Not really a vengeance

I promised you guys "a vengeance," but I don't know that I have avengeance in me. Instead, I have a cautionary tale. Or maybe a
bildungsroman. Or maybe a voyage of self-discovery. Or maybe a story of
grace. How about a work in progress?

This whole process (of being underground and unhappy for so many
years, then of coming out of that, then of trying to get divorced and
become myself at the same time) has been all about finally
understanding that I am not, nor do I have to be, a Good Girl. That's
an entire dissertation, so let me give you just one little piece for
today.

I was having a bad 36 hours of feeling not very attractive, and that
made me think about how my own sense of attractiveness has changed over
the years. For a long, long time all I thought about was how I was
perceived, whether others thought I was beautiful, sexy, thin,
alluring. Even when I was at a woman's college reading John Berger and
steeping myself in the idea that I could be the gazer instead of the
object, I still didn't internalize it.

Looking back on the decisions I  made, the relationships I had, it was
never about me or how I felt. it was about wondering how I would fit
in, how the other person felt about me. Which may have been why I
wasn't a long-term relationship kind of girl–I wanted to please, but
then couldn't stick around because something was wrong. I just couldn't
be all in, because I'd made my decision on what the other person wanted
instead of how I felt. I didn't even let myself think about what I
really wanted, because that would have been too scary and dangerous.

Even when I got married, it wasn't about what I wanted, what I needed,
how it made me feel. It was about picking the person who looked right,
and who seemed like a decent bet. It was "time to get married." So I
did. No one has a soul mate. No one can see to the real me, and no one
would want to anyway. Play the hand you're dealt.

But then, somehow, I started feeling like what if I was enough, just as
I was. What if there was something inside me that was reaching out,
that needed connection, that needed more? I started getting almost
obsessed with Jorge Ben music, the sexually romantic melodies and
lyrics

Procura-se uma noiva
Que goste de fazer carinho
Encostando a cabeça no meu peito
E ouvir meu coração dizer baixinho
Eu te amo, eu te amo, eu te amo

and with "my cowboy singer" Josh Turner and his cowboy ethic about love
and relationships. The idea of connecting so intimately because it
would give me pleasure was something new and scary to me, but I
couldn't stop exploring it. It felt like everything I had been was
coming apart at the seams, but I couldn't not know anymore.

The period right after I told my kids' father that I needed to get out
of the marriage was one of the most bizarre times of my life. On one
hand I was feeling guilty and sad but on the other hand I felt so free
and almost deliriously joyful. I started feeling sexy in a way I'd
never felt before–powerful. I was lush, ripe, on the verge. I started
buying clothes that showed myself off, and sexy shoes not suitable for
pushing a stroller. I looked at men with new eyes, wondering who they
were and what they were like, if I'd want to be with them or whether
they'd bore me.

And this feeling flowed out of me so other people could pick up on it.
My friends (old and new) told me how beautiful I was suddenly. Men
stopped me on the street to compliment me or hand me their cards. I
felt like Janie with Tea-Cake, able to wear my hair down, long and
thick and wanton.

At the same time I was going through this period of blossoming, I was
the only woman in my office, and the guys there were retraining me for
the world of men. What was reasonable, what was right, what was
expected on both sides. They're a hugely disparate group, but all are
chivalrous, kind, funny, and real. Most are married, and seeing how
they interacted with and about their wives (and one husband) was
eye-opening. I felt like my whole life had been about punching holes in
important documents, only to find that I'd misjudged by half an inch,
so none of the holes lined up with the other pages to go into the
binder. Instead of making a core so the pages could be held together,
the pages were preventing each other from being fastened.

How could I process all of this? The private sexy me, the public sexy
me, the private and public Good Girl who'd accepted and asked for far
less than she was worth? The PTA mom, Moxie, church committee
chairperson? The woman who was undergoing a huge spiritual renewal of
being claimed by a God who loved her even, especially, broken and
failed?

I'm still processing it. I still struggle at times with the idea of
"Will I be loved? Will someone find me attractive?" But knowing what
it's like to be in the wrong relationship, I now know that it's not
just about being desired, it really is about desiring and being
desired. I wonder if, once I'm free, I'll go through a selfish phase or
truly not caring how I'm thought of, or if the emotional work I've done
on myself will render that unnecessary.

How do you process it? This figuring out that you are not who you
thought you were? Who you'd been programmed to be? That mothering has
changed your core or allowed you to start to shed the layers that hid
who you are supposed to be? How do you know your own worth?

I know I'm not the only one has gone through this, who is going through
this right now. Even if you chose the right partner, there is still the
crucible of motherhood that hones you if you let it, but boils you down
if you resist. How do we go through it and come out on the other side
knowing we're not the Good Girl anymore, but allowing ourselves to be
all the angles of ourselves–good, bad, angry, joyful, sexy, inspiring,
powerful, vulnerable?

You're watching me write my story. How do you write yours?

0 thoughts on “Not really a vengeance”

  1. I remember a walk on the beach with my then boyfriend (now husband). It was about 6 months after splitting up with my first husband – which was a relationship which required so much work it was ridiculous – and we had been taking things really slow and being all “this isn’t really an exclusive relationship” because he was afraid I would panic and want to leave. I was saying something to him along the lines of how glad I was that this wasn’t a “real” relationship, because I had been so focused on myself, and not at all worried about what he needed from me, and how I knew that this was probably driving him crazy but I appreciated his patience with my selfishness, and how I would have to change if this were a real relationship. His reply? “Oh…I like you just the way you are…and I’ve been thinking of this as a real relationship” It was a total revelation, that someone could like me and want to be with me when I was all focused on myself and what made me happy, instead of putting all my energy into making them happy.We’ve been together quite a while now, and like any relationship it does take work sometimes, but I’m discovering that focusing on myself and what makes me happy is often a good way of making everyone around me happy…because being happy and content makes me more able to notice what other people need, and when I’m happy I want them to be happy too instead of resenting them for being happy when I’ve put so much effort in and they aren’t doing something for me in return.

  2. it’s like a re-birth of yourself, in a way, isn’t it?i’ve tried to figure out when, exactly, i changed from being a scared little girl with no self-confidence (and no cares in the world) to the person i am today- a strong, confident woman who feels burdened yet blessed by what is on the path of my journey.
    i know this happened well before i became a mama, and i imagine it began in college for me, as i was finally able to come into my own without everyone else’s influence and control on and over me. this co-incided with meeting the man who i’m now married to, and i know his love and belief in me made a huge difference in how i saw myself (isn’t it strange how there are just certain people in your life who tell you something and you believe them? my 6th grade teacher was the same way, as was my art teacher in high school- just people you trust innately, that you know aren’t lying to you or just telling you what they think you want to hear) without being a co-dependent relationship, although we definitely went through some difficult times those first few years.
    as far as feeling attractive, i believe it has everything to do with being at peace with yourself- the feeling of self-confidence isn’t something you can fake, it just is something it is. i imagine your rising from the ashes and burning off all of those layers of protective self-doubt and expected masks has a lot to do with how you are projecting yourself to others. do i still micro-analyze the three wrinkles in my forehead that came with the pnut, the adolescent-reminiscent complexion, the squidgy belly and thighs- of course! but the difference in me now vs. then is that those things (real or imagined) don’t define me anymore, don’t tell other people who i am. because i am so much more complex as a sum of all my parts than just the few surface ones that are shown at a quick glance.
    keep processing- it’s an honor to be with you on your journey.

  3. Your post was so real to me I felt I could have written parts of it (not nearly as eloquently, but still), right down to not finding the self-revelation I should have at my beloved women’s college.The Good Girl. The Perfect Student. The Model Employee. The person who is always asking herself “What will they think of me?” It’s only recently that I’m letting go of all of that cr*p.
    I lucked out on the soul mate who crossed my path at the right time, despite myself. My struggles are smaller, and all about my career right now. The career-hardly-worthy-of-the-name at the moment.
    The strangest thing I’m discovering now is that since I’ve become a mother, I no longer care so much about that. Not that I feel the pull to stop working and stay at home at the moment; I’m finding I’m happy right now with a part-time inside and outside the home balance. Rather, I’m finding that becoming a mother has allowed me to let go of much of my paralyzing perfectionism. It is as if the unconditional love that wells up in me for my son overflows and helps me accept myself.
    Not every day. Especially not the days when my status as mom keeps me from getting anywhere near enough sleep. But still, something crucial has moved.
    I have an interview tomorrow, for a job I’m not sure I have much of a chance of getting, but looks ideal on paper and is five minutes (!!) from home.
    The former me would be a nervous wreck right now, and would already be anticipating how I could beat myself up tomorrow evening if the interview goes badly. The now me can look at it with a bit more perspective: sure, I’m anxious, and I’ll be preparing tonight as best I can… but if it doesn’t work out, it must not have been the path I was supposed to be taking after all.
    Thank you for sharing your journey, Moxie.
    All I can say is, you go, girl!

  4. Today Wendy, what a perfect example of stumbling across the realization that we can and will be loved as we are. Gorgeous.The Berger reference jumped out at me, Moxie. That book was a revelation to me in college and the message still resonates and intrigues me. What would it be like to look outward and desire, instead of always desiring to be desired? And for me, now, getting older (and as a feminist, and I recall speaking about this here just recently when we were talking about self-image) coming to terms that sometimes I do want to be desired, rather than being the active agent… But that’s a different topic, I think.
    Last Fall I started my own mini-transformation–quitting bad habits, starting yoga, going into therapy with DH, and I’ll always remember a good friend (who had recently gone through her share of life-defining terrible events)emailed me and said “I can see you’re making big changes and taking care of yourself. This may lead you places you can’t even imagine now, I suspect.” I still think of her message a lot–that once these changes get kicked off (like your divorce) we start being inexorably led down paths we couldn’t even have imagined. I have found it to be true for me. Also during this period I’ve thought a lot of that quote (often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt) that it’s not our weaknesses that frighten us, it’s our strengths.
    I feel lucky to have had a view into your transformation. I am learning so much form you and this community. We are all evolving, changing, growing. You sound scared, and amazed and joyful. How wonderful!

  5. Moxie, this is an excellent post. It’s given me a lot to think about. Although I’m in a different place, the themes in this post really are amazing timing once again.Like Totally Wendy, I met my husband at a time when I was really focused on me. When I insisted on dating other people and not feeling bad about it. And he fell for me at that time and told me he didn’t want to date other people because he knew I was The One. But that I should date whomever I wanted and he’d wait until I realized that he was The One. Thank goodness I realized it!!! But there was a lot to be said for his wanting to be with me even when I wasn’t ready to commit and was focused on myself. Ten years later, he is still The One. So the soul mate thing can happen, and maybe even is more likely to happen when you are not worried about pleasing anyone but yourself.
    As for those themes that speak to me currently (and I’m going to have to sit down and blog about this myself, because there is a lot going on it my head), I have just recently, as in the past two weeks, “found myself” again. Where had I been? I had been through fertility treatments and focused on that and a miscarriage, then pregnancy, then baby into toddler. I’d been focused on getting back into work and a new team and project. I had been focused on the new house. And most of all, I had been focused on myself as a mom and the realignment of my relationship with my husband to account for us as Parents.
    But after coming back from the beach vacation (my place to re-center myself), I have found myself again completely, and I hadn’t realized that part of me was missing. But it was. I’m wearing nail polish and jewerly again. I’m about to schedule a spa day. I’m making eye doctor and dental appointments. I’m wanting sex with hubby ALL THE TIME again! I’m remember what I used to like about myself as Me, not Mom. It’s amazing how good I feel lately since realizing this.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing your journey with us. I am always wishing you the best on your journey.
    Parisienne Mais Presque – Good luck with the job interview!
    Sherry – I’m sorry to hear about your troubles, and I hope you and your husband are able to work it out.

  6. I definitely felt a shift when I became a mom. First of all, it’s the first thing I’ve done in such a long time, maybe ever, that I feel completely self-confident about. I’m not perfect by any stretch, but somehow I, who have always been plagued by self-doubt, knew in my core from the very beginning that I was the best mother for my child. Nobody else can or could parent my kids better than I can and am. That’s a powerful feeling.I’ve just had an epiphany about co-dependence. As in, realizing that I am a raging one. I learned this at my mother’s knee, I know, and it’s been enhanced by my husband’s PTSD troubles. I spent the first 20 years of my life twisting myself into a pretzel to try to be the person my mom wanted me to be. And I’ve spent much of the last several trying to be the magic solution for my husband’s hurt (all while trying to preserve the Everything Right Child image for my mom).
    For me I don’t think the solution is leaving my marriage. I really hope not, because when times are good, he and I are the kind of couple I’ve always wanted to be a part of — best friends, confidantes, teammates. But I am ready to leave behind some of the patterns we’ve fallen into and I’m ready to be the person I want to be (and find out who she is), regardless of what my mom wants.
    I start CODA tomorrow and I don’t mind admitting that I. Am. Terrified. Has anybody ‘done’ a 12-step program and can reassure me that I’m not going to feel like the proverbial square peg in a round hole?
    @Sherry, I just wanted to share with you that I went through such a similar time with my husband. He was barely making enough in his own business to cover childcare costs (if that), lonely and depressed and irritable and just not the man I knew. He accepted a job with a company in January and I can’t tell you how much things have improved. Exponentially, really. (His underlying issue hasn’t gone away, but he is so much healthier, mentally.) If you’re interested in a personal conversation, I’m available: fascinatingjan@yahoo.com.

  7. Moxie, this is a wonderful post and so thought provoking I can’t possibly do the topic any justice here on my 10 minute surf break at work. Still, this is all the time I have so let’s see where it goes.I have been with my husband for going on 11 years, since we were 19. We’ve only been married for 2 years and have a 1 year old son. We had a very tumultuous first few years together (gotta love those early twenties) and my husband was controlling and anti-social through those early years (which was a real problem for me as a total extroverted social creature) When I turned 25, I booked myself a ticket to Paris, alone, and went in search of my epiphany. Well wouldn’t you know my epiphany didn’t get the memo, and I returned from Paris no clearer than before about what I wanted out of life. A couple weeks later I was on a business trip in NYC and I met a very interesting and eccentric man who was about 12 years older than me. He completely swept me off of my feet. I returned home, promptly broke it off with my then-boyfriend-now-husband who was completely flabbergasted. I spent that summer being treated like a queen and loving every moment of it. I had an awakening to my own loveliness and worth. I felt free and light and beautiful. It was an amazing gift. Down in the dumps, my then-boyfriend-now-husband applied to some MFA programs in Creative Writing and got accepted. He met some new people, and dated a fascinating, confident woman. He became more socially confident and we began to spend time together as friends. By the following February, we were head over heels in love, as the same, but different people. We finally SAW each other. I am so grateful for that breakup.
    I’m raising my glass to you tonight, I’m also so honored to be part of your journey.

  8. I can’t focus on everyone’s stories, but I will come back for them later…Meanwhile, mine, and where it intersects with Moxie’s experience…
    I think what you experienced as a sudden shift I did in bits over an extended time. There were some sudden drops and transitions, definitely – but a quieter and maybe less shockingly potent transformation. Starting when I was 3, really, and decided to not be the obedient, feminine, girly-girl in the white dress and patent leather shoes.
    I ended up being a bit of bad girl, a bit of good girl, frustrating the heck out of my friends (because they were busy being good, and got nothing for it but troubled relationships, and I refused to play by anyone’s rule but my own and had a string of imperfect but satisfying relationships followed by a fabulous marriage). The men in my life appreciated me in many ways, mainly for being myself. But it took a lot of trying on and taking off before I found a fit that was more than just superficial fit, for both of us – and really, found someone with whom I didn’t need to ‘fit’ at all. Kind of Shel Silverstein-ish (The Missing Piece Meets the Big O).
    Spent a lot of time working on me, before then and after. Applied my insights to them where I could. Learned a lot, hurt a lot, got up and shook myself off and tried again a lot.
    I found me along the way, really. In therapy, and in my mother’s determination that we not grow up to be good, or nice, or obedient, but to be ourselves. She didn’t always get that right in the teaching, but the intent came out true – each of her kids is their own person, failings and strengths included, and we each took our own path, and we none of us let anyone – including mom – decide for us which was best. Doesn’t mean we didn’t listen, observe, think about what she said and did. Did mean we didn’t let it define us.
    I also rejected the media imagery very early, the myths were lies to my mind. Everything from the Ugly Duckling to Lady and the Tramp I saw through as a child. I wept for the ugly duckling, not because of his/her struggle, but because it shouldn’t matter what one grows up to be, it should only matter what one is right now, and that should be good no matter the appearance. Lady and the Tramp, even worse – the promise that if we’re good, he’ll change, if we give him babies, he will become tame and domesticated, that he will give up the freedoms that were too scary for her, to live in the placidity that was too limiting for him. Yuck. It was a false promise to both of them, even if there are truths in there, too.
    That doesn’t mean I was fully formed and functional early on, either. But it was more of an ongoing discovery.
    And frankly, it has been harder to accept my inner ‘Good Girl’ than I’d have expected. I rejected that aspect so completely, it has been a struggle to allow that back.
    As for how I write my book of me? 1000 words, every day. Some days good stuff, some days crumple the results up and try again. Over and over. Kind of like I parent, I guess, only for me.

  9. That post stopped me in my tracks today. Beautiful, revealing, honest and brave. It always surprises me when I realize that we are all going through these periods of transformation. And this website connects me with all these amazing people who are dealing with these moments so gracefully. How I wish that in becoming a mother I have become who i am meant to be! I feel that becoming a mother has made me realize my strengths in some ways but has also revealed all of my weaknesses. Maybe in becoming a mother you learn all the scary parts of yourself that you never allowed yourself to feel before? Maybe like there is no where to hide? I am definitely in a period of transition and am feeling lucky to have my hubby by my side who is so accepting and encouranging. He came into my life at a time when i felt like i had finally come to terms with my parents’ divorce ( I was 23 and parents divorced when I was 7 – and custody/finance issues followed through till i was about 18). It took me about a decade to realize that while the divorce shaped my perception of what relationships were (there is no escaping that fact), that it didn’t condemn me to a lifetime of failed relationships just because i didn’t see the ideal one at home. And almost as soon as I realized that I could be happy in my life and not have the shadow of that relationship cast itself over my own relationships i met my husband. And I felt free and beautiful and lucky in my life for maybe the first time. And i firmly belive that had i not come to terms with things, made my way through those emotional waters on my own I would never have had that relationship. And I feel like since having my beautiful daughter I am navigating my way through a similar set of emotions. Wanting to work my way back to feeling free and beautiful and ok with who i am and how i do things. A matter of confidence among other things. I guess that is what we do…thank you for that post Moxie- so much.

  10. Awesome post! I’m so happy for you Moxie.It does resonate with me, though a lot of the epiphanies for me came in the career world and then translated over. I was a Good Girl too, and as perfectionist as you can be. But I got smacked down, hard, when I failed at what I intended to be my career, at the beginning of high school. I know that sounds weird, but when ballet is your career, you’re already on track with plans by then. I did all the practice in the world, but there were things I couldn’t overcome and it hit me very, very deeply. I hadn’t planned on college, I hadn’t planned on boys (please), my body was an instrument and I was clear eyed, eyes on the prize. But like most with their eyes on that prize, I didn’t make it and it ended abruptly.
    I was angry and miserable and reaching for control for much of high school, but one of my eff yous to the world was to have no chinks in my armor or my GPA, and college represented a total fresh start. I went far away and discovered that men were interested in me, that I could work clothes and jewelry and that accepting a drink didn’t mean I owed somebody something. I met Mr. C, interestingly, and we dated (help me, this was 20 years ago now) and it was a complete disaster. I read John Berger too, with my distant-future husband after we became friends again. I was still a Good Girl.
    It took getting angry and smarting off in work settings and discovering that people liked me better when I spoke my mind–that I got *promoted* when I spoke my mind. It took Mr. C (long story how we ended up dating again–I’ll tell it sometime but I don’t have time today–but it was 7 years after the first time) taking me to dinner and telling me, sweetly but with some anger, and firmly, that I could stop trying to get him to like me now–he did and he wasn’t going to stop, and he wanted the whole, real me.
    It took leaving a shitty job without another one lined up, just because it made me miserable. It took Mr. C supporting that. It took becoming a leader of an organization I helped found, and realizing that people looked to me for truth–in some ways I bet (hope) being the leader of this community has helped you see yourself, Moxie.
    It took getting laid off from another job that, while not explicitly shitty, wasn’t me, and it took Mr. C stopping me when I signed up right away to interview for one just like it. This was after motherhood, and a lot of yoga practice. I still fall into it sometimes, especially with respect to parenting, but it’s better. It’s good.
    And by the way, I think one of the saddest things sold by our society is that there are no soul mates. It may not be one-and-only-one forever, but hell yes, there are. You deserve one and now that you’re open, I know you’ll find one.

  11. You’re a girl after my own heart with that Janie and Tea Cake reference, Moxie. I think I went through this when I was 18. That was when I decided NOT to be good, but to be me. I went through a lot of therapy and alienated and re-connected with a lot of people. It took forever. And it’s happened a few more times since, but it gets easier and more pleasant with each experience. Here’s what I learned:This opportunity, and it is an opportunity, comes around more often than we notice in our lives. And I don’t think it’s a re-definition of self that is happening, just a reminder, because we were in fact this sexy, dancing, intelligent and alive person all along. It’s about remembering who we are and what makes *us* happy. Not what makes our kids or our partners happy, not what makes mother earth happy, not what makes your neighbors think you’re happy.
    With me it always happens first with music. I find myself madly down-loading songs that I haven’t heard in forever but that I love. I haven’t heard them because I’ve been listening to someone else’s music. (preparing someone else’s meals, worrying about someone else’s state of mind) And I get a little kick of independence and self-importance from doing this little thing for myself.
    So, listen to your favorite songs (my picks: the smoking popes, blues traveler, they might be giants, traveling willburies) and listen loud. Wear your sexy shoes and relish that attention.
    getting to know yourself again is nice.

  12. Wow, Moxie. I hear your creative, sexual power coming to the surface as you give birth to a piece of your inner self. Don’t forget to breathe. =) Breathe to stay grounded in your body, but also to stay fully present for each moment of your own emerging.I grew up to be the Good Girl, too, and only recently figured out how it happened. There is a long back story, but somewhere in my early childhood (I am guessing age 3, based on a couple of memories), I got the concept of Love confused with the concrete reality of Praise. I think I was over-praised (Boomer generation trying to make up for the lack of positivity in their collective upbringing) and conditionally loved (familial sins of addiction and abuse being visited upon the second and third and fourth generations).
    Anyway, I craved this love-substitute so much that I prostituted my heart and mind for Praise. As I grew, the praise-seeking was internalized and projected to the point where I would do anything so that anyone might even *think* that my actions or words were praise-worthy.
    Years of emotional and spiritual work left me confident that I had loved that empty little Good Girl self into wholeness and set her free to be mischievous and playful and irreverent.
    And then…I had babies. Do you think extreme sleep deprivation and tidal waves of hormones can reverse years of therapy? I stopped loving myself for a few months and questioned my decisions against others’ imagined judgments. I stopped trusting myself and spent most of my emotional energy on anxiety. (I think some of my parenting research obsession has roots in this problem.) And frankly, there just wasn’t any time for me to take care of me. Thank God, he put skin on his love in the form of DH and family and friends, so my love-tank never ran dry, even though I couldn’t fill it myself.
    Now my babies are past the four-month sleep regression (thanks, Moxie!) and I think there’s room for me again. Perhaps tonight I will drink a glass of wine in the bathtub and then jump on my husband when he walks in the door. And I’ll think of a way to be rebellious next week…it’s the best medicine for Good Girl-itis.
    Any ideas?

  13. Not sure I get the concept of the “good girl” that you are trying so hard to shed. If you just mean someone who does what everyone says and ignores her own needs/destiny, then, ok, fine. But that’s not “Good”, that’s just “Doormat.”Good girls, good boys, good men and good women, my good dawg – they are what make the world work out and be a good place. If the opposite is Bad Girl, etc. I’ve had enough of mean people, people who cut in lines, etc. Good people are good. Own your inner goodness as well as your inner true self.
    And beware of limerence, although it is a lovely feeling and a drug. Sometimes you realize that your course is all wrong and you set it straight, (like Moxie is) and of course, it feels wonderful when you are finally heading in the right direction and the wind catches your sails. But in almost any very long term relationship there will also be stretches, sometimes long stretches, of no wind at all, and it is very easy to conveince yourself to completely toss yourself off that boat, but unless there’s compelling reasons to do so, waiting things out usually works.
    My storyline took a dramatic change 7 months ago – I was finally feeling some confidence and thought the next chapters were about launching my little birds into the world and watching them fly, and throwing myself hard into my new career – one of those middle aged women empowerment novels. But it turns out it is actually one of those gruesome medical dramas, with not a McDreamy in sight. Lots of people seem to find meaning in life through a “battle” with cancer, just as many of you all have found yourselves during the rigors and challenges of new motherhood. But I just continue to muddle through…

  14. @Enu, there’s Good, and then there’s polite, helpful, considerate, kind, respectful, thoughtful, etc. Good in the culture I was brought up in meant doing what one was told, being obedient, submerging self to other at all times, presenting well, being ‘a perfect lady’.Good is a general statement of quality, as well. This is a good cheese. That’s a good car. It has nothing to do with intent, action, skill, choice. It is only an inherint condition, or is treated as one.
    So, for me, ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ are both uncomfortable fits. I am just me. But me includes making choices to present well, be mannerly, cooperate with others, be kind to others, and so forth. Still, being a Good Girl, and choosing to act in good ways, two different things. Being Bad, likewise.
    I am neither good nor bad, at this point. I’m not a Good Girl (holding up a front that is compulsory and obligatory), and I’m not a Bad Girl (holding up a front that is rebellion, reacting to the demand to comply with social norms by rejecting them). I can behave well, or poorly. Behaving well makes society work. BEING ‘Good’ has nothing to do with it, from my perspective, though. Because that’s a statement of internal quality, as if it was inborn.
    I do get what you’re saying, but I think it is a matter of cultural definition, and one you (thankfully?) apparently didn’t grow up swallowing as part of your expected identity.

  15. I’ve been mulling this a lot, and for me, my adolescence was when I traveled my journey of self- discovery. I was lucky, in a sort of twisted way, that my parents marriage was under strain for many years during that time, and they were emotionally (and often physically) unavailable, so I was pretty much left to my own devices (and to care for my younger siblings as well.) I went through a ‘bad girl’ phase, which for me was entirely cosmetic… never actually DID anything bad… just looked that way, and enjoyed it. 🙂 Did a foreign exchange program for a year after HS instead of going right to college, then majored in something completely impractical (fine arts) in college to the dismay of my businessman ‘get an MBA’ father, who to his credit simply grimaced and said ‘okay, whatever’. I did what I loved, and as much as my mother was ever the ‘good girl’ to this day, I have no idea where I got such a vein of just being myself and doing what made me happy in me… I think from God, really.Motherhood is another thing I’ve always wanted, and love most of the time, but it’s hard and other loves of mine are on hold for a while, which is okay. My husband brings out an inner sexy me, which I have to fight hard not to suppress because if I think too much about it it feels ‘bad’, but if I don’t think too much about it, it feels good. He wishes I would bring it out more, though. 😉
    I think that’s mostly my story… sometimes I wonder if I’ll wake up some morning and find I’ve been living in a fog all this time… but when I really look into the mirror and search for the truth within myself, I can’t help but smile.

  16. I don’t even know where to start… so let me say this. When I fell in love after my divorce people asked me all the time why I was attracted to this new man. He was very different from my husband and most of my family and friends thought he was very different from me. I couldn’t put my finger on why I loved him… I just did. And that’s when it hit me. Our love, our attraction… it has nothing to do with anyone else. I can’t quantify or qualify it in words… it just is. It’s not a neat package like my first marriage. It’s messy and hard… and wonderful. My first husband and I never fought which I thought was a hallmark of our great communication. I realize now, though, that we didn’t fight because we didn’t care. We were invested in our family because we had kids. But we were not invested in one another.This relationship/marriage is totally different. We do argue… we sulk… because we care what the other one thinks… we ask for opinions… we work through things… together. It’s been difficult to get used to as I was so used to smooth sailing. But this… this *involvement* in one another… it’s wonderful!
    So what have I learned about myself? I’ve learned that I don’t care about as many things as I thought I did. I had to care about all the things in my first marriage because my husband was so uninvolved. But now I can let someone else shoulder some of that. I’ve learned that I don’t like to be alone. I guess in my first marriage I was frequently alone from an emotional sense… but now that I’m involved with someone who does not leave me emotionally lonely, I crave his company all the time. I don’t mean that to sound desperate or co-dependent. It’s just that when you find someone who complements you as well as he does… you really want to be around that person. This is a totally new feeling for me.
    I also learned that I am not a good girl. I hate returning phone calls. I hate being beholden to someone. I don’t want to do anyone any favors… and I don’t want favors done for me. My mother thinks all of this is my husband’s bad influence on me… but in reality it is soooooo freeing to admit that you aren’t the sweet, nice person you’ve worked so hard to portray. I’m sad about the friends I lost in that process… but it’s also nice to make new friends and be able to say right up front, “I’m not a nice person so don’t hold me to standards I have no intention of meeting.” And you know what? People will accept that and love you anyway. Or they won’t… and that’s okay too.
    I’m not sure how this has changed me as a mother. In some ways, it’s made me more protective of them. I want them to be nice people (I still consider myself to be VERY compassionate and understanding), but I also want them to be THEIR OWN person. My daughter is very difficult… and sometimes I just want to shout to the world, “Leave her alone! Let her be who she is! Don’t make her be sweet and nice to fit your mold.” On the other hand… it’s a long, hard road to grow up when you don’t conform…
    Okay… I have so much more to say… but I really HAVE to get back to work. More later…

  17. @Amy, my son G has learned exactly that dance – for the things important to him, he is immune to pressure to conform. For the things about which he cares little, he wants to avoid standing out in any way. He only conforms where it doesn’t affect his true self, and happily conforms elsewhere. It’s like there’s a solid core around which is playdoh – the playdoh bends and squashes and shifts according to the externals, but the core is steel – press on it too hard, and it’s you that’ll get hurt, not him. I can’t say I know how to teach that, but that we did always attempt to protect that – the whole ‘not breaking them’ approach. If it’s important to you, it’s important to us. If it’s not important to you, let it go and adjust. Know the difference. Be able and willing to back up and try again, change your mind, have regrets, remember the regrets and the icky feelings and use those to guide your future choices. Listen to your body, let it tell you how you feel – because it will, and it won’t lie. We learn to not listen, take the tightened stomach and flutters and rapid heartbeat as excitement and love instead of fear… but it still says fear (sometimes there’s other feelings there, too – separating out a blend takes practice). We spent a lot of time talking about feelings, how I feel when, how I react, how I work it through. Maybe that was in there, too. And mostly, he was born that way.Good luck. (I suck at returning calls, but unlike you, I am still knee deep in the struggle over that – I *want* to be considerate and thoughtful and responsive, and “Respectful” is part of my big three, no matter what my native complement of behaviors/personality may be… so, I work that angle. I probably would be more content if I could give it up. And I can’t.)

  18. A friend pointed me to your blog right around the time you announced your divorce, and I’ve been reading avidly ever since because I’m coming out the other side of that same process–got married for the wrong reasons to the wrong person, submerged my wants and needs in theirs for years, ended up leaving–we legally separated last March and I finally moved out last August (I don’t know where you live but divorce moves glacially in Canada). It’s been fascinating to stand on the other side and watch you embark on the same voyage. Today’s post was one of the ones that sounds so eerily like the things I’ve been writing that I had to check the url.I remember that dizzying sense of freedom to desire other people, to think about what I wanted, the possibilities lining themselves up for my future. I remember when I moved out how great it felt to be on my own at last, to be responsible for myself, to set my place up the way I wanted it, to have the freedom to spend my money the way I see fit, not to get cable even. I also remember the shock of becomign truly a single mother, how that finally set in and I realized I was going to be chronically exhausted forever because there weren’t enough hours in the day to take care of my legitimate obligations, my daughter, and also pursue the things I wanted and needed to pursue for myself (if I gave them up post-divorce after giving them up in the marriage, that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?). The price was a lot higher than I thought it would be going in, but still very much worth it. Now I have a lovely apartment, a beautiful daughter, great friends, a wonderful boyfriend, exciting career plans, hobbies I enjoy–two years ago I was telling myself that I was supposed to be happy already, and now I am happy.
    I wasn’t just programmed to be Good, but Invincible to boot. It’s a difficult set to dislodge, but I think it’s finally coming loose.

  19. @Hedra–Yes… it’s hard to be “bad” and respectful. I really struggle with this b/c I want to be respectful and kind… but I don’t want that to interfere with my own world (yes, I’m selfish and tired of repressing that). Here’s an example: my FIL loves to have long dinners at a local restaurant with the whole family. We all have school-age and younger kids and sitting for 3 hours in a crowded restaurant with a bunch of kids (2 of whom are babies/toddlers) is not my idea of a good time. I’m willing to do it on occasion, but nowhere near as often as he would like. So, the rest of the family (even those with more kids and the younger baby than I have) thinks I’m a b!tch because I often beg off these occasions, sending my husband off on his own while I stay home with our 3 kids. I want to be respectful of my FIL’s desire to have family time… but I also need to stay sane. The old me (the “good” me) would have (and did) suck it up. But the new me draws the line. This is just one example of many… I could go on. And, ugh, the phone calls… I try to be good about that… As for my daughter… her issues right now affect her more in terms of the family than they do her peers (as far as I can tell). She has wild mood swings, lots of sensory issues, and alternates between being very needy and very self-sufficient. She is a mixed bag and you never know what you are going to get. I need to get her into therapy… not to “cure” her… but to get her some coping strategies so she feels more in control of herself. And this is what worries me about the conforming. I fear that family members are seeking a “cure” for her, and that she will internalize her label as a “difficult” child (something I know she already senses). So that rather than embracing who she is (a “bad” girl, maybe), she will squeeze herself into a mold that doesn’t fit her.@Cat–I’m with Kate that I haven’t gotten a sense from Moxie that she is blaming LOD. As a fellow divorcee who made the call to leave the marriage, I will say that when there’s not a clear impetus to leave (violence, for example), there’s a lot of emotional struggle and trying to determine who we are that we put everyone through this. Several years (and a new marriage and new baby later), I still struggle with my decision. Not from a regret standpoint, but from the standpoint of what Moxie is saying here… who am I exactly? Where have I been all this time? Who was the me who married that man* and then broke up my family to seek something different? I’m sure Moxie didn’t plan for life to turn out like this… and it calls for a lot of soul searching to discover ourselves. I guess some of that reads as blaming those who didn’t live up to our expectations. But in reality, it’s more of a case of not even knowing what our expectations were. At least, that’s my experience.
    *I say “that man”, but in reality, my ex-husband is a very nice man and a wonderful father. While we were/are very good at parenting together, we were totally uninspiring as partners.

  20. Reading back over, I think Cat saw this section: “Even when I got married, it wasn’t about what I wanted, what I needed, how it made me feel. It was about picking the person who looked right, and who seemed like a decent bet. It was “time to get married.” So I did.” and thought she was talking IT as in ‘his decisions’ not HER decisions.If you read it as ‘I was just going along for the ride, it wasn’t my fault’ (which then assigns the blame to someone else, presumably LOD). But since I’m used to reading Moxie, I know what she means is ‘I made these odd choices because I didn’t know I was making odd choices and didn’t think to examine them and figure out what I really wanted, I thought I *knew* and was doing it all right, only to figure out later that I was leading myself up some impossible garden path.”
    Cat, go back and re-read the section with the assumption that all the I statements are *I STATEMENTS* in fact. And that ‘it’ is about ‘my decisions’ not ‘the process of being married’.
    It goes like this: Even when I got married, *I discovered that my choices were not* about what I wanted, what I needed, how it made me feel. *My choices were based upon* picking the person who looked right, and who seemed like a decent bet. *To my own mind* It was “time to get married.” So I did.”
    It’s vastly different as a picture than how I think you’re reading it: “Even when I got married, *I discovered that how marriage functioned* wasn’t about what I wanted, what I needed, how it made me feel. *The reason we were married at all* was about picking the person who looked right *including his selection of me*, and who seemed like a decent bet *including his selection of me*. It was “time to get married.” *He asked me.* So I did. *Because I was just going along with what he wanted.*”
    THAT version is not what Moxie is saying. But I think that’s what you’re reading.
    The word *IT* is a huge huge huge issue in technical writing, because it is interpreted freely by the reader. ANY ‘it’ can be placed there. If they were kind of stuck on one concept, or spin, or issue, or question, that becomes ‘it’ for that person. In personal (social, cultural, humanities) writing, using ‘it’ can be even more dangerous, because of the challenge of separating out personal perspective and filters of the readers. Cat may or may not have been prepared to think ill of Moxie, but either way, something in her (his?) filter clicked in and went straight to the ‘she’s blaming him for all this!’ translation. (I’ve found myself shocked at times that someone I thought I knew would say something like THAT, and then I go back and read it with the assumption that they meant something different than what I read, and usually I find it was my interp that was off, just due to a single phrase or the use of a stand in term like ‘it’ or ‘that’.)
    Which isn’t to say I’m great at avoiding ‘it’ – it is one of the things I struggle with constantly, in part because it’s so common!(hence my awareness of it. Dang. did it again. SHOOT, again!)

  21. I’ve been chewing on this since you posted this remarkably beautiful post… and thought to jump in at last.As a lesbian, I’ve always been an outlaw. I prayed my knees flat wishing this core part of myself away. As with so many queer folks, I was a nearly perfect child (high achievers, straight A students, super pleasers), because I knew there was this part of me that would make me worthy of hate, I’m talking about from the age of four or five (I don’t think it was sexual then, but I always knew I was “different”).
    The process of accepting myself for myself is so much the journey you are describing now. The rush of power when you embrace the who and what you are. The open acknowledgement of the pretend you, how much expended effort it took (and that you don’t have to spend any more) to be that person. I’m glad for the good grades and the great work ethic covering up who I am gave me. I hope you can come out of this glad for the pieces of the journey you took getting here.
    I am living a life I could not have imaged. In my solidly middleclass 1970’s world, there were no two mommy families. There were no happy homosexuals. I didn’t come out until I was 30. I got “married” in 1987 before it was quite as chic as it is now. That in my lifetime I would be able to wed legally was never really a thought I’d even have entertained.
    What your story has given me is another opportunity to be grateful for the secret thing that I grew up thinking would destroy me. As with any challenge, if you chose to perceive it as a gift, it can make your life sweeter for the pain it causes at first.
    Thanks for taking your remarkable blog to this place too.
    Kel

  22. @AMy, I’d call what you’re talking about not ‘selfish’ but ‘sane’.Something’s gotta give when you cross kids with high family events, and usually it’s the mom who suffers.
    My own mom was required to attend her grandmother’s family meals as a command performance. She hated it (granted, my mom still has big family meals and wants everyone to attend, but if you say ‘command performance’ out loud near her, she’ll twitch – AND she was just as content to skip one of the big event meals almost entirely (or was it entirely? I forget) this year, because it wasn’t going to work for the kids. So, at least she’s one step up, there…
    Anyway, choosing to not attend the big hairy deal meal can be a big hairy deal. It was in my ILs family, too – until it was clarified that it was the big hairy part that was bothersome. At which point, the ‘must attend’ and ‘high formal’ aspects were dumped in favor of ‘hey, we like you guys, let’s hang out – grill’s on!’ Because they care more about making it work for everyone than doing it the same way it has always been done. Granted, I like the high formal stuff a lot. But I also like the backyard grilling. And everyone was always okay with us getting up and haring off after kids mid-forkful.
    Anyway, not selfish at all. Just sane. Making choices that cause less stress and crisis, with fewer repercussions for you and the kids over the next few days. Breathing room isn’t selfish at all. Other people only call it that when they’re afraid to turn the mirror on themselves (because what do you call requiring people to make themselves uncomfortable just so you can feel successful and paternal and obeyed?). There may be a way between the raindrops there, too – it took a while, but we DID work out the sense of what everyone was able to do, and while it is a compromise that means we don’t have the huge formal deals I adore (sigh), we DO have time with the entire family so the younger ones can form bonds that hopefully will last past adolescence. Sometimes just saying “I miss spending time with everyone, but the cost of the misery isn’t worth it, is there some way we can have alternate events that my kids and I can attend without it becoming a problem for them and everyone else?” can start things moving. If you want them to move that way – don’t know the family dynamic, obviously. Your call.
    And @Kel, excellent comment. I immediately thought of my sister, and the amazing strength and discipline she has, probably a fair bit derived from the same process. It has served her incredibly well. Still sucked at times, most certainly. But at least has a side-benefit to the conflict between self/truth and mask/world that is worth keeping.

  23. What a privilege to witness your transformation, Moxie. It reminds me of the phoenix tattoo I got after dissolving my first marriage, moving to the Bay Area, getting clean and sober, and starting to FINALLY settle into my own skin and notice that I am a really great person. I felt like I had been reborn, and that as my former life went up in flames, I was rising from the ashes: beautiful and strong and free!Now, 10 years later I have an awesome partner and a beautiful daughter, and I feel like I’m still transforming. I think once I became open to transformation, it has just continued to happen as life brings me new experiences.
    Definitely making, birthing and mothering a child has been the MOST amazing thing I’ve ever done/become. I feel like all my life I’ve had all of this love in my heart, and I finally reached a place in life where my heart is open enough to share that love, and now that I have this little person who visibly benefits from me pouring that love into her, it feels so perfect. (I’m not perfect…LOVE IS PERFECT.) And since making and birthing and mothering a baby is no joke, I feel so freakin’ strong from this experience!! Wow.
    @jan and a couple of others commented on CODA and recovery meetings. I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in. I sought out recovery in desperation; I could not stop drinking and getting high without help, and I had tried everything I could think of, so I finally broke down and went into 12 step meetings. I eventually realized that codependence was the driving force behind many of my problems, including addictive behaviors, self-loathing, and bad relationships, so I started going to CODA.
    I don’t go to meetings much anymore, but I really got a lot out of them. I think part of it was that I never before had allowed myself to be part of something and to allow a whole community of people to witness with positive regard my struggles and my strengths. It scared the S*!T out of me, but I stuck with it because at some level it felt like I would die without it. When I go to a CODA meeting these days, its usually when I’m feeling stuck around a feeling or relationship, and I need that sense of witnessing with positive regard to help me get unstuck.
    It turns out that people get this witnessing in all kinds of places: religious communities, meditation groups, strong families, maybe even blog communities. Perhaps that’s what you’re getting here, Moxie? I started a blog after my daughter was born, and have found that using it as a public journal can be very vulnerable, so I appreciate you sharing your personal, emotional work in a public way.
    What a phoenix you are!!

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