I was reading through a lot of my blog archives last night (what an enjoyable time suck that is, since I’ve been blogging for almost 20 years) and I realized a couple of things. One is that I continually dealt with the same issues over and over, to a point that it even annoyed me to see that I couldn’t find a way out.
But the other thing I realized is that every one of those issues resolved itself with enough time. The introspection and self-examination wasn’t a waste of time.
I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to be Catholic for years. I couldn’t reconcile a religion I really didn’t agree with because my true beliefs are more Buddhist-leaning with my desire to be Catholic just because my husband was and I liked some of the rituals.
Finally, when I admitted to myself that I just wasn’t Catholic but I would let myself keep what I did like, it was like I unlocked a door. I just had to give myself permission to have my own weird spiritual beliefs, regardless of whether they fit in with anyone else.
(In truth, I took two religion selector quizzes and both gave me the same #1 result as I got when I took them years ago: Unitarian Universalist. If I can ever drag my ass out of bed to go to their early Sunday morning meetings, I’d probably like it and I would probably make friends again.)
Similarly, I went back and forth for most of the past six years about whether I was really sick with MS and whether I needed disability. The fact that I got approved for it before even going to trial shows that I already had a good case for being disabled, whether or not I wanted to be.
I had an interesting and enjoyable phone call with my dad for Father’s Day. One of the things we discussed was the pressure to make something of your life. He said he never really felt that and I can see the same trait in my middle son who is very much like him.
But I always have felt that pressure to make something of my life and I realize how much of that is self-imposed. Furthermore, I realize that this is at the root of a lot of my resistance to being disabled. It feels like the disability is holding me back.
Yet in truth, receiving disability actually gives me the time to pursue the things that might make me feel like I’m making something of my life. What is actually holding me back is a combination of too much freelance work and too little self-discipline to feel more urgency about my goals.
Somewhere in the midst of all this slow learning process, I also learned how to make peace with my parents. Did they screw up? Yes. I’m not going to make platitudes and say that some of the things were okay. But I really don’t believe they intended to and they have changed. I’ve changed too. My criteria for whom I keep in my life is whether or not I can see a change in their behavior over time, as I have no desire to remain close to people who lack the willingness to grow.
Making peace isn’t about saying that everything was okay or that my resentments weren’t legitimate. And I’m not saying that everyone else’s issues with their parents are similar. But I realized over enough time that my resentments toward them were hurting me. Holding on to anger is rarely productive.
One thing I realized in my call with my dad is that I get my peace with my life from him. Even though there are things that really frankly suck about my life right now, on balance I am at peace with what my life is. I can even say that overall my life is really good, even accounting for my husband’s cancer and my disability. I learned to find joy in the good things and not dwell on the bad.
My dad shares a similar life philosophy and maybe that’s where I learned it from. Or maybe it’s just something we share in common.
It may have been a long circuitous route to get here, but I really am at peace, even in the middle of a storm around me.
And what I also realized is that even if I maddeningly dealt with the same unresolved issues over and over, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I am an incredibly strong person. I have faced a lot of challenges. I have done some very big things. And I continue to look at myself, to see what I can change, to examine my own actions. Nothing is ever just one person’s fault and I can always learn from what I can do differently.
My intense self-awareness may have looked like navel-gazing and it may have at times been torturous to live through and to watch. But it’s like I was trying to unlock a puzzle that was myself. And when I look back at where I was, I can actually see that I have grown a lot.