I wrote this in the air yesterday.
I love flying.
There is something incredible about it. About being 40,000ft above the earths surface. I feel like it lets me look at everything from a distance. To see the vastness of the earth as it compares to me, and my life.
I think one of the greatest lessons I am in the middle of learning is that my suffering doesn’t make me special. That this is not a race or a competition. That my suffering is not worse than my brothers – just like his isn’t worse than mine. I am not the only one who suffers. I am also learning I am in control of how I respond to the suffering I experience. Nobody else. Nobody else can control how I feel – that’s a concept I grasp even if I haven’t been able to put it in practice yet. Nobody else can do this incredibly difficult work for me and that, that’s a painful thing. Nobody else can show up and do the work.
And although I am petrified, there is a joy in choosing to face it, head on. Because the happiness and peace – that I seek so desperately – requires struggle. It requires me to actively engage with the fact that my life was difficult – growing up the way I did has caused me long term psychological and emotional harm, and now it’s time to deal with it.
And it’s not about being happy all the time. Happiness isn’t the absence of ‘negative’ emotions. That isn’t my goal. It used to be. I was all aboard the positive thought train and believed a gratitude journal would solve everything for me. In fact, that was incredibly counterintuitive. Forcing positivity on myself allowed me to deny the existence of my problems. Which allowed me to continue to numb away from them.
Pain often brings us greater truths, and more growth. I spent a lot of time avoiding the fact that I am not the perfect angel special snowflake my parents told me I was. I can’t do anything I put my mind to, and that was a hard pill to swallow. In fact, I am quite average. I believe the greatest disservice my parents gave me was instilling this sense of entitlement – that the world owes me something and in return I owe it my talents, and my life. The greatest disappointments in my young life was when I was not given something. When I didn’t win the medal or the trophy or the title or the scholarship. I felt like I was letting everybody down because I was never taught the value of failing. I gave up each and every single one of those times – because not winning meant I was not exceptional and therefore not worthy.
And if you think about it, it is impossible for us all to be exceptional, because everybody would then be the same – because we would all be equally exceptional. I am good at playing the piano, I am a decent singer. I like to bake, I’m great at my area of marketing, and I enjoy writing. There is no question I am an intelligent human being – it’s the one constant of my life. But none of those things are my life’s purpose. I am not exceptional at any of them. I will likely never be the best at any of them. I am never going to be the smartest or the best marketer or the greatest writer. To be the best at something, requires a combination of skill, a lot of hard work, and a little luck. The struggle has to be worth it. It requires pain and suffering and dedication and constantly getting back up after being knocked down. It requires failure, and I never learned how to fail. I never learned the benefits of failure.
But there is a freedom in that – in the realization that I am doing the best I can and that I don’t have to be everything I once thought I wanted to be. I get told all the time by people I would be an amazing politician – and sure, it would be an interesting career. But I’m not interested in the journey to get there. I’m not interested in that struggle. I am interested in the journey I am choosing – to rid myself of the coping mechanisms and addictions that prevent me from feeling – THAT is my current purpose – because the longer I am numbing the problem the longer I stay numb, and the harder and more painful it will be when I finally do confront everything.
I’m up here, reflecting at 40,000 feet above sea level and I am struck by the following thoughts: I want to be known for being honest and kind, but also unfuckwithable. I want to stand up for myself and those I love. I want to prioritize meaningful relationships, the most important one with myself. I want to make my husband and our travels a priority.
And there are things I have to address. Do I want to continue running my small business? It’s been fun, and profitable, but it is a lot of work and so far I have one foot in the door and one foot out. What, of the activities I do, matter the most to me? What could I spend less time doing? How do best care for myself the next few months? What in my life is serving this goal – of confronting and unifying my past, of the work I’m doing in therapy – and what isn’t?
I feel the most able and centred above the earth. When I’m unplugged from everyone and everything. When nobody else’s voice is in my ear – there is nobody else to listen to up here. There is no social media or husband or family. There is me and what I want. I get clarity above the earth.
And I want to show up to counselling and do the hard work. I do. The question becomes why I avoid it then – and I think the answer lies in Manson’s law of avoidance – the more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
My normal is what I know – even though large portions of it is maladaptive. And so even though I want to work on changing – I want to work on developing my emotional capacity and setting boundaries and no longer reacting to the actions of others but defining my life for myself – all of those things are so incredibly foreign and seem to threaten my very existence. Not to mention, I have to depend on someone else to help me get there. The dependency alone is enough to terrify me.
But as much as it scares me and as much as I know that come Thursday when I sit back down on that couch that I will be absolutely terrified and resistant – this clarity let’s me know this is what I want. Because I’m most myself at 40,000ft. And what I am hearing myself say – is I want is to learn to hear myself on the ground too.
I can’t control what happened to me. I can’t change the past. But I can learn to control how I respond to it, and therefore how it affects the future.
And sure, I could fail. I probably will. Over and over. I will learn to fail as I learn about boundaries and stable relationships and emotional attunement and standing my ground and just maybe there is safety in depending on someone and that people don’t always leave you. It isn’t going to be easy. But choosing that and accepting failure as part of the journey is also accepting the possibility of success. Because you can’t have success without the possibility of failure.
It’s time to take a risk.