When I first started seeing my therapist last year I said that there were days that I felt lost. That I was so scared I was losing part of me, and who I was by being in a relationship again, and subsequently even more so by getting married.
Actually, one of the first things I said was that I thought “my most true to myself” time period (note, not necessarily my most happy) was while I was single after B and I broke up. I spent that year soul-searching, trying new things – triathlon training, road races, blogging, a photography class, travelling, focusing on time with family and building new friendships, and more. I was learning, growing and developing passions without the fear of moving away from my significant other or breaking our “team-bond”. And not because any of my past exes said I shouldn’t do any of those things, but because it was some self-imposed desire, an inevitable decision every time to give up my needs to support the other. During that year alone I was wildly independent and as scary as it was, it was the first time I felt like I was allowing myself to truly focus on me.
That time period always reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. When I first read that book I loved the idea of spending time to travel, learn about yourself and well learn about a whole lot of other things too. What always sticks out in my mind though is a conversation I had with a close friend about that book after we both had read it, and how deep down, I took her response as a personal insult to me.
Her immediate response was that she disliked it and thought that Elizabeth was so incredibly selfish for what she did. When I pressed what was selfish she said nothing other than that she spent a year gallivanting around, focusing on herself so much and writing about it.
I still deeply disagree with her feelings on that book, and even more so with Elizabeth’s journey being selfish. I can’t help but think if it was written by a man then my friend wouldn’t have said it was selfish at all (but that’s a post for another time). Did I absolutely love Elizabeth in the book and her responses and reactions? No of course not, I found her rather annoying and dramatic at times, but I would have never described what she did as a single woman without kids as selfish.
And that’s just it, I catch myself and realize I’ve just said, it’s not selfish as a “single woman”.
This morning I read this article, and it’s truly one of the better articles I have ever read on marriage and career because as I read it I think, exactly, this is what I want, but never believed possible.
“You can have a family life that checks and feeds and balances your professional growth. You can have a professional life that informs and enriches your personal life. One or the other of those things might take precedence temporarily through the natural shifts and changes of life. That’s okay. Your horizons are broadening rather than shutting down.”
My biggest challenge within relationships of my past was that I found it too easy to lose myself. I thought it was selfish to focus on learning about my own personal likes, needs or going in any direction – be it career or personal – that wasn’t fully team oriented. Trust me, I so easily slip into the “we” zone for everything.
It’s not that any of above is bad or not OK. It’s more that I was never good at finding a balance in between “I” and “We”. I was one or the other, but could never be both. And that’s something that I’m trying to focus on. How to redefine who I am, and what I want, while being part of a “We”. How to keep my independent side that pushes me to take new classes, explore new interests, or accepts a new job role that could very much be a mistake or limit my couple time even more, while still being a team, and making decisions that are best for both myself and my husband while keeping him, and “us”, a priority.
I’m still struggling with this, all the time.
I don’t know if I’m making any sense really, or just talking in vague circles without any poignant answers. But I guess at this point in my life, as a married woman, without children, I can only hope for this…
Understand, I’ll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.