Letting go, looking up and moving forward
This past February began with a trip to the Turks and Caicos. My best friends worked very hard to qualify for a trip through their work. Since they each qualified, they had an extra ticket to paradise and generously chose to bring me along. A free trip to Turks with two of my best friends!? How could I have gotten so lucky!?!?
It was while I was sipping champagne next to the ocean for days on end that a few magical things happned to me.
Here I was, in paradise- on someone else’s dime, with no work, no stress, no plans, and no obligations; just me, unending bottles of champagne and the 4 unencumbered days that stretched out before me. On the first or second evening (hard to say because champagne) I looked at Meg and said “Thank you again, so much, for bringing me along.” She replied: “Are you kidding!? You deserve this! You’ve done so much for me and Rusty and… well… you’ve had a shitty year. It’s time to relax and have fun!”
And then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me-like I’d somehow completely forgotten… I did have a shitty year. I had a hard, shitty 2017.
I got a fucking divorce. I had to start my whole life track over, I had to look at my future in the rearview mirror as I drove into uncharted territory. It felt like starting from zero again where my personal goals had been concerned. Not to mention that I had fallen into a pit of self-loathing and had had to weed myself out. I was let down by people, and had to recalculate their parts in my life.
As I contemplated the past 7 months, I also thought of the incredible people in my life that helped lift me up and I realized that I had also been consumed with guilt that I could never properly convey my sincerest gratitude to them.
I spent the next day sipping more champagne by the swim up bar, reflecting on my year, and more existentially- my life.
Could have been the alcohol, could have been the ocean breeze but, ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I felt extremely lucky to be on the other side of the pain, anger and frustration. What I realized, however, was that a large part of my pain and stress was in hiding it. I had tried to sequester the things that hurt me in order to present myself to the world the way I desperately wanted to be seen. As a woman with her shit together- despite a difficult personal set back. I realize now how incredibly hurtful it had been to my spirit to sequester my struggles, that I had done myself a disservice to ignore the most painful parts of my failed marriage.
In my ponderings of the past 8 months, I was reminded of a particular day last fall. I was in the middle of 'the shit' and I had told my boss that I could let a contractor into our building at 7am. The night before I set numerous alarms, didn’t drink much and I went to bed at a reasonable hour. Still somehow… I missed all of the alarms. Eventually, I was jolted awake by a text message at 7:15am from my boss, wondering if I was still on my way since the contractor had called him and no one was around. I jumped out of bed as a panic attack immediately ensued; I threw on clothes and ran out of the house as fast as humanly possible.
I arrived at work at 7:30, the boss had already come to the rescue of the contractor and I was absolutely mortified. Still a weepy, puffy, panicky mess- I pulled my boss into my office and shut the door. Between sobs, I apologized profusely for my fuck up. He was gracious and understanding as I remember saying these exact words to him:
…I’m usually an extraordinary person… but this divorce is making me an ordinary person. An ordinary person who fucks up and I am NOT that person… I have to be extraordinary, because I suck at being ordinary… and I am so, so sorry…
Even to this day I still have guilt about miffing it that morning. I feel overcome with the urge to, yet again, apologize for an honest mistake…
It must have been somewhere around my third glass (read: bottle) of free champagne, that I was able to finally put my finger on the real problem- my unrealistic expectations for myself. The uncharacteristically high standards I have made for myself are so elevated that I had begun to expect nothing less than perfection as my modus operandi. Now I could clearly see how unfair that is to myself.
It was there, in the Turks-countless cocktails in, that I realized I had not forgiven myself for 2017. I hadn’t forgiven myself for any of the times I had come up short on my self-induced journey for extraordinary perfection. I hadn’t let myself come to terms with my lack of grace and tact or even the anger that resided in my heart. I had not allowed myself the grace to accept my failures, inadequacies and fuck-ups.
Forgiveness can be an inward experience, in fact, I would argue that true forgiveness begins there.
I spent the next few days making a concerted effort to relax. To let go of the disappointment I had, almost unknowingly, harbored for myself. I focused on the positive and congratulated myself on my new found freedom and the happiness that I truly felt in my new life. I congratulated myself on victories that resulted from choosing the hard-fought path, and reveled in the generosity of my friends who had graciously made room for me on this vacation.
I finally had the chance to clear my head of negativity and allow myself to be the imperfect version of the extraordinary woman I could still strive to be.
And that was the magic... the magic of self acceptance, forgiveness and finally giving myself head space…
In the Turks, I was surrounded by Meg and Rusty’s co-workers- all of whom had busted their asses to deserve a free trip for 5 days to paradise. At first, I was worried they’d all talk about work and I’d feel like a free-wheeler, just riding on the back of other people’s success. I was nervous that I would feel like my career and bank account were inferior to the ball-busting personal and financial success they had all found. I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate, and relate-ability had always been my game for charting new territory in social situations.
However, after even a few short hours in their company, I realize how similar I was to these people. They were goal-oriented, hard workers who were dead set on achieving their own definitions of success. They all desired to build a better life for themselves and their families; it had motivated them so much that they had all made sacrifices of time and sweat equity to achieve their goals. And that, I realized, was not unlike my path, it was not unlike my philosophy and work ethic at all.
So, as the first magical thing set in and my head cleared of the cob webs of personal distress, I started to feel something permeating in that, now available, part of my brain- the intoxicating satisfaction of doing what you’re passionate about and not only finding, but defining, success in that.
When people ask me: 'How are you?'... I always respond: 'Oh, ya know- livin’ the dream' with a deeply sarcastic tone. It is as if to insinuate that I am, as the status quo would suggest-unhappy.
This trip shifted my thinking.
By being surrounded by like-minded go-getters, I realized that what I had forgotten was that, in my actuality, I really was ‘livin’ the (my) dream’. I work in the field I chose, I am respected (enough so that people overlook my sailor mouth and pink hair, at least), I make a living and I am artistically fulfilled and continually challenged. I am living in the exact reality of the goals I had set for myself: Financial independence, artistic fulfillment, a tribe of friends/family who I love dearly, a reputation for having integrity and honesty, no to mention being called a "badass" on a few occasions. (Let's be honest, being called a "badass" is the best compliment I could ever possibly receive.)
I am, of course. not without imperfection- but I would be lying to myself if I didn't admit that I am living my definition of crafty, tactical, 'badass' personal success...
MOVE SLOWLY AND KEEP SMILING.
**My brilliant grandfather often told me the story of when he and my grandmother had parked their RV late one night in the middle of a field in South America. The next morning they awoke early to find that they had, inadvertently, parked directly in the middle of the local farmers market; which, by the sounds the people were making, displeased them greatly. In effort to rectify the situation, he looked at my grandmother and said - "We're going get out and reason with them... No matter what happens, move very slowly and KEEP SMILING."**
By the end of the trip, my ENTJ “Achiever” personality began to nag at me: You’ve forgiven yourself and you’ve made peace with your decisions… so, what is the next mountain to climb? What is the new definition of success? Where do we go from here?
I flew back to the United States, head heavy from the sauce, but more clear than it had ever been.
I remember being on the flight and making thousands of mental lists about all of the things I would re-commit myself too, now that my head had space and my drive was reinstated.
I redefined my short term goals, and decided that upon my return I would commit myself to my work, my responsibilities, my art. I would lean in to the things I had taken for granted and continue to strive towards the upward movement in my career. I would apply to get my graduate degree along with my full-time-part-time-side-hustles.
I would continue to machete my path forward, and create opportunities for myself and revel in the life I have chosen and built.
I will commit myself back to being the badass I strive to be, while understanding the equal importance of forgiving myself for the times I don't hit the mark. I will embrace my boorish personality, I will celebrate my capability and I will revel in my singularity.
I will move forward, slowly, and I will keep smiling...
Well, maybe just smirking...
To the Jerks in the Turks!