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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Secret Notebook

I have this secret notebook, actually it's one of my kid's old composition books that was barely used, and I've entitled it "Pam's Stuff".  I used to keep it on the nightstand by my bed.  Whenever I read a book I would take note of the title and author.  If the book offered some good advice or insight I could relate to I would jot it down for future reference.  I've only been doing this for the last year or so.

Somehow the notebook made its way downstairs onto my desk and I opened it this afternoon with a feeling of trepidation.  I was not fearful of what I would find per se.  But, I knew that the notebook contained many lists of things that I may have not quite gotten to yet.  Inside I've got a page (or two) called 'Bucket List'.  I've also have a list named '4-Year Plan' which takes up a number of pages. In the past, when we were just starting out as a young family, I had made many a list and most (if not all) of my goal-driven lists contained things that I wanted for my family, and my boys specifically.  But, 'Pam's Stuff' selfishly contains only 'stuff' pertaining to me and what I want and need out of life.  It's about time!

The thing is when I'm in the 'right' frame of mind and composing these lists it brings a feeling of liberation.  I am free to dream and free-think my aspirations no matter how far-fetched they may seem.  After all, they are just for me.  But, on the rare occasion that I open the notebook and revisit the pages I get a feeling of angst.  Somehow I know deep inside that I haven't quite gotten on the bandwagon and exercised my right to be all I want to be.  Opening the notebook is like opening up myself for another disappointment.

'Pam's Stuff' also contains quotes that really caught my attention and summaries of books (usually of the 'self-help' variety) that I plan to return to and can use as a reference for when I need that special pick-me-up.

For instance, I read Queen Latifah's autobiography, Put On Your Crown. She offers a lot of practical advice for increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence in order to follow your dreams.  "The trick is to discover who you are and what your passion is early on, then believe in yourself enough to go for it without compromise."  As a 46-year-old woman it seems that I may have missed the boat on this one.  It is only within the last few years that I think I've found my passion but more importantly is that I found the realization that I knew what my passion was the whole time (or since I was a little girl).  The sad thing is that I let all the crap (and life in general) get in the way of believing in myself to the point where I could go for it without compromise.  I let the 'noise' just get in the way it seems.

Another little nugget from Latifah that I wrote down in my notebook is, "Learning to love yourself is one of the hardest and most important things you'll ever accomplish in your lifetime."  Again, it seems to me that I spent more time hating myself and bullying myself than realizing how much time and pain I would have saved if I had only just accepted me for me.  Good and bad.  Beauty and scars.  It is only in the last few years that I realize we only have the power to change ourselves and in order to do that we must first acknowledge our truth.  We should embrace ourselves without the change first because ultimately we are who we are.  Very few of us change.

So, I turn the page in my notebook and glance at the few notes I took from my attempt to read Rick Warren's, A Purpose Driven Life.  I was unable to finish the book because in my mind it was a little too religious and even made me depressed thinking about death too much.  However, I came across the Five Common Things That Drive Your Life:

1.  GUILT.  Running from regrets; hiding shame manipulated by memories; when the past controls the future; unconsciously punishing yourself by sabotaging success.

2.  RESENTMENT & ANGER.  Holding onto hurts; clam-up or blow-up; learning to let go and forgive.

3.  FEAR.  Afraid to venture out; playing it safe; avoiding risks; self-imposed prison.

4.  MATERIALISM.  Temporary happiness; self worth does not equal net worth.

5.  NEED FOR APPROVAL.  Peer pressure.

I totally see how my life has been 'controlled' by guilt, resentment/anger, and fear.  I may have been a victim of materialism and need for approval a long, long time ago but I've grown, matured, and am over those two.  But, I realize that the other three have really got me by the balls so to speak.

My whole life I've been made to feel guilty.  Growing up Roman Catholic did not hurt although we were not devout in any sense of the word.  It seems that I've carried the guilt over into my adult life and much to my dismay, I may even manipulate my own kids with the 'g' word.  Shame on me.  Shame on you.  Shame on all of us!  Guilt sucks and it can gnaw at your self esteem like a termite goes through an oak tree. I have been a self-imposed victim of guilt my whole life.  The challenge is learning how to stop the madness and reprogram myself to know that I am worthy of everything good in my life and what went wrong in the past is not my fault.

Resentment and anger is just regular fallout when you are the child of a dysfunctional family and an alcoholic.  Holding onto the realization that you are a victim of someone else's selfish endeavors and addictions can really piss you off.  Blaming yourself for not being able to control the chaos belittles your confidence.  The torment and helplessness that builds up over the years can overtake and poison all the good that can be in your life.  I spent the last year and a half learning how to forgive and am taking baby steps to letting go of the poisons of the past.

Fear has never gripped me harder than in the last sixteen years.  Yes, 16 years.  The spectrum of fear that has consumed my life has teetered on paranoia at times.  I've always been a 'careful' person and I am definitely one of those mothers who is overprotective.  Look both ways before you cross the street, or you could get hit by a car and die. Don't touch the handrail on the escalator, or you may pick up someone's germs and get sick.  Don't talk to strangers or walk by yourself, because a predator might kidnap you, rape you, and murder you.  Yes, caution in the extreme.

For myself fear has consumed me my entire life.  Fear of the dark.  Fear of people making fun of me.  Fear of public speaking.  Fear of death.  Fear of men finding me attractive.  Fear of letting go.  Fear of being myself.  Fear of being loved.  Fear of success.  Fear of failure.  Fear of my alcoholic father coming home in a rage and killing us all.  Fear of not getting good grades.  Fear that a client will ask me a question and I won't know the answer.  Fear of being used by people who claim they're my friend.  I rarely leave my house these days not only because it is 100 degrees out but mostly because I fear I will be myself in a world that expects people to conform and be socially acceptable.

Today I realize just how much guilt, resentment/anger, and fear have clouded my existence.  I have let them choke my evolution of becoming who I am meant to be.  My passion was killed by these destructive driving forces.

Will I have the strength and determination to beat these villains and resuscitate what makes me want to live?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ode to an Old Friend

What the heck did I do before Facebook?

I guess it was just over two years ago that I discovered Facebook, signed up, and started to reconnect with old friends.  It came at a time in my life when I could really use some extra support and love.  I truly appreciate a lot of the new-found friendships with people I knew from my past.

I began with an extensive list of people who have touched my life in some way, shape, or form.  Then, I extended my search to former classmates, neighbors, and some acquaintances.  At one point, it got totally out of hand and I was friending some people whom I never met but felt that our fondness for certain Facebook games was enough.  Needless to say, some time last year I kind of 'weeded' out those folks whom I truly didn't know or have a connection with or an appreciaton for.

I am not one of those people who measure my popularity or love by the number of 'friends' I have on Facebook.  I've never been popular or with the 'in' crowd.  I'm the type of person who would rather have a handful of meaningful connections than a multitude of acquaintances.  I am at the point, now, to really go through and evaluate who I want to be connected with.  Some may say, "Why are you making a big deal about it?".  But, I have to be honest and reveal that some folks have just pissed me off.

It's been eating away at me that someone that I grew up with and have known since we were young kids has basically ignored my attempts to reach out to them.  I really didn't want to give her the satisfaction of showing that I even cared but I'm not much for hiding my feelings.  The truth is I'm hurt.  Every October 29th I think about her (after all, it's her birthday) and I recall fond memories of our friendship.  Looking back on it, she never appeared to extend the same kindness nor reciprocate birthday wishes.

I've ruminated over what I might have done to her to make her treat me so coldly.  Yes, I posted pictures of us when we were kids.  But, when I look at them I have good childhood memories.  I recall the fun times we had.  I remember the laughter.  I've also thought about her, as a person, and how she may just think she's 'too good' to be associated with me.  Is it because my husband is black?  Is it because I am obese?  I know these are shallow thoughts and conclusions but when I think about her and her personality, I wouldn't put it past her.

The thing I struggle with is expressing how this rejection is making me sad.  It does make me feel less than worthwhile.  It hurts because someone I've loved and cared about as a friend doesn't feel the same about me.  And, it's not like we just met each other!  This is a person whom I've confided in since I was a little girl.  I've gone on vacation with her family.  She visited me at college.  I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

But, we lost touch.  She got married.  Moved away.  I had my family and moved away.  We sent Christmas cards for a few years then, nothing.  I've made the attempts to reconnect.  I've sent e-mails, letters, even a package.  I've got to figure out how to deal with this rejection.

Do I just de-friend her from Facebook and call it a day?  Do I just tuck away all the pictures and memories in a little box and bury it in the past?

How do I let go of an old friend?