Caution: word vomiting starts now.
“Who am I? Is my voice worth anything? Do I even have a voice? What’s it sound like? If you hear it can you please call me because I miss it? Do you want some cake?”
All these questions are cropping up one after another, like mint stalks spreading throughout a garden that my bunny just wants to chomp through. Every moment there seems to be another, and it leads immediately to the next. Before I can answer one, the next sprouts up.
I’m in a small, strange, and rare phase of life that is allowing me to take a respite from nearly everything and just focus in on those many questions. It’s a necessity, a luxury, a terror all in one. I don’t know what to do with my time or how to start answering all the mess that’s constantly churning in my head. And though the space has all just begun and I’ve not nearly accomplished all I want, I’m so ready for it to be over already. I want to return to normalcy, schedule, to living. But I have been leveled, and a rebuilding is in order.
Recently, at least, there’s been a springboard. One small homework assignment from one session of counseling, and a side gate has been opened. As I reflected on the trend of feeling bulldozed in my life (i.e., my opinions not being counted, my voice falling away into silence, my viewpoints being less than), I started to realize that while there have been relationships and experiences that have contributed to this general feeling, ultimately, it seems that it’s been mostly self-imposed. I’ve been putting myself in the bulldozer’s way over and over again. And my life is my own responsibility; it’s no one’s fault that I’ve done this, but it’s about time I learned to live otherwise.
For most of my life, I’ve based my opinions, decisions, views almost solely from those of my inner circle. And for a while, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with healthfully engaging with those closest to you who have wisdom and insight. It’s helpful, when you need someone you trust, when you’re in confusion or crisis, when you’re growing up and don’t know what to think of the world. But it seems that somewhere in the act of this engaging, I lost the ability to form my own thought or opinion. I never stopped to teach myself the skill. And it is, indeed, a skill, which I now know because I literally do not have opinions or answers to questions that are not terribly difficult. “What do you want?” “… I actually don’t know.” Until asked, I realize that I’ve never really landed on resolution in regards to many things. I’ve just skirted around having to decide because it’s easier and less offensive that way. And if I do have an answer, I’m so hesitant to say it because heaven forbid I offend someone else with my own genuine thoughts.
And such is the poisonous cycle of fear and people pleasing, put on repeat for 25 years. There will always be someone to displease. Always someone who disagrees. Probably always someone who feels discomfort from a certain honest word. But must I allow that to hush and halt my own convictions? In this forest of confusion, one thing is clear to me: I am very much done with that way of living. Realistically, this will be a lifelong struggle. Hoppers, by DNA, tend to be people pleasers. This is not an easy habit to crack. But I will not live like this anymore.
Note: There is a crossover point here. I want to spend my life loving people with the Grace that I’ve been loved by. And more often than not, that means giving up some comforts and some wants. But, that does not equate to becoming a lifeless shell of human that robotically answers “yes” to everything. Somewhere in the theology of loving people, I became a doormat. I put peoples’ value and worth and desires and opinions so far over my own that I flattened myself. And the thing is, it’s not like these people asked me to do that for them. Their intentions were not to suck the life out of me like a mosquito. I just surrendered anything I could offer because I just so often want everyone else to be comfortable. But in doing so, I shrunk myself to a nagging, worthless gnat under the belief that my voice was worthless. Not good.
So now, I’m taking responsibility for my self-shrinking. I’m saying “no” when I don’t want to do something that I otherwise would agree to out of sheer people pleasing. In fact, I did it this morning. And it felt great. It was like a little latch unhooked itself, giving myself a little morsel of free living. I want more! So I’ll keep asking myself the important questions. “What do I think? What does my voice sound like? How can I live as if it’s actually as important as anyone else’s?” And not only will I keep asking, but answer, with confidence and discernment and Ellyn-ness.
And, seriously: Do you want some cake? Email me.