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I realize that this blog is all about me and my problems – but I didn’t used to be the center of the universe, honestly!

Up until about seven years ago I was thoughtful, considerate and tried to put the needs of everyone else in the world ahead of my own because that’s how I was raised.  I invited grade-schoolers to my pre-teen birthday parties, as a high-schooler I was a second mother to my 3-year-old sister because our mother was a single mom who worked full-time.  After I got married I gave up having things that I wanted, and sometimes even what I needed, to be sure the bills were paid, the girls had clothes and toys and my husband could pursue all the hobbies he wanted to…  I planned and hosted 95% of all our family gatherings (about 20 people), held a Gingerbread House Decorating Party for all the kids I knew every year at Christmas and provided all the supplies.  People came and dropped their kids off like it was free babysitting, sometimes leaving me alone with 20 grade-school aged children.  I sold Avon but I fell into debt instead of making money because I was giving away too much product and/or discounts trying to get and keep customers.  At church I played the piano and sang for both Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights every week.  I felt like saying “no” to someone who asked me for any kind of help was practically sin so it seemed like I was always giving, giving, giving in hopes that someone would give to me but instead I became invisible.  I was selfless to an extreme.

Seven years ago we moved 400 miles from all of our family and friends to a new city, a new house, new schools for the girls and new jobs for us.  After many years of not having to work and having lots of time to myself while the girls were at school and my husband was at work – all of a sudden Alone Time ceased to exist.  We needed the income so I got a job and I left to go to work before everybody else did and I got home after everybody else was home.  I felt like I was going to go crazy.  I stopped caring about putting other people first but I still didn’t push to put my needs first either.  I was hovering in a daze of exhaustion , stopped on a plateau of apathy for years.

I became laid off when the economy crashed and I thoroughly enjoyed three months of unemployment.  I slept most of the time because I was so very weary.  I wondered, “If I ever found a new job, how on earth could I keep it?” because I felt so unwell most of the time but when I did  manage to beat out over 200 people for a receptionist job 20 miles from home the adrenaline rush kept me going for several months and from there I somehow found the strength to keep on keepin’ on.

I was finally able to purchase a keyboard when our house in the previous city sold.  I’ve written over 100 songs and my goal was to record my music, get “discovered” and hear my songs on the radio, thereby becoming rich and famous.  Ummm…that did not happen, not even close.  One person told me he listened to my CD every night because it put him to sleep.  (That sounds terrible but he really sounded like he was sincerely trying to give me a complement – in a very man-minded way.  I’m sure he meant my music was soothing and relaxing, uh huh…)  In one of my more selfless acts I gave up my piano, the one that my mother bought for me before I was born, because my husband didn’t like it, complained that we didn’t have room in the house for both the piano and the keyboard and he was tired of moving the piano from house to house because it was too heavy.  I agreed to give away my piano on the condition that after we bought a house with enough space I would get a baby grand piano.

Three years and one month ago we bought a nice house.  2400 square feet, four bedrooms, plenty of room.  As of today, still no baby grand.

Two years ago next week I was blessed with a government job.  Great pay, even better benefits.  About six months after that I placed my feet firmly on the path of selfishness when I asked my husband to switch churches because I had some serious reservations (that he didn’t share) about the one we are in.  After six months of “discussing” the church issue and meeting with various church staff leaders, causing immeasurable stress to our marriage and my health – to the point that I threatened to commit suicide and started taking antidepressants – my husband decided to chose the church leadership over me…breaking his earlier, hard-won promise that we would leave and find another church, albeit against his better judgment.

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I was angry and tired of giving up what I wanted and needed for him and everybody else in my life.  No more!  I decided that if I wanted something or it was just too beautiful not to have that I would buy it.  My pathetic work wardrobe (truly a need, not a want – remember government job….) quadrupled in about six months (that was maybe just a tad excessive), although all of my clothes came from thrift stores or Wal-Mart so it’s not like I paid Mall prices for anything like all the other girls at work seem to (honest!).  I went from owning two pairs of shoes to now possessing right about 25 pairs.  I became a spender, whether we could afford it or not, because I deserved to have pretty things, nice things and things I just plain ‘ole wanted.  I stopped spending my time on other people with just a few exceptions.  I started sleeping as long as I wanted to on Saturdays and feeling less and less bad about how frustrated it makes my husband.  I started planning to get a tattoo because I’ve always wanted one.  Life became all about me, me, me… because it never had been before and I just wanted to shine, just for once… just for once…

I now find myself at the other extreme, I am rarely selfless.  That girl has been lost in the woods for quite a while now and I’m not sure I really care where she is anymore.

So where is the line, that healthy balance of taking care of yourself and giving of yourself to others?

Next month I will be 40 years old.  Maybe I will finally start to figure things out and grow up… but all I really want to do is sleep in a cabin on the ocean shore, walk on the beach, hear the waves calling my name and stare into the fire forever.

So Who Am I?  I am….. a girl.  That is always the first defining word that comes to mind.  Not female, not lady, not woman, not wife, not mother but girl.  Not a fancy-schmancy, frilly kind of girl either but a practical, no-nonsense type of girl.I was always too serious to be considered a child but nowhere near enough experience to be counted as an adult either, that’s how I was in my junior high and high school years and how I still feel today – I don’t have enough, I am not enough to be who I need to be and do what needs to be done.

Does the fact that I prefer the term “girl” over “lady” or “woman” mean that mean I haven’t grown up yet?  Hard to say.  As a child I used to tell people that I never wanted to grow up so that’s obviously been something I’ve resisted my entire life.  Why?  There was a Star Trek episode that I really related to – it was a planet of children (who aged very slowly so they stayed children for far longer than normal) but when they finally hit they change they became “Grups” – short for “Grownups”.  Like the Star Trek show I watched, the “Grups” in my life never seemed to have any fun and were always full of “Don’t” instead of “Do” and they always said “You can’t” more than “You can”.  I understand a little more of that now, being a parent myself.  While I try to be “Fun Mom” and “Cool Mom” it’s just not always possible because I can never say “yes” all the time.  There are times that I do have to say “No” and “Don’t” and “You Can’t” and while I hate having to be that person the things my kids ask for are more often than not impossible and/or impractical to make happen.  It is by this I know that I must have grown up, at least a tiny little bit, because I can say “No” when no needs to be said.

There was an interesting quiz I took when I was in high school and I still remember some of the questions and my answers vividly.  You can take it too, go get a pen and paper and write your answers down:

1.  You find yourself in the woods – describe the woods:

2.  As you walk through the woods you see a cabin, you go up and knock on the door – describe the person who opens the door:

3.  You leave the cabin and keep walking through the woods, eventually you find a child, describe the child:

There may have been more questions but those are the ones I remember.  What are your answers?  The essence of my answers were as follows, although I was a lot more wordy back in high school (I know that’s hard to believe…):

Describe the woods:  Dark, can’t see the sun through the trees and there’s a bear nearby so I need to be very careful it doesn’t.  Someplace to step carefully and tread lightly so nobody else, especially the bear, knows I’m there.

Describe the person who opens the door:  A man, tall with long hair and a kind face and a gentle smile.  Dressed comfortably but clean and neat with lots of muscles – a hardworking man.

Describe the child:  A girl, in tattered clothing with long, uncombed hair and a dirty, tear-stained face.  She is lost and it looks like nobody cares for her.

So big deal, right?  The final statement of the “quiz” was that how you described the woods was how you viewed your life.  How you described the person who answered the door of the cabin was who you wanted your spouse to be.  How you described the child is how you saw yourself.

For me it was dead on.  My life seemed dark and scary and honestly, my mother was the bear.  Those were the actual physical characteristics of the man I hoped to marry someday and to be fair I did get most of those – except he’s never had long hair in his life and his face reflects a great many things other than kindness with a gentle smile most of the time, although he is trying to do better and has greatly improved over the years.  But it was my description of the little girl that took my breath away.  It was exactly the way I felt, and to some degree I still feel this way.  Alone, uncared for and unloved without my very basic emotional needs ever being met – for so long not even realizing that I had basic emotional needs that were left wanting.  I didn’t realize until I was in my 30’s that this was not normal because it was all I knew, both in my upbringing and in my marriage.

Consequently I feel like I haven’t been a very good mother to my children, who will soon be graduating high school and are far past the point of a “do-over”.  But I’ve been told those feelings are normal in every parent, even the people that I think are Super Mom and Super Dad to their kids so maybe I haven’t been as horrible as I’m afraid I have.  I still don’t know if being grown-up is worth all the hype though, there’s an awful lot of bills involved…

What is it that I didn’t want to give up by becoming an adult?  I’m not entirely sure, except that I never truly believed I had what it takes to be on my own.  I didn’t go to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” and I didn’t want to go to school for 10 years switching from one degree to another while I tried to make up my mind and accumulate all that debt.  The thing is, my mother was a single mom with four kids, I probably would have qualified for grants up the wazoo but nobody ever encouraged me to pursue any kind of financial assistance whatsoever so I entered the work force (fast food) and had several jobs in the three years I was out of high school before I got married, and then we had kids and it has been just a juggling act between jobs (receptionist-type) and kids for the last 18+ years.  On a side note, I’ve also sold almost every home party product there is but that is a blog for another day…

Regardless of my wishes I did manage to become an adult, as is testified by the fact that this year I both turned 39 and became the proud owner of a CPAP machine that makes me sound like Darth Vader all night long.  Frequently, however, I don’t feel very grown up and most days I still don’t want to BE grownup.  Go figure.  But the first word I always use to define myself is “girl” so there it is.  I am a girl, grown up or not, here I come!