identity

What is my identity?

I fell out of the habit of writing here a year ago.  Almost exactly.  2017 has been a hard year for me, and I have been focusing my energy in other places than this blog.  But I am still trying to post at least once a month.  Last night I listened to a podcast by Shawn Stevenson in which he interviewed Tom Bilyeu.  They discussed self-esteem and how to reprogram your brain.  One tool that I felt I could immediately put into practice is to decide just who I am.  What is my identity?

My diary

I have been keeping a diary lately in which I talk to myself.  Or more accurately, I talk with my Higher Self.  A while back, I wrote about how I view life as a video game, and this is an example of that.  I, the person doing the writing in this physical body, am the character, and in this diary, I talk to the soul who is playing me.  Here is an excerpt from today’s entry.  I had been bemoaning my parenting skills and my perceived failure as a parent.

For a long time, you judged your value as a person by M’s behavior.  You beat yourself up over failing her, calling yourself a bad parent because she did not meet your expectations.  You conveniently ignored the fact that C had exceeded your expectations, and instead attributed her successes to her, while attributing M’s failures to yourself. Which is it?  Is a person’s success or failure attributable to them, or to their parents?  You can’t have it both ways.  Stop trying to find ways to beat yourself up.  

What?!  I don’t try to find ways to beat myself up!

Of course you do.  You beat yourself up for your parenting (M, L now, and E now, too), for your housekeeping habits, for your financial situation, for your lack of a social life.  L and E (and probably M, too) are presenting as struggles for you because you choose to find struggles there.  You don’t have to.  Yes, you are to be their guide and their teacher of life, but you need to lead them, not drive them.  You need to have patience with yourself in order to have patience with them.  You are not mentally healthy and so neither are they.  Work on yourself first.  You listen to so many podcasts on self-development, but how many nuggets of wisdom have you actually applied to your life?  The one from last night is a great place to start.  Once the kids are on the bus and you have delivered the car to the garage, sit down on your proper blog (not this hideaway one) and write down what kind of person you are.  Make it public.  Hold yourself accountable to making some changes in your life.  Then you can think about making changes in the kids’ lives.

Neglected identities

So just how do I define myself?  The very first definition that comes to mind is that of mother to my children.  But I seem to have taken on that role to an unhealthy degree.  I have squashed all other identities to submit to that one.  I want to explore those others now.

Wife

I am happily married to an amazing man.  This is not my first marriage, and I am still amazed that after seven years together, I am still so completely in love with my husband.  My previous two marriages fell apart before our second wedding anniversary, whether I acknowledged that fact or not.  So to still be in love after seven years is remarkable to me, and I am so grateful that we are together.

Daughter

I am not always the best daughter to my mother.  I often ignore her, and we have had times when we had horrible arguments and I didn’t speak to her for months on end, maybe even up to a year.  But she is a very loyal and loving mother, both to me and to my brothers, even when that love is not reciprocated.  But I do love her dearly, and please go read the link to see some of the ways she has shaped who I am today.

Sister

I have two brothers by birth.  I clarify that because one brother is not in my life anymore.  He is the black sheep of the family, and seems to prefer it that way.  I had to set a limit many years ago to protect my safety and that of my family, and he was happy to stay away from me, too.  I grieve this sometimes, because I would like nothing more than to see him mature and be able to have healthy relationships.  But until I can feel safe around him, we have to be apart.  Currently the distance is about 1100 miles.  Last I heard, he was in Georgia.

I am much closer to my other brother, though I feel like I have been a horrible sister for him.  I have not been there when he needed me, and I feel like I could have supported him much better at times in the past.  (As I write this, my Self is whispering, “Could you have?  At the time he was going through his hell, you were going through your own.  You can’t fill someone else’s cup when your own is empty.”  But I still feel guilty about it.)  And I know he feels similarly.  He is not in a position to be as much a part of our lives as he would like, and so we both feel guilt for not having the relationship we would like.  We take solace in knowing we love each other unconditionally and we do all that we can for each other.

Ex-wife

Yes, this is a role that I have that I need to define for myself.  What kind of ex-wife am I?  I could probably do much better here than I do, though I have made tremendous progress in these last couple of months.  I have finally learned that I really have nothing to fear from my ex-husband.  He cannot hurt me anymore and so I don’t have to be afraid.  For years I still sought his approval for two reasons.  First, I want everyone to like me.  I am a people pleaser, and it is a fault of mine.

Second, I was terrified of him.  Some part of me still thought he could make my life miserable if he wasn’t constantly soothed.  I finally had enough, and I stood my ground.  And nothing bad happened.  He wrote me a nasty letter, which I answered point by point.  That reply was promptly ignored.  After a few cycles of this (he would make ridiculous accusations or demands and I would point out the flaws in them), it just stopped.  I no longer ask, “How high?” when he says, “Jump.”  It is so very freeing.  Communication is still a struggle for us, but really, if we could communicate well, our marriage probably wouldn’t have fallen apart like it did.  So all I can do is try to be fair and set and enforce boundaries.

Other family

I don’t really have any relationships with cousins or aunts/uncles, and the last of my grandparents passed away when my oldest was six weeks old.  On one side, my family doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that I exist, and ignore my birthday well-wishes and attempts to be friendly on Facebook.  It took two years and some Facebook stalking to learn that my uncle had passed away.  Sometimes they will answer the phone, but I think that is only if they don’t check the caller ID first.  So I stopped trying.  If they don’t want me, then that is their loss.  I feel a deep loss about it, but I know that I am not a bad person and that they are missing out by not knowing me.

On the other side of my family, I just never knew them.  They lived several states away when I was growing up, the closest being about 1000 miles away.  They are names and occasionally faces that I know are attached to me, but they are like storybook characters, rather than real people.  If one of you is reading this, please understand that I just don’t know how to connect with you.  I don’t know what common ground we have besides our DNA, and my fear of rejection is strong.

I’ve gotten pretty long-winded here, so I will break this up into two or more entries and post another later.

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