking awesome kids who are now grown adults running lives that give me the chills. I am so proud of them.
Albeit for a few years when I worked in the not-for-profit arena, I also felt like a failure. I worked and worked and worked, brought home a check, and dedicated many nights and weekends to doing more work in hope that someone would just say “Thank you” or “Man, you are amazing!” Maybe that’s what the difference was between my nonprofit work and the rest of my career…I loved the people I worked for and with and they were always there with a genuine compliment and a thank you. And now that I think back, I worked even harder because we all grew to really love each other.
As a complete juxtaposition to my non-profit work, not too long ago I worked with someone who would point out a missed comma in a sentence or revise the ones I had written because I used too many adjectives. Her voice is still stuck in my head – even when I’m journaling my private thoughts. I wonder: is it perfect? Is the comma in the correct space? Am I using different tenses in my paragraphs? W.T.F.
On the Present
If the feelings of being a failure drove more that 50 years of my personal and career life, what will drive it now? From this side of the fence I can see and name the poor thought patterns of my past, but how do I stop them from overtaking me again? How do I take this life without barriers and move it forward? I have no career or children surrounding me. What I have is a blank slate which right now is putting heart and soul into becoming a Functional Medicine health coach. When the time comes to graduate and get certified, will fear of failure paralyze me? Will I again think I’m not good enough or deserving?
Even writing and putting my voice on this blog scares the shit out of me. The fear of criticism and negative comments grips my fingers when I am set to hit the “publish” button. Once I do hit it, the thoughts become: “Who wants to read this anyhow? I’m unimportant and my story isn’t worth telling. People are going to again ignore my voice and I will blend into daily noise.”
To consciously contrast the noise in my head, I need to learn to tell myself the truth. If I have to do this a hundred times a day, so be it. As my therapist says, “Joni, the truth is…” So here it goes, my truths:
I do have a voice
My story is worth telling
I am writing for myself and if no one reads, who cares
I am creative
I do contribute to this world
I will make a great coach
I am resilient
Life is not over – it is only beginning.
My purpose is to make this world and the lives of others better
My passion is…ok… I’m not there yet. Right now, I don’t have a passion that drives my being but I know there is one waiting to fly out of me.
I am still decompressing and healing (as my therapist also reminds me) from past traumas and shame.
I know the yellow brick road to MY Oz is right here, right now, and it is waiting for my first step.