DAY EIGHT: stop shoulding all over yourself

I’m a 32 year old woman, and thus society has taught me that I should:
-Have a husband
-Have children
-Own a house
-Have a high-paying full-time job
-Dress “my age”

And so on. Obviously these aren’t exacts, but it’s what I’ve interpreted through my journey. When I meet people, often their first question is “Do you have any kids?” 
To which I reply, “No.” 
“Oh, are you married?” 
“No.” 
“Have you ever been married?” 
“No.” 

And then there’s this odd silence as their brain tries to process and find a different folder of questions.

And it brings up some kind of odd shame in me, as if I’ve done something wrong to never have been proposed to or impregnated. Admittedly, sometimes I’ll see other people, compare myself to them, and be like “Why does someone love them enough to be their forever when I’ve never had that?” 

Which then activates an old story which resides deep within each of us: “Am I not lovable? Am I not enough?”

And this, my friends. THIS – the Comparison Monster – is what gets me in trouble. 

Comparing ourselves to another does one of two things. It either helps us feel better than that person, or worse than.

And neither is healthy or true.

I’m an achiever by nature. And a perfectionist. (For those familiar with Enneagram, I’m tied with Type 1 and Type 3.) I enjoy quantifiable things. Goals. Accomplishing said goals. And ideally receiving a grade or a printed piece of paper upon said accomplishment. I have an ideal amount of money I should make, a weight I should be, a number of published articles and books I should have, a number of followers I ought to have attained, and so-on.

I’ve often heard that basing our happiness on goals like this is unsustainable. Also, it’s training ourselves that our worth is based on external accomplishments rather than a base-level inherent worth as a result of being alive.

Buuut… I still do it.

I’m happy as is. I really am. I’ve worked hard to be okay with right where I am. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel relieved upon accomplishing certain goals. As if each is a checkpoint of some kind, preventing me from falling back any lower.

The truth is: I’m 32 years old, I live in a tiny bedroom in my parents’ basement with a window air conditioning unit and carpet that smells like my dog, I’ve never been married (or even engaged) or had kids, I have $25k in student debt, I have a part-time job as a technical writer and analyst, and I do some freelance painting and writing.

I often feel like the creative work I do is me throwing shit at the wall and seeing what will eventually stick.

I want to follow all that up by telling you the work I’ve done, my length of time in sobriety, and what I’ve accomplished. I want to give you the details of an illness I battled.

But I’m not going to.

Because I don’t have anything to make up for. Who I am doesn’t require an explanation or an asterisk with a footnote. 

Externally, I am not the person I expected to be at this age. 

Internally, I am far beyond anything I ever deemed possible. The calmness I feel, the peace, the acceptance. While not perfect or permanent (nothing is), I’ve continued to invite love and forgiveness into every aspect of my life and my being. I’ve worked to clear the wreckage of my past, make amends for my transgressions, and make healthier decisions in my relationship with others and myself. This has resulted in a total perspective shift. My ideas of what constitutes as “winning” and “losing” at life are vanishing or being rewritten.

It’s freeing… And it’s scary.

Scary because part of me worries that if I accept myself exactly as I am in this moment — not in relation to goals or others — that I’ll become complacent. That my dreams will slip away. That I’ll become some boring, mediocre person.

But… Is that so bad? I mean, if that’s worse case scenario. Is that such a bad thing? If I can be at a place of peace and calm and joy and acceptance while living in a tiny dog-scented room in my parents’ basement… Is that so bad? If I live an uneventful life by my previous standards and instead am kind and loving in each interaction, going through and taking care of basic daily to-do’s, all the while feeling grateful and content… Is that so bad?

I’m scared to let go of discontentment, because part of me thinks it’s what motivates me to change.

But maybe there’s a deeper, healthier level of motivation I’ve yet to access? Maybe it’s god-driven, love-driven, spirit-driven… And maybe I have to let go of all these “shoulds” in order to access that?

In what ways do you “should” on yourself? Who would you be without those thoughts?

Today’s extra loving tasks:
1. I slept in after going to bed early. I didn’t beat myself up over it.
2. I decided to be receptive to a gift my dad offered to buy me. A camera so I can take pics of my paintings and sell prints online. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and the lack of a quality camera is what’s held me back… (Or what I’ve used to hold me back.) Dad offered a couple weeks ago to buy me the camera, and I’ve hidden from him since then. My self-loving choice today was to be receptive to his gift, and to do so in a way which feels fair to me. (I’ve offered to work off a chunk of the purchase.)
3.  Rather than rush around and accomplish a laundry list of “to-dos”, I stopped at one point and asked myself what I wanted / needed. To relax, I heard. And so I stopped what I was doing, moved my plans around, and took time to sit and chill and breathe.
4. I got triggggeeerrreed seemingly out of nowhere. Rather than totally implode on myself, I shared it with my SigO and sponsor and friend, and I feel so much lighter.

DOODLE VIDEO RECOMMENDATION: Carl the Comparison Monster & how to handle his filthy lies

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Some days, I paint. Other days, I write. And rap. And tell stories. And do comedy. And doodle. And [attempt to] bake. And, one week out of every month, I merge with my sofa and sob about mortality and things like the existence of air and how we can't live without it and how utterly claustrophobic that is to consider. I'm relatively particular. And this is a place for me to share ALL the quirks.

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