I was recently asked to speak about what I did to overcome hardship in my life and get to where I am today (mentally- trust me, I'm so much better off). People who grow up with my childhood don't generally make it. Funny, a couple of the people who I respect most, my brother John, and sister Tammy, had it better/ worse than me, it's a matter of perspective. But I respect them because Tammy should be awarded a medal for Motherhood, and John should receive a trophy for being one of the best people I know: kind- Check, funny- Check, Check. My brother bounces back like a rubber ball.
Back to speaking; At first, I thought I would just let whatever came out of my mouth be my story because I believe in the power of impromptu talk; it speaks volumes about your own truths to yourself and to others. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am not often asked to present overcoming hardship, much less anything else, so I had better prepare. I would need to think on it, write it down, but only share it if I agreed with myself that everything I mentioned was my honest truth.
First, there are no step by step instructions. Because life keeps you busy and it's the same as when you finally get that joke you never understood growing up. Then one day, you're like: AHA! And you realize what it takes to make your life better.
It doesn't happen just because you wish it to, but when you wishit to, it does start to happen. That's going to be my new quote for 2016. A little bit at a time, one day you are working on this, and another day it's that. Some nights you feel down because you feel like you aren't there yet, but then you realize that you had to feel that feeling to get you to decide you didn't want to bethere, you wanted to be beyond that sad old place. So when you wake up, you resolve to do more, then you become more just because you decided to.
In the past, I would hide from a challenge, I was no fighter. I didn't have the skills to face nor beat it, so I was stuck with where I was, never moving forward. How I really overcame was changing my mindset. Sounds easy, but it's not.Who did I want to be? I didn't know. I just wanted to be happy. I had had it with a limited existence. Tired of always getting beat down. I wanted to be the one to win for a change.
Happiness IS MINE:
I had to make myself learn that I deserved happiness. If I didn't decide that I wanted to be happy in my life, nothing would change. For years I didn't believe I deserved happiness, so I got with the wrong guy, make bad choices, whatever. I was literally self destructive. Once I made up my mind that I wanted to be happy, then things got really hard. I had to DO something about it.
It's All About ME:
I've learned how to say: 'I' and mean it. Because I am responsible for my own future. I can't blame anyone else. Not my parents, not my ex's. I am the one who wakes up every day and makes my day what I want it to be. There may be setbacks, but they are put there to be opportunities for me to be challenged, to overcome them and feel that victory and self pride when I do. Now, I allow myself to throw my hands up in the air with every win. I even invite others to share in my glory, I may be an embarrassment to others as I dance around, but I enjoy it because I earned it.
I had to act like that person, the one everyone likes, so people who knew me, could see the changes in me. People who didn't, formed their own opinions on who they saw. I like Kurt Vonnegut's quote: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” I'm not worried about being careful, I want to be INTENTIONAL. I decide WHO I am, no one else.
Let Go. Well.. not really, just hold on LESS tightly:
Sometimes you just have to wipe the slate clean, start fresh. It doesn't mean you ever forget. I forgive myself every morning for the mistakes I've made in the past. Eventually, I will let them all go, with practice. While I am doing that, I will learn more about myself, and at the same time, while I'm mulling over the things I have done, I see how I can avoid those same mistakes in the future. Some things I KNOW I will never let happen again. I don't worry about those things anymore, even if I do think about them every day.
It took a while, but I began to expect more out of myself too. I just did- it wasn't really conscious. I wanted to be that person. The one who CAN and DOES. Who WANTS and GETS. Not stuff, but relationships: respect, trust, friendship. I expected more from others too. It was a great way to attract the right people and keep the wrong ones away.
Some Thanks to the Heroes in my Corner:
There were a few enablers along the way. Good people who let me use their car so I could get a good job to pay my bills. Invited me to dinner so I didn't have to think about what I could make with a loaf of bread and some canned food. To properly thank them, I used those opportunities wisely to help myself get better and grow. Some people questioned it, and my intentions, they think they know the real me. They don't understand that I have re- created myself.
13 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. I stopped swearing incessantly, I dressed conservative, used bigger words. I was always a reader so I knew them, but in my circles growing up in poverty, I was mocked for using big words that made me sound smart. I had to set those old, stupid thoughts aside. I put my hair up so people would see me as a serious person who was all about business, tough and confident, when inside I felt like jelly. If one person challenged me, I would crumble, but they didn't because I WAS confident, on the outside. Really, that's all they saw. It felt wrong because it wasn't who I thought I was, but it felt good because in the mirror I was seeing the person who I wanted to become.
Trust in Something, until you can trust YOU:
It took a lot. Like learning to trust myself to make good choices. I didn't. And I didn't even know that I didn't trust myself to make good choices until I realized that I was afraid to make any choice. I believed it would always be the wrong one. I knew I had to start doing better. I had to do what was best for me and what was best for my kids, because without me taking care of myself right, I couldn't take care of them right.
I had to trust that what I did was the right choice after some reflection. Ok, maybe dwelling or stressing.. but I did that BEFORE making a decision. I thought about what a regular person would do. I sought advice. I left nothing to chance, never again.
Don't go yet- I'm Not Done:
And I'm not done becoming who I am, so I don't try to hurry to get it done. I won't be done until the day I die so I don't stress it. We're all like art, we can always be better, though we are already perfectly ourselves. We're like flower bulbs who bloom, then fall, then come back on a sunny day, and it rains, then we have another moment in the sun and then it snows. A cycle of growth that is inevitable, so enjoy it. Because you can't change it.
We have only to BE stronger to be strong. Who is gauging you against yourself but you? Keep taking what life hands out and throwing it back on your own terms. You've got to be willing to suck it up and realize you are going to make mistakes, but you will get wiser. It's not just words on a screen, it's what's going on inside all of us every day. Life is not living day to day, week to week, month to month. Maybe it feels like it, but think about how far you came since last year. Just keep taking those hits. It may take a while, just don't give up on you.
Dedicated to Jeff Libby, the first person to care about me and make me want to care about myself.