But the Alternative Is Worse
How It Began
When things went sideways for me back in Brooklyn 10 years ago, I decided there was only one solution to getting back on track. I was determined to start taking better care of my emotional well-being with the hope that all else would fall into place.
There are a few things to consider when you decide to turn it all upside down for the sake of survival. For instance, will there be casualties; people in your life who want you only as you were – – even if that person wasn’t you at all. The fallout can be pretty ugly and may even set you back a bit.
A xanax prescription, numerous years of therapy, too much eating, drinking, a life coach, the advice of friends, and a couple of failed relationships, got me thinking: something had to change.
I was having lunch with someone I liked and respected in my new hometown of Portland, Maine. I had given up quite a bit in order to settle in Maine, however, in my mind it was either stay in Brooklyn and give up on being true to myself or leave a career behind for the unknown. There is a reason they say, “Never look back.” “They” being the people who always know better.
Once you make the decision to start anew, lamenting about the old is like picking a scab. You have to ignore the scab and let new skin grow.
Back to my lunch with the devil.
This person had been supportive of my new life until I questioned the life she decided I should live. A reality I didn’t realize at the moment was a life that would benefit and suit her. It took me some time to realize the lamb was a tiger in disguise. One of the fallouts of an unguarded perception of new people in my life.
I confronted the beast expecting to be bitten; instead, she did everything she could to convince me that her intentions were noble. I assure you, they were not. I got burned a couple of times as I slowly learned not to play with fire. I’ve since proceeded with caution, as I wait a bit for one’s true character to show itself.
Ways to Dig-In
There are a few housekeeping matters to attend to before you can embrace the business of assessing who you want to be versus who you are. Also, some matters to keep in mind:
- Changing everything is probably not a wise move. There are many aspects of our lives we just need to learn to accept (e.g., aging).
- Just saying I want to change won’t cut it.
- You have to really want it. Being only partially committed means probable failure.
- Have people around you who know about the change you want to make and will support you.
- Celebrate the smallest achievements toward your goal.
- Practice the change and forgive yourself if you fail.
- If you can see it, you can have it. Before I moved to Portugal, I would envision my self-decorated apartment. In my mind, I could see myself slowly sipping coffee on my terrace. I wasn’t surprised when it happened.
- Always be good to yourself. It’s an “I love you” and “you matter.” There is no one in the world more worthy of your love.
How Well Do You Know Yourself?
I have learned that objectivity is difficult when applied to oneself. It’s natural to want to think the best of yourself; however, the lens you see yourself through might not be clear or accurate. I have been known to ask friends questions with a preface they might be surprised to hear:
“I’m going to ask you a serious question and I need an unfiltered, honest reply. Donna, I’ve been wondering about my anger level lately, I think I might be overreacting at times and I imagine it could be off-putting; have you experienced this with me?” You will more than likely get a very direct and illuminating response. This is what you need from people you trust. At times, you may even get some suggestions for change.
Another method might be through therapy. My therapists conveyed thoughts in a gentle and helpful way. There have been many.
You could write a blog and ask for feedback. Just know that putting your truth in a blog can be brutal. I’ve has a couple of people tell me that they think I overshare. What you hear may not always be constructive.
Concentrate on self-awareness. Take notes and consider setting goals. Evaluate how well you are doing from time-to-time. Be honest with yourself, but forgive yourself for any transgression(s).
People tell me I was brave for packing up and moving abroad; I can tell you it wasn’t bravery at all, it was a decision that I am fairly certain, saved my life.
I promised myself that I’d stay put until my trip to Florida in March; I am keeping my word! It feels great to be grounded for a long stretch. A little like lockdown without having to stay in my apartment or wear a mask. It is my understanding that due to increased COVID cases, we may return to mask mandates. I think that would be the wrong way to go.
Sorry about the cheesy quotes, I can’t help myself.