Grab life and move forward. Feel deeply. Love hard. Have fun every chance you get. Don’t worry about mistakes. Everything works the way it is meant to work. Chaos is good, it keeps me moving forward without giving a lot of thought to what I’m doing.
This is how I have plowed through life, starting with my teenage years. I didn’t like to plan, I liked to have fun, and I enjoyed waking up and going on adventures even when the people around me tried to convince me to slow down and think about it first. Even when my gut said, hey you should stop and notice this, it could be important. Consequences? Those aren’t things you worry about when you have life by the tail and are hanging on for your perfect, happy ending. Except, I don’t think I ever thought much about what that happy ending should look like.
That’s ok when you are as young as I was and taking on life as chaotically as I was comfortable doing most of the time. What I am facing now, is that I shame myself for being that way back then because I stayed that way. I justify the negative experiences I have had by saying I wasn’t cautious enough, controlled enough, nice enough, girly enough, and I wasn’t always honest. I wouldn’t say if I was uncomfortable. I didn’t hold firm to my ideologies to ensure that life was exactly what I deserved.
You have to compromise to be in relationships, right? Wrong. One definition I found for compromise is this: to accept standards that are lower than is desirable. Hmmmm. That makes me squirm a bit in my skin.
Accept standards that are lower than is desirable. Hmmm. Yeah, I don’t think I’m willing to do that. Not ever again.
I have a bottom line. So do you. I have a core set of values and needs. So should you. I feel like those things are not negotiable. They have to be serious things, obviously, not just “I like musicals so if you don’t there’s the door.” You have to discuss things, you should negotiate some matters, you want to consider the other person’s opinions and decide if you want to change yours. But that should never mean giving up your bottom line. It is a boundary issue. And that is something I never understood before recently. And something I will be honest and say I am still struggling with just a bit.
I am having a great time rediscovering me lately and I know I’ve been saying that a lot. It feels really, really good the majority of the time. It stills feel scary sometimes too. Because I built and lived with very poor boundaries. If I didn’t want someone to walk out of my life, I let a boundary go so that they would stay or so that I felt I should stay. If I wanted a person to like me, or love me, I was willing to ignore the fact that they were mean, or jealous, or a liar, not willing to be emotionally supportive, or said hateful things that I find unacceptable.
A book I reference a lot right now in my life is Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting, and Enjoying the Self by Charles Whitfield. I love the book. I read it a lot. On page 103, Charles Whitfield has a table of characteristics of safe and unsafe people. When I have to look at a relationship in my life that is feeling “off,” I always check out that page first to see if the person is in the “safe” column. If a new person comes into my life, I open to that page. The safe characteristics that are most important to me include supportive, are real with you, accept the real you, validate the real you, and hear you.
I feel conflicted and a bit gross even writing those down here! You know why? Because it feels selfish to me. The book focuses on knowing and protecting my true self and that is something I believe many people always felt I did fairly well. I guess maybe I should have been an actor. I feel like I’m a pretty supportive person to those I love. But I also feel like I have spent a fair amount of my life being a person in the unsafe column. “False with you, unclear, indirect, boundaries unclear/messages mixed.” Those are the items I see which I feel fit me for a long time in my relationships. And that is difficult to digest.
I moved out on my own in November 2012. That feels like a very long time ago. To be fair and completely honest, I had a pretty great marriage for many years and he is not an awful person at all. He is not even the person I most often think about when I am writing negative relationship stuff. Since I moved out, I have realized that those unsafe characteristics of my own personality really need some work. And apart from the sexual assault healing, that’s why I go to therapy. To understand me and to make changes that I feel are necessary to change those unsafe things to the safe characteristic instead. Top of the list for me would be wanting to have appropriate boundaries and being clear and direct.
I know I’m improving. I know this because I have met someone who is new to my life and I have maintained my boundaries and been clear and direct. It’s pretty awesome. What’s coolest about it is that even though it is new, it is completely authentic. I know that in my past, this would not have been the case. Because when you first meet someone there is a tendency for people to give in and compromise your own stuff. To impress, to seem more the same, more of a match. And I don’t feel the need to do that at all. In fact, I’m more me than I have been in about 20 years when I’m around this person. How freakin cool is that?
Many of the things that I used to love to do, and want, and be fell by the wayside after the assault. I compromised who I was and what I liked to do to fit what I thought I needed. To be good enough. To fit into what I thought being a grown up really had to look like. It wasn’t all bad, I’m not saying I haven’t had a terrific life. I raised two awesome children, I have amazing family and friends, I finished two college degrees, traveled a lot, and had a lot of great times. I’ve always been surrounded by some quality people who have been there for me through it all.
Going forward I won’t compromise, and I’m not sorry about that. It feels good to finally understand that it’s ok to just be me. And that in just being me I could be exactly the right person for someone who feels good about just being who they are too.