Saturday, January 19, 2019

Fewer Strings Attached

I've been thinking about you, Invisible Audience.

I've been thinking about you and what you mean to me, especially when there are so many other invisible audiences that I think about on a regular basis.

  • There's the audience that tells me there's something wrong with me that I'm single and 37.
  • There's the audience that tells me that I really should be getting out more, and that there's something wrong with me that I enjoy my time to myself so much; that often, I prefer time to myself to time with others.
  • There's the audience that thinks I should be able to do it all -- everything I expect for myself, plus everything everyone else wants for me, too.

There's the audience that thinks I really should be something different than what I am now -- more financially stable, maybe; with a newer car; that I should weigh less; laugh more; work less but get more done. That I should keep more toxic people in my life, simply because we share blood.

Here's what it's taken me a long time to come to terms with, Invisible Audience: just because these audiences are invisible does not mean they don't exist. After all, you're invisible, and you're reading this, aren't you?

I've spent much of my life wondering why I felt pulled in 200 different directions; wondering why I felt like I was fighting expectations even when I couldn't see anyone around me trying to enforce them. I would try to explain this pull to others, and many would look at me, confused.

"But you always do what you want," they'd say. "Just look at your life. You never adhere to the norm."

It's true I have not lived a life that looks normal, but that does not mean that stepping away from the norm has been painless.

For some reason, 40 years old has felt like a marker. It's loomed ahead of me as a finish line that I'm afraid I won't be able to triumph. Shouldn't I be something else by then? My hair is turning grey; I weigh more now; I am not as buoyant about life as I once was. Surely if I don't have everything figured out by 40 I never will. An invisible audience told me that. And for a long time, I believed them.

I have been turning these invisible yet very real expectations over in my head and in my heart, and I have finally been able to ask myself:

Do I want this?

  • Do I want to seek a partner just to say I have one?
  • Do I want to believe that I only have worth if others think I do?
  • Do I want a child so my friends that leave me out of conversations about kids will include me?
  • Do I want to live a more lavish lifestyle and battle stress and debt simply so I look more normal?
  • Do I want to try to push myself physically at the expense of my health just so I look more like one of the very athletic mountain town women who live where I live?
  • Do I want my life to look like everyone else's to quiet those invisible voices, whose presence is as real as gravity and as hard to pin down?


No, I do not.

It has taken years. It has taken an ocean of tears. It has taken the loss of many friendships and loved ones. There have been many betrayals. There have been many surprising allies and steps forward and back.

Fuck it. Fuck all of it.

There's some saying that I can't quite remember about how inadequate a fish will seem if you expect it to climb a tree. The thing is, a fish knows what it's good at, but even as its fins work and its lungs breathe underwater, you can totally fool the fish into the thinking it will never be good enough if you tell it that all that matters is if it can stand on the uppermost limb; that, indeed, its existence and happiness depend on it getting there.

I know what I'm good at. I'm good at pouring my heart out into my writing; I'm a stellar solo traveler. I'm really great at starting over. I'm a great business woman. I'm really great at making sure kids love learning Spanish. I'm pretty good at speaking Spanish. I'm good at excel spreadsheets, and paying my bills on time, and getting my oil changed and my tires rotated when I'm supposed to. I'm the kind of renter that landlords rave about having. When that's the standard I aim for, I knock the expectations out of the park. When I buy into the invisible expectations that have nothing to do with me and everything do to with what is considered normal or acceptable, I look like a fish trying to climb a tree.

And that's the thing, Invisible Audience: I've always been a much better swimmer than a climber. It's just a question of owning it.

Love and swimming kisses,