Sunday, October 20, 2013

Taking Up Space

A couple of weeks ago I bought a box of Kleenex. Not a knock-off version, not the small box, but a big ol’ box of name-brand Kleenex. You would think that this is hardly worth mentioning, but it has become a symbol of sorts in a drastic shift in perception that I’m still trying to wrap my head around.

I can’t even tell you the last time I bought a box of Kleenex, because ever since I have had control of my own finances I have chosen to skimp and save – why buy Kleenex when toilet paper works just as well? You’re just going to blow your nose into it – or, especially recently, sob into it – then throw it away.

For that matter, why buy half the shit that people do? Nice lotions, hand soaps, aluminum foil, good knives, new shoes, jeans that fit, bras that enhance rather than just suspend breast flesh?

All of these are things that I have denied myself in the past. I can still tell you how much money I spent on Victoria’s Secret bras when I finally broke down and bought a bunch. I feel better when I wear them, but some part of me can still take that amount of money – $200 – and turn it into how long I could have eaten on that same amount, or how many nights in a hostel it would have bought me. To some extent the ability to be a spendthrift is helpful, especially for stretching funds to live longer abroad, but there’s also a point where enough is enough.

Invisible audience, enough is enough.

My dad loved his work as an orchardist, but the orchard never did much more than break even, so when we tore out the trees – still one of the most heart-breaking days of my life – he considered himself a failure, despite years of patient and diligent work and hundreds of bins of beautiful fruit, not to mention the happiness it brought to him to do his life’s purpose. My mom, on the other hand, is an incredible nurse but was always in it for the paycheck – she used it to buy all the creature comforts any of us wanted, but would come home exhausted, spent and hating her job.

I thought that growing up with this difference in career strategies led me to fear seeking my dreams less than I would otherwise (taking my dad’s view) but I think that I internalized some pieces I wasn’t aware of until now. Now, looking at how much I have proudly denied myself in search of my dreams, I think that I learned that you either 1) made money or 2) followed your dreams. I learned that the two sides were mutually exclusive, and that perhaps the only way to know that I was really following my dream was to allow myself to suffer for that time and effort.

It stretches far beyond actual income, however. With this unconscious mindset, I have allowed myself to work for less than I have ever been worth; I have worked for others when some part of me knew it would not ultimately work to my benefit; and I have settled for less than I deserved in both the amount I earned and also the work I did. Some part of me embraced this as part of martyrdom: see how much I’m doing below my capabilities in the name of my dream? See how I’m suffering? See how I embody the starving artist? Because all artists must suffer, you see: it’s the only way to do it; there’s nothing to make art about if you aren’t suffering.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sick. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been letting go of so much. Perhaps it’s because of all the soul searching I’ve been doing, but suddenly I have no more patience for denying myself.

I have suddenly realized that although there is pride choosing where I spend my money based on what I really want, it is actually detrimental to deny myself basic comforts and experiences just so I can claim that I live on $800 a month.

I deserve more than this, invisible audience. I deserve to live well, to believe in myself enough to keep searching not just for the type of writing that makes me feel alive, but also to find the way to make that fun, fulfilling and amazing life experience into my life’s work – work that will support me, too. This feels different than making a decision that I HAVE to make money off my writing and more about finding work that makes my heart sing AND brings me a paycheck. On top of that, it is finally deciding that I am WORTH the kind of money that will not just support me, but make me financially stable and comfortable, and living a lifestyle that may not necessarily cost a lot more, but will feel a lot less like denying myself for the bragging rights of living a small existence.

Does this make sense to anyone but me? I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I mean, but I guess that part of it is letting my talents sing instead of hiding them, waiting for someone to accidentally stumble across them. It means taking up the space I have always denied myself –letting go of the idea that I have to hide or apologize for being different, and also, once and for all, letting myself live as largely as I deserve. This isn’t necessarily about living in a mansion, but it IS about being less apologetic for my differences, and embracing the lifestyle that I have nothing to apologize for, and in fact can be proud of. If I’m going to be proud of myself, it’s important for that to be reflected in how I act: buying the jeans that fit, wearing the bras that give me confidence, and wiping my nose with Kleenex, simply because I’m worth the extra effort, the extra time, and the extra money to do so.

Around the same time I bought the Kleenex, I started wearing earrings again. I started wearing my hair down. I got new tennis shoes. I took some effort in my appearance, because I realized that I felt better when I did it, and when I felt better, I acted like I was worth more. And if I act if I’m worth more, I am treated better, not necessarily because other people see me differently, but because I see me differently and in turn I demand what I deserve instead of being apologetic or trying to fade into the wallpaper.

There’s a quote that I keep seeing on Facebook. Of course I can’t find it now, but it basically says that you aren’t doing anyone any favors by playing it small. I guess that’s where I am now. It’s time to take up the space I deserve, and stop playing the humble martyr who gives away all she has in the name of some undefined ideal that she no longer subscribes to, especially since the original subscription was unconscious. Now that I’ve figured it out and given it a name, I can’t abide by the feeling or the lifestyle it has given me: one of self-deprecation, denial, and apology for the smart, sensitive and wonderful person I am. When I’ve seen it in others it’s made me impatient with them; it’s no wonder the same thing in me made me want to punish myself by denying me everything that I have ever been worth, both in terms of connection, intimacy, love, and basic creature comforts. No wonder, invisible audience, I have felt so diminished trying to hide myself.

Until now.

Love and living large kisses,