Crawling towards a better ME

Crawling towards a better ME

Do you know what my favourite part about booking an Uber taxi is? It’s when the ride begins and I get the notification – You’re on your way. And I swear every time I see these four simple words, I ignore their literal meaning and feel a burst of victory within for a girl who is possibly heading somewhere she’s meant to be.

In a couple of weeks I will turn 34. Having a birthday in February means I’m straddled between reflections of the previous year and projections for the coming one. Uber’s affirmations feel hollow and I find myself asking – Why is this taking so long darling?

In my 20’s, I let others define how I perceived myself and absorbed their notions as reality. And while it was wonderful to take in the inflated expectations of people who loved me, I was easily crippled by the slightest signs of negativity.

The 30’s have been a far better journey so far in terms of constructing my own self-esteem. Perhaps some of it has to do with motherhood providing consistent kicks in the bottom to get me to be a better role model for an observing child. Or maybe it’s just the realization that I might know better than I give myself credit for.

This brings me to the answer to the question – What’s holding me back?

Is it the debilitating tendency to procrastinate and thrive in chaos that leads to loss of time, money and other people’s patience? Or the dark joy I feel within as I judge others who appear to be more screwed up than me? Or how terrible I am at keeping my word?

But hey – why am I even doing this? What purpose does sifting through the flaws that have settled in comfortably like nesting hens serve?

Ri is five now and becoming her own person – independent, curious and sprouting the ability to think for herself. And while this stage brings about its own set of challenges, for the first time in a while I find myself relieved enough to bring focus back to me and have begun digging through the gardens and graveyards in my head.

Since childhood, I have struggled with a singular skill needed for internal harmony – Letting Go.

I’m the dung beetle, rolling a load of crap around in my head, a foul mixture of decisions I refuse to forgive myself (and others) for, regrets from relationships I didn’t handle maturely and several other acrid memories.

When my senior dog with a heart condition passed away after a hospital visit two months ago, I spent more time re-playing the sequence of events and wondering what we could have done differently than grieving for his wonderful life peacefully. When my husband booked the wrong flight tickets, I nagged him endlessly of his carelessness.

It takes me forever to decide on what to order from a restaurant menu because I fear being served a dish that won’t meet my expectations and then mulling over what I ought to have gone for instead. I still hate myself for wasting so many years studying and working towards an unfulfilling career in Finance. And don’t even get me started on the baggage of mommy screw-ups…

The real beetle derives nutrition from its final accumulated mound of shit. But what have my burdens fed me; a stubborn refusal to translate mistakes to lessons, clutching onto others’ failures to induce continuous self-pity, drowning in regrets and bitterness & allowing guilt to spiral into self-loathing.

In 2018, I witnessed the clear impact of this destructive behaviour. Stranded on a plateau between inadequacy and depression, I woke up most days being able to function as a mother but incapable of nourishing myself with the things I loved doing – pondering, writing, exploring a multitude of possibilities in my imagination and translating them into real outcomes.

People talk about glasses being half-full and half-empty. But what happens when you’re so lost that you can’t even see the damn glass? How do you, a thirty-three year old adult woman, re-wire your thoughts to make forgiveness a reflex? How do you accept that when you punish yourself, you aren’t the only one who suffers?

The good news is that I’ve been getting help from a great therapist who is tough, kind and gives me homework too. She is my Rafiki, knocking my head with a stick, urging me to let the past be. Surprisingly, being honest and raw before a stranger is easier than I expected.   

Of course there are the horrifying moments where I’m certain this struggle is not worth it and long to return to the comfort zone where I get to choose blame over responsibility. As I stutter in shame and despair before a woman who sees all too clearly through me and calls me out on my bullshit, I wonder how I’d managed to come so undone.

Oxygen helps. I breathe in and out slowly, filling blood vessels with hope in exchange for co-operation to pump on. I’m exhausted from the efforts of breaking my own spirit and change is the only shovel that can dig me out.

Being a better person is a lot of work. I’m learning to gather redundant emotions and release them into a nurturing universe, making a conscious effort to avoid thinking in terms of ‘If only…’ & mapping a safe space that balances being tough on myself and okay with failing.

The hardest part of this process is having to let go of the control I presume to have over my daughter. It has been all too convenient to use her needs to eclipse my own growth. I’m attempting being humble enough to accept that there are forces beyond the parenting sphere that can affect her perspectives and wellbeing.

I wish I weren’t such a mess but I’m also proud of being brave enough to own up to it. I’ve reached a stage where I want to be selfish enough to take care of myself.

Maybe I can be a different type of beetle; a tough-shelled, indigo-hued, radiant marvel that appears tiny and insignificant but makes people want to stop and stare. And as I buzz about in this crazy world, I will wait for the day when the universe, not Uber, announces – You have arrived.

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