You Are Not an Island

I have to admit, I have been living alone for almost 20 years now. As an independent lady, I feel like I have worked hard to be able to accomplish things on my own. I buy my own cars, bought my own house, and when I make plans…it is usually for myself. It is not like I always want to be alone, but I figure that I can’t trust that someone else is going to be around so I better figure out how to do it on my own.

This thinking process has been with me forever. Because my parents worked a ton, my siblings and myself were often asked to fend for ourselves. We were total latch key kids living in the middle of nowhere. Although our hometown was about 20 minutes away, it felt like eternity without a car.

I realized quickly that if I wanted to do anything, I had to take the initiative. If I wanted to do an after school activity, I had to come up with the funds and figure out the transportation.

When I first went to college, I remember hoping to find someone special. I would decorate things thinking about having company over…but it didn’t really happen. I have never had a Valentine sweetheart or even someone special during the holidays. To get over feeling like a dork, I just shut it out. If I couldn’t fix the relationship part of my life, then I would focus on anything else but it.

Obviously, it hasn’t been working.

When my boys moved back into the area, I finally felt like I had my family. They are my brothers. They are who I have fun with, who consoles me, and who makes me a better person.

This year I have taken so many steps to grow and be a better, more fulfilled person. I have beaten back depression, discovered with a little more clarity who I am, and am working on making myself healthier. I couldn’t have done it without them.

Still, as far as I have progressed, there is so much more work to be done. In talking with Alex and Max this week, they discussed that I could let them even further into my life. We have worked on me disclosing more about what I am thinking and feeling. At first, I didn’t trust that they would be able to hear me without judgment, but they proved me wrong.

In some areas, I guess they feel like they barely know me. Who am I attracted to? Where do I really want to eat? What music do I listen to that we don’t mutually listen to?

It sounds like it should be so easy. Sometimes I do censor myself. If I am talking to someone and they have disclosed that they don’t like something that I do, I just don’t talk about it out of politeness. When it comes to talking about people I am attracted to, I feel super embarrassed and slightly prudish.

I don’t know where the hesitation comes from. Am I afraid that if people really knew what I thought, they wouldn’t like me? Do I feel like my liking of it is not as valid as someone else’s opinion?

For a long time, I didn’t know what my true opinion was on a variety of topics. I would often listen to what others thought and if I could live with it, I just went with the crowd. It seemed easier than having an argument over right or wrong. If I did voice a contrary opinion and was the target of some sort of criticism over it, I wouldn’t know how to verbally defend myself and just cave in to whatever someone else thought.

I guess the reason why that might have happened was that I wasn’t as forthright about why I viewed things the way that I did or how long I had thought that way. If I voiced a contrary opinion and you had no idea I felt that way, it would seem disingenuous, especially if I flipped flopped shortly there after. My memory is not that good either, so if I had not fully disclosed something or went around with the crowd, I might have forgotten about it shortly there after. Latter, if I referenced it….the other party would be left confused about where these thoughts or opinions came from.

Growing up in my household, my parents were pretty explosive if you had an opinion that didn’t match theirs. If it was an honest criticism, they would take it personally and blow up on you. There were so many Saturdays that I watched my parents blow up and ruin the whole weekend that I just decided to be as appeasing as possible. It worked. I eventually survived long enough to get the hell out of dodge.

When I see people with relationships where they feel they can tell their parent anything, I am completely jealous. I begin to think that my opinion just didn’t matter. In conversations with others, I skirted around issues that I thought might be divisive. I often didn’t assert myself on anything that I thought really mattered. There were other times where I did have a firm opinion and if I felt it wasn’t welcomed, I would just slip away from the relationship instead of confronting the other person.

Most of the day, I am alone. I can’t stand being in the house by myself all the time, so I will run out and go window-shopping or just drive around. When I go to visit the boys latter in the day and they asked me what I have been up to, I often didn’t mention what I did earlier because 1) it wasn’t really important enough to share 2) I might think that they wouldn’t approve 3) I may be embarrassed about it.

Since the boys and I have been really working on vulnerability this year, I have learned to be more forthcoming. I have tried hard to include them in my thoughts and in my world. I have learned that when I fell verclempt about something, I should error on the side of sharing it. I feel closer to them than I ever have, and I have noticed that they share more with me as well.

I love the fact that when I am with them that I can be myself. I know that they are there for me unconditionally. Even if they disagree with me, and we may even have a heated dialogue about it, I can still stand by my opinion and they will accept it.

As much as I trust them with my own life, I still have moments where I fall back into my old ways. I have moments where I feel like I have to do things myself. I still feel on occasion that I have to assert my independence. It is like I trust them so much, but just in case anything happens…I want to be prepared. I always feel like I have to be able to fend for myself. A person shouldn’t have to rely on anyone else to survive. The best way to survive is to have that wall up so people can’t readily get to that vulnerable center. Even those with a key, who have proven themselves worthy of entering, should be monitored and I should still be able to revoke access if the shit hits the fan.

I realize even as I am writing this that my self-protection mode is the only thing really getting in between me and the relationships I want to have with people. As much as I have shaken off this self-protective non-sense, it still can creep up.

Since my hair has been gone, I have been wearing a lot of knitted hats. At first, it was because of the bumps and irritation on my head. I have worn a couple of wigs on occasion, but I have felt like they are too heavy or cumbersome to wear for extreme lengths of time. I have wanted to buy a shorter wig for a while.

At first, I told the boys this and they didn’t think I should spend the money on another wig because I haven’t worn the ones that I have. I tried to go on with life, but noticed that the desire to do it grew. I brought it up again and explained in detail all the reasons why I wanted to. They finally agreed and decided that we should go to the wig store together, but after we ate they didn’t feel like going out to do it. I wanted to get the new wig before Thanksgiving, but they suggested that I wait til Friday for a certain sale. Finally, Friday came and I stopped by to see if said sale was going on. They didn’t have one, but the owner told me he would give me a buy one, get the other half off deal for me. I was ecstatic, and had asked if I could leave and bring my friends back, and they said yes.

I left and called Alex and left him a voicemail. It was earlier in the day, so there was a chance that he might have been asleep. I waited an hour but began worrying that I might miss out. I wanted a new wig so bad. I felt ugly and like I stick out like a sore thumb with my hats. I just wanted some hair so I felt normal again. Plus, aren’t I supposed to be able to make my own decisions? If I couldn’t pick out hair on my own, what could I do on my own? Did I always need to be a slave to what others thought?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I went in. I knew what I wanted. I felt bad that my buddies weren’t with me. I haven’t been in the store without them ever, and I had not bought a wig there without them before. Still, I could do this. I should be able to do this.

I selected two wigs and was pleased with my purchase. When I got home, I decided that I didn’t like one wig as much as I thought I did, but the other one seemed perfect. I put it on my head and wore it all day. When the boys invited me over latter, I wore it to surprise them. I walked in the house and they both looked at me. Alex than began to tell me how much he hated the wig and how ugly it looked on my head. My heart completely sank. All I wanted to do was sob. Great! I wasted $70 on wigs that I obviously would never be able to wear in front of them. Alex continued about how I looked like the lead singer from Counting Crows. I grabbed my coat and headed out to the car.

All I wanted to do was drive away. I didn’t want to see them or talk to them again. But, I also knew that I didn’t want to spend the evening alone starring at my cat and sobbing my eyes out. I sat in the car for 10 minutes. Eventually, I reemerged into the house, took off my wig, and placed the hat I had with me on. I felt destroyed.

Alex and Max then began to tell me that they were pissed that I went there by myself. I told them that I had called, but Alex said that no voicemail was recorded. Why hadn’t I called Max or come over if it was so important to me? I said that I didn’t want to bother them and than get yelled at for being over bearing and needy. They said that I put in the least amount of effort to notify them and if I had waited they would have been happy to go with me latter in the day. I told them that it didn’t matter, it was done and I was out of the money anyway. I didn’t need to hear them go on about it for eternity.

Alex than stated, “you are not an island.” We are here and we want to be apart of these decisions. I wasn’t allowed to buy wigs on my own because my history suggests that I am not good at it. He has Max help him make decisions on things because he knows that he needs a second opinion sometimes. I said, “that is great, but you always have each other to bounce ideas off of, I don’t.”

They looked at each other and said, “yes, you do.” They stated that I am over there every day and that they were there for me. I need to rely on them more. Have more patience. Trust that they will come through. It is insulting that I still don’t believe that they are going to be there for me.

“You are not alone. Stop living like it.” Alex said.

Alex than went into his drag supplies and brought out the wig that he knew I was trying to match. I put it on and it did look better than the one I had bought. At the end of the day, I just wanted a wig so I could feel a little more normal and this one did.

I know I still am having a problem letting my guard down. I have trouble trusting others to come through for me. This thought pattern is what prevents others from being with me. I am the only one getting in the way of having the deeper relationships I desire. The answer is as easy as just relaxing and surrendering. I don’t know why I feel like I have to fight it and go alone.

The eternal fight seems almost life threatening at times. Like, if I succumb to this new world order that I am in danger of completely losing myself. Maybe that is exactly what I need to do.