I have an 8x10 print tacked to my cubicle wall by artist Emily McDowell, "I'm a grown ass lady and I do what I want." It's beautifully unapologetic, and it makes me feel powerful, in control of my creative destiny. It reminds me that if I'm not doing what I want, I can stop at anytime.
A co-worker paused beside my desk this week and told me, under his breath, that I'm secretly angry. I didn't understand what he meant until he pointed to the print and shivered, "You're scary!" I laughed. Apparently, doing what I want, as a woman - as a grown ass lady - equates anger. You should be scared, I thought, I am woman, hear me roar!
Except... staring at this print day in and day out also makes me wonder, am I really doing what I want? How do I know for sure? My responsible nature tends to quiet the voice of want in my life.
Articulating my wants isn't easy.
I fear my writing has become a commentary for what I think I want instead of what I actually want; my thoughts infiltrated by secondary opinions of how I should live my life - as a woman, as a wife, as the various labels I've fought but affixed to myself over the years: Childfree/Childless by Choice, Christian to Agnostic, Vegetarian, Minimalist, Introvert, etc. If there is one thing I hate doing, it's explaining myself in digestible terms, in label form. And yet, I do it; and those secondary opinions, rarely welcomed but always offered under the guise of prayer or good intent, can get the best of me and have gotten the best of my marriage. I'm beginning to understand that living blind (of the ignorance is bliss variety, not actual blindness) is not living at all, and I haven't been able to see myself for years. Labels have only further aggravated my sight. If I can't see myself, chances are I'm not even seeing other people authentically.
I'm in the process of waking up. It can happen slowly or suddenly, depending on urgency or how much I want to avoid my eyes being open.
It was startling to realize, after a particularly difficult therapy session, that I have been developing a tumor of resentment deep in my core for the past 10 years. I'm a fairly level person. I'm calm, calculated. I don't raise my voice. I try to operate from an equal plane of emotion and rationality. It just didn't seem like me. Except it totally is; my co-worker was right to say I am secretly angry.
As my therapist repeated some of my own words to me, it was like hearing them for the first time. I often ignore any sort of mad feelings because I've always believed them to be wrong, inappropriate. A friend texted me shortly after my appointment, "Do you know the phrase 'a gut feeling'? Apparently, we carry anger in our liver."
I suppose it's no wonder I want to drink all the time. Misery loves drowning "bad emotions".
I'm committed to figuring out what I want.
We no longer have a liquor cabinet in our home. I'm learning how to be angry - not secretly. It's uncomfortable, and apparently, to some, it's what grown ass ladies do. Resentment is not going to eat me from the inside out. Now that I know it's there, it's become a catalyst for change, for me doing exactly what I want.
I deserve to live my life well, according to my own definition, in pursuit of my own beliefs and opinions and desires. No matter what.