Sunday, March 10, 2013

How do you like your eggs?

There is a way a person asks a question in which the listener knows they don't really expect an answer. It's just rhetorical. Something a person says that doesn't really mean anything and doesn't really require an answer. Often times, it's just meant jokingly or wryly or sarcastically.

But I think when a person tosses out a rhetorical question like that, sometimes it's a message from somewhere else, a something a person needs to hear to trigger a thought process that will take them where they need to go in their mind. My Chiropractor recently asked a question like that, and it triggered a line of thought followed by a vivid dream that ultimately resulted in an important insight for me.

But let me digress for a moment first, for quite some time now I've felt "stuck", unable to move forward, unable to "go back", not wanting to be "where I am in life right now", but feeling powerless and at times, blocked; from moving into the next chapter of my life. My friend Becky recently called it "the invisible herd of elephants I keep bumping into". I think that's a fair summation of how it felt. Like everytime I made a Herculean effort to step forward the Universe would violently slap me back into place, and I kept saying "there's something I'm missing and the Universe isn't going to let me move on until I figure out what it is."

So, I was at the Chiropractor's office getting an adjustment, and as usual we were chatting about life in general, and I shared that I had surprised myself that week by spontaneously purchasing two very feminine dresses and had *almost* bought a house, and my Chiropractor blurted, "What is going on with you??? You've let your hair get long, you're buying dresses, and you even considered buying a house!!!"

I knew he didn't mean anything by it, that he was only teasing me because everyone who knows me well also knows that I'm not known for my femininity, nor do I have any desire to "put down roots" in a town that has been consistently unwelcoming and completely lacks certain features that are necessary for me to want to make a long-term residential committment; such as mountains and a certain type of community I would prefer to surround myself with. I have no reason to be here, I just don't have a reason to be anywhere else, either.

The question stuck with me and I contemplated it for the rest of the day. What IS going on with me? I found no answers and eventually moved on to other things: like how to convince a bunch of men who have never had to work with a woman before to just treat me like a co-worker and forget the fact that I'm a GIRL. (GASP! The horror of it!) They are trying hard, but I'm seriously considering moving on just to spare myself the stress of dealing with their growing pains. I'm tired of being a mirror for people and their hang-ups.

Anyway, it was no longer at the top of my mind when I went to bed that night, but I had a dream that answered the question anyway. I dreamed the movie "Runaway Bride" with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. I hadn't watched that movie in many years, possibly even a decade, and yet there it was; as vivid in my dream as if I had popped it into the VCR and was watching it. Except that I was watching it from the *inside*, like I was following the characters around and reading their thoughts, feeling their feelings, understanding them at a deeper level than I ever had before....until Maggie ran away from Ike. In my dream I kept circling that part over and over, trying to understand why she had run away from a man she so clearly loved and who also seemed to love her? Around and around I went, watching it over and over again until I woke up....and then it hit me.

Maggie ran away from Ike because deep down she believed Ike didn't know the real her; because SHE didn't even know who she *really* was. She feared that the woman Ike loved was only a construct; a version of herself that existed in relation to all the people who had been influential (domineering) in her life. She was being who she was expected to be, the people pleaser and the capable, can-do person she *had* to be to survive, and she didn't believe any of the people who loved her really loved her because how could they? They didn't even know her. The *real* Maggie was buried deep down, safely hidden away underneath the version of herself that existed for the sole purpose of pleasing and serving and "taking care of" others, and until she brought her real "self" to the surface; it would be wrong for her to marry Ike, or any other man, because those men didn't know the real Maggie....and how could they truly love HER when they had never even MET the *real* her? Even Maggie wasn't sure who she *really* was, she'd been too busy being who everyone else needed her to be.

I remember having a moment many years ago when a man I'd known for years expressed interest in me and the very first thought that popped into my head was "How can you possibly want me when you don't even KNOW me?" I should have listened to what I was saying to myself right then. It was a clue.

I "clicked" with that movie from the very first time I ever saw it. Especially the part about Maggie figuring out "how she likes her eggs". That aspect of the movie had stuck with me all this time and I'd thought of it often over the years, but had never really applied it to myself or to my own life, at least not on a really deep level, even though I did recognize in myself that tendency to be a chameleon who works very hard to "fit in" and "be acceptable".....because I'd been conditioned to believe that my real self was completely unacceptable....and unlovable.  But after I dreamed it, it all seemed to just "fall into place".

You see, I married men I never actually wanted to marry because of outside influences, and then worked very hard to "make it work" against all odds. First as a rebellion against being controlled, then from "Christian guilt" about having a child out of wedlock (a child I had refused to abort just so my family could "save face", but who was then used against me to force me into an abusive marriage), and the third time I literally walked down the aisle and said "I do" because when I was standing in my bedroom just before the ceremony, dress on, hair curled, shaking in terror and convinced I needed to "call it off," I sent my Maid of Honor to find my Dad so I could tell him. But when he came into the room all emotional and told me how proud of me he was and how pleased he was to FINALLY "get to walk one of his daughters down the aisle", I just couldn't do it. I couldn't disappoint him. I couldn't tell him that I'd agreed to the marriage partly because he and Mom were so convincing that this guy was a keeper and "I was a fool if I didn't marry the best thing that would ever happen to me", and partly because I just plain didn't want to be homeless AGAIN. So I drew on my considerable strength of will, marched down the aisle and stood there in front of the Preacher with a frozen smile glued to my face and choked out the words I was expected to recite and embarked on yet another nightmare marriage that should have never happened.

I wish I had been smart like Maggie and had just run away.

Anyway, that's the invisible herd of elephants I've been bumping into. That's the reason I've been overcome by inexplicable paralysis these past few years every time ANY man has "shown interest" in me. That's the real reason I've self-sabotaged and backed away even when I wanted to say "yes" (and then made a big mess when I thought I may have just made a huge mistake in a moment of cowardice triggered by guilt and fear and social conditioning about what's "right and wrong"). That's the reason I've bounced through so many life changes. That's the reason I'm "stuck" here in limbo land; clueless about what I'm supposed to be DOING.....

How can I possibly figure out what to DO when I still haven't even figured out how to be who I AM?

Growing my hair out and buying dresses and making the kind of jewelry that *I* like....that's me figuring out "how I like my eggs". It's the real, true, innermost me struggling to the surface. In my mind's eye, I've always had long hair and worn pretty dresses and unique jewelry. I remember seeing myself that way even as a very young girl. But life hasn't let me be that woman. I've been too busy to be myself. I've been too busy struggling for survival to even think about what I *want*; it's been far more important to focus on what I *need* and "what can I do to get *them* off my case?" I did what I had to do and I did it so well I even managed to convince myself it's "who I am". And in the process, I lost touch with my true self.

And then the herd of elephants surrounded me so I couldn't just blast ahead into another mistake in my usual bull-headed "Just pick something and go do it just because I can" style. One way or another, it was time for me to take a "time out", shed a lifetime of conditioning and indoctrination and irrational guilt and "survival skills" that were really only serving to kill my inner self. And now that I can see it, I can see just how necessary this time has been for me. It's been painful, but healing.

For once in my life I have utterly failed to please anyone at all.....and that's actually a good thing. But, I have finally been alone with myself long enough to start figuring out how I like my eggs, without anyone around to tell me how I *should* like my eggs.