Over the past year, I lost myself. I started a business. Apparently. Not entirely on purpose, but it happened. The business of documenting love, which is not an unworthy cause. However, I overdid it. That’s probably an understatement.
I undercharged, overbooked, overworked myself, and became so disoriented that I lost the sense, the point from which I began. I was a mess, so constantly busy, overwhelmed, overcome by stress. I became ill, more than once within just a few months, learning that old lesson, “If you don’t say no, your body will.”
There were several points in which I was certain I had gone insane.
Here’s just a taste:
“There is too much to do. I don’t have a free day in my calendar until October. I’ll never catch up.”
**Queue emotional breakdown.**
“Wow. I get to be creative for a living! I never thought I’d be able to do that! I don’t work in a soul-sucking office anymore! I get to be my own boss and meet cool people and edit at home with my cat! I love my job! I love my whole entire life!”
**Queue burst of pure gratitude, maniacal energy and joy.**
“I’m so overwhelmed. I never have enough time to edit. Being my own boss just means I have to do all the things. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m letting my clients down because my work sucks. I’m letting my friends and family down because I’m so busy creating terrible work. Who am I kidding? Why did I ever think I could do this? “
Ad Nauseum. Sometimes this would occur within just a few minutes. There was one day in particular where I was positively losing it. I had been angry, then fell into a puddle of tears, and then started dancing feverishly in the passenger seat while Drew drove us to the store.
I said to him, “I think I might be an insane person.”
He replied, with an unconcerned shrug, “You might.”
I don’t know that I can recall a moment in my life where I felt so positively loved for exactly what I am.
(For the record, I Googled it, and if you’re sane enough to think you might be insane, you’re probably not insane. Though I’m not always convinced.)
June came. I started a year-long course to become a facilitator for Emotional Processing. Logic told me this was the worst possible time to begin such an endeavor. But something inside of me screamed, demanded, “DO IT NOW!” It was a good thing I listened. It was the best choice I’ve made since Drew.
I began the process of identifying many behaviors, belief systems, survival tactics I had adopted in the past which no longer served me, letting them go, finding new ways to see and be. I found the power to write a new story about who I am. I started showing up differently. I learned to look inward for my own answers, to trust my own instincts rather than endlessly looking outward for validation that would never be enough. I gradually started sticking up for myself, shaking off my old patterns, allowing myself to be free.
And that was when my life exploded.
My parents had separated. It wasn’t the first time. My dad was struggling with the reality of being a bachelor at this point in his life, and needed support. My mom relapsed after leaving rehab, and, let’s just say, a loved one relapsing is never an easy ride. My brothers and were I constantly working to seek out this ever-elusive answer to where our place is in all of this.
I walked out on a dinner where I felt I wasn’t being respected. Just got up in the middle of a conversation and walked myself home. I set boundaries, and held them, let other people react how they would. I had never done that before. I didn’t recognize this girl who no longer spent her life on egg shells. It scared me, for a moment. But it was just a pendulum swing, from one extreme before settling into a new state of balance.
It felt very much as if I had signed up for The Refiner’s Fire: Crash Course Edition without being conscious for it. I was being pulled apart, wrung out like a rag. Family issues, photo shoots, weddings, emails, endless hours spent editing millions of photos, band practice, school, homework, trying to maintain relationships and a sense of self-care. (As if.) I was going and going and going with no time to rest. Even when I tried to allow myself rest, I would just stress out about everything I still had to do.
Enter Meg’s Quarter-Life Existential Crisis. Right on schedule. It turns out that changing your perceptions isn’t a selective process; it is all-encompassing. It affects every single area in your life. I had begun the process of reconsidering why I do life the way I do, why I believe what I believe, what I really want my life to look like, instead of living from a concept of scarcity and following the format.
I can only explain it like this: my entire inner system – the way I lived my life, and why – was like a tapestry of color, emotion, tradition, expectation, dogma hanging in my subconscious. For the first time, I had begun to examine it, to wonder where it came from. To wonder what parts I had put there intentionally, and what parts I had inherited from others. What parts were true to me, and what parts I only kept there out of obligation or for the goal of gaining other’s approval or something equally as senseless. To question who had truly woven this monstrosity in the first place. I had a growing suspicion that it wasn’t me.
Time passed. I grew brave. I approached it, slowly, carefully, inching closer and closer, eyes narrowing in consideration, a contemplative hand on my chin. Finally, I reached out in curiosity, pulling at one tiny thread, “What about this one….?”
This tapestry, the center, the nucleus of my every thought and belief that had until this point been so intricate and tightly woven, dismantled, unraveled, positively fell into a mess of threads at my feet at the slightest curious tug.
I had brought all of this to fruition, set all of this change in motion, I knew. I had learned a new dance, and refused to return to the old. I felt stripped, raw and dizzy with so much change in so little time. I couldn’t keep up with the pace of it.
Looking down at this fallen system, now a tangled rat’s nest, I felt nothing but overwhelmed. What had I done? How could I make sense of this? I wanted to go back into hiding, to let myself disappear, to return to that familiar identity of doormat, appeaser, wishy-washy go-with-the-flow moldable mush. That girl who ate up any answers fed to her by whatever source seemed sure enough of itself to explain away what she hadn’t the strength to face.
For a moment, I did. It was the last, desperate cry of all of those old ways before I finally put them to rest. And let me tell you about old ways. Old ways die hard. Bruce Willis has nothing on me.
I missed the safety, or the illusion of it, that I had been wielding as a shield my entire life. But it was time to surrender it, to face what seemed unfaceable. Going backward is fallacy, a futile attempt to postpone the inevitable.
“However long postponed, everything composed, must decompose.” – Alan Watts
July was an exhausted blur, gone before I even noticed its arrival. It mostly consisted of this:
Friend: “Meg! I miss you! We should get together soon!”
Me: “I’d love to! I’m free….four weeks from next Wednesday.”
August came. We took our yearly trip with Drew’s family to the sea. I attempted to allow myself some rest, lull myself into forgetting all that I needed to do. It worked for small moments, but I paid dearly for it in paralyzing blows of anxiety after coming back to my senses. The ocean mirrored me, as she always does.
I found my entire state of being so eloquently summarized in the waves as they enveloped me, swept me off my feet while I struggled to find which way was up.
Family members remarked on the difference, the change in me. It felt good. I had been working, and it was finally beginning to show. Naively, I thought, this is it! I’m done! Goodbye, Depression. Goodbye, Anxiety. Hello, new self.
But I wasn’t done. You never are. I was fragile still, like a butterfly newly emerged from its cocoon. The old ways were dying, the new way hadn’t quite solidified. I was running on stitches, failing to take it easy, be gentle with myself, give the new me time to settle in. I didn’t realize how much pressure I was still putting on myself. There was a moment when I fell to pieces, a sobbing mess on the fetal position on the floor of our room in a timeshare condo, spewing the same old tape of never feeling good enough. Drew, in his sweetness, knew just what to do. No advice, no pep talks. He simply laid himself down next to me, and let me cry.
That was August. I watched her die while standing in a field of sunflowers, her very last rays of brilliant orange cutting through pollution from summer fires, falling down, slipping away, past the horizon. Never to return.
September came. I wasn’t there. I couldn’t find me anymore, in all of the endless to-do’s. A close friend saw me for the first time in a few months, and I never felt more accurately described when she said, with a look of concern, “You seem spent.”
The world felt still, as if holding its breath in anticipation, struggling to balance, and about to tip. And then arrived October. The slight shift in seasons was, to me, a signal of hope. A reminder that this state of constant movement was temporary, subject to change, as everything is.
I used to dread the winter, regarded it as my enemy. But this year, I’ve seen it as a friend. It seemed to sweep in, wrap me up in its arms and say, “You move too much, child; it is time to rest.”
Within that rest, I have re-centered, reclaimed my energy, my motivation. In that rest, I am learning to use my intent, with every day, every breath I take in and out. I am taking the time to examine my life, to work through that tangled mess of thread at my feet, to hold up each one and ask, “Is this me?” And accept whatever answer comes, regardless of what my ego wants. Regardless of what’s easy, what gains approval, what my preconceived ideas about it are.
But that’s what we do. As soon as we’re old enough to understand what approval looks like, to know the pain of its absence. We dismember ourselves. The parts that we’re afraid won’t be liked or understood. The parts that we imagine won’t meet with applause, we give them up, carry them on our backs, weighed down more and more each time.
What I’m trying to say is this has been a year. This has been the year, of many things. Working hard, getting out of my comfort zone, finding my bossy side, owning my weirdness, making myself free, beginning to heal my codependency, learning to use iCalendar, but mostly, this has been the year of reclaiming myself. Reclaiming my power, potential, my dreams, and a belief in my own abilities. Reclaiming my right to show up as exactly what I am, with no doubt in my mind that it’s enough.
This has been the year of unpacking the burden I carried, and reclaiming my wholeness. It is much lighter here.