Here’s my 2019 New Year’s Resolution:
Ownership. Of all the parts of my life and what I can do, what I am doing, and who I am.
Sure, I could make it losing weight, getting into better shape, earning more, going on a trip, one of those usual resolutions. But here’s the thing. I’ll be…54 in a month. And I had to think about that as I wrote it, because I can barely keep track anymore. Am I 53? Am I 52? When did this happen?! Remember when you were a kid, and half years mattered? I’m seven and a half, and don’t you forget those six months, Buster! Yeah, that’s right. Almost eight. And I don’t use training wheels. Hah!
But this is the thing at nearly 54. I may live to be 108. I’d like to, as long as it’s a fairly healthy, still-mobile-in-some-way, brain-fully-functioning 108. The truth is my life is half over. It’s finite. And I hate that, I really hate that, don’t you? I mean, I’m a reflective person. I’m a writer. I live in my head half the time, reciting some internal monologue, contemplating with equal intensity the nature of humanity and what’s in the refrigerator. When you die. Poof! No more consciousness. No more thoughts. Yeah, forget about the stiff corpse aspect. That I can live with. But no more thinking? I just can’t ponder that one!
And here’s the thing. Being brought up the way I was (a.k.a stay small, don’t rise above others—long story, another blog), it’s taken me ten years of therapy to even have a real sense of autonomy in my life. This occurred at 50 and a half.
So, now I have me. Hello me. Nice to meet ya’. The desires I have, for example, to write stories that make people laugh and smile and feel and think, what I have wanted to do since I was friggin’ six years old, is now front and center. I’ve been writing. A lot. And thanks to a fool-proof mantra (Thank you Annie LaMott – see title of chapter 3 in Bird By Bird, long story, another blog) I finish first drafts of everything I write. Okay, a little bit on that now. More later. The mantra is “Shitty First Draft.” If that’s the goal, I can always achieve it. No one creates a masterpiece. That’s decided by readers. Cool, huh?
So, I’ve got that down. Then in therapy two weeks ago the question arose: why can’t I apply this same fool proof follow-through to sending my work out to magazines and journals and the like? See, it hasn’t just been this year that I’ve been writing. I have ten, fifteen, nearly twenty years-worth of essays and stories, even a musical that I wrote that I’ve never shared with anyone. And damn it, this is what I do, who I am. I admitted to my 14-year old the other day that I wanted to be an artist. He replied, “Mom, you are an artist.” See! I’m still looking for goddamn permission! Even from my son. It’s time to own it.
Yeah, I can hear the lady in the back row: What does she mean by own it, Bob? Okay, maybe the word “ownership” doesn’t work for you. You could also say responsibility. Not that I’m irresponsible. I’m raising two great kids, earning money. I help my community, try to be a good citizen. Ownership is the word for me, however. Because I have been enslaved by old ideas, constrained by old habits. They may have somehow helped me through childhood to feel loved and appreciated, as I craved external approval for whatever reason. But those reasons no longer exist.
I’ve never fully let my life be mine. It was governed by petite blonde fear and smiley insecurity. This was the definition of woman modeled in my household. And that ain’t me! For one, I’m buxom and brown-haired. But this is the problem when beliefs and patterns of behavior are instilled in you as a child. Even when I was no longer in my parents’ house, I took those governing factors with me everywhere. I lowered my status and shuttered my dreams. I embodied my parents in my husband, my mentors, my friends in some bizarre psychological Frankenstein move. (It is alive!) I projected the role of authority on everyone around me. And I asked all of them constantly for permission to be me and do things my way. And of course, since they only saw what I projected outwardly, the social image my parents helped me paint, they didn’t know who this me was, and thus never did give me permission. They didn’t even know I was asking. What’s the old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results? Uh, yeah.
Thus, ownership. Yep, being me will be mine! If I allow myself to have me. Will you, Linda, take Linda to be you? In the real world? With ownership of who and what you are and can do, ownership of your life and no one else’s? Then perhaps you can live it, damn it! You may kiss the bride. That’s what I want. To live not ruled by the dogma of others, or what I think others want me to do or what they would do. And Like I said, I haven’t even needed a real live person to tell me what to do. I’ve had a whole committee in my head pounding the gavel for years.
So, I’m what, almost 54. I’m responsible for taking care of two great kids, earning a living, being a spouse and friend and daughter and keeping my house from falling down. And did I mention menopause? Yeah. A little distracting, the hot flashes, mood swings, swelling and shrinking, and sudden sleepiness at odd moments. But you know what, that’s okay too. My life is not supposed to look like anyone else’s. Just mine.
And you know what else? I want it to be fun. Whenever fun is in my control. Because I only get to be me once. This would be true even if reincarnation was a thing, and I came back as a cat or a cow or baker in Belgium, right? I mean, you never come back as yourself. We’d have evidence of that by now, I’d think. And for me writing is fun. Crazy, huh? I think figuring out how to get my stories out to readers and creating more and more for readers, I think that could be a hoot too. I certainly will have the opportunity to learn and experience new things, and I love that. And maybe I can get back into the theatre, which I used to love. And then there’s the song-writing and video ideas…kid in a candy store. And with a few bucks in my pocket.
And I know this isn’t true of everyone, but I want to make a mark. I want to leave something of value to humanity, to history. I have a voice. I have desires. I’ve built skills. I have talents, some innate. Oh, that felt good to own. As Michelle Obama put it simply in her preface to Becoming, “I have something to say.”
Ownership of my life, of me probably won’t come without riding out moments of fear. And doubt. And will undoubtedly require more internal work. Thank you, my wonderful therapist! It’s a shift in perspective. It’s a change, accompanied by action. Okay. I’ll own that.
So, once again, here’s to the realization of self-ownership in 2019. Oh, and more kindness, open-mindedness, respect and world peace. Please!