I’ve lost a lot of weight recently. Tons and tons of emotional baggage that I’d gotten used to carrying around with me like a giant metal ball attached to my ankle. A ball that had grown and grown and grown so big – that one day I just couldn’t pull it along with me any longer. Not one more inch. It had become too heavy. I was stuck. Stuck in a place where I could do only one of two things: stay stuck forever or start shrinking that ball, or better yet, unleash myself from it all together.
I grew up happy. For about a few years. Seven, eight perhaps. Then misery hit home when my dad left, when my mom married my stepfather, when abuse crept into my life, when a close family member turned into an alcoholic, when another became psychotic and tried to commit suicide, when my marriage turned from happiness into heartbreak, when my job turned from prestigious into draining, when I found my father after thirty years and lost him again after three.
I don’t want to complain here. This is my life and those experiences will always be a part of me. I’ve long made peace with that (well, not that long, actually). There is no point in arguing against what has happened. In fact, going through all of this has made me realize a lot of things. Most importantly how strong I am.
I never realized how strong I am until others told me that they didn’t know how I managed to be the way I am and do the things I do, having experienced all of that. Then it took me another while to realize that what has happened is precisely the reason why I am the way I am and do the things I do.
I have a very value-based personality. I value trust. I value loyalty. I value honesty. I value gentleness. I value compassion. And I try to live according to all of those. Probably precisely because that’s what I was missing and what I’ve longed for as long as I can remember.
I’ve also recently started to value authenticity. Meaning that I also own those parts of myself that for a long time I used to wish away: My somewhat unhealthy perfectionist streak. My tendency to be nit-picky and overly-critical of myself and others. My tendency to overload myself with responsibilities. My strong judgment that has helped me a lot professionally but hurt me in my social relationships, especially in my marriage. My controlled, somewhat downbeat manner.
Most importantly, though, I have realized that it is possible to regain joy and happiness, despite those dark chapters of my past. If only I start losing weight. Emotional weight. By slowly going through every part, every layer that makes up the whole of me and shedding those that don’t really belong to me. Those that for some reason or another I have adopted as my own even though they are not in line with my authentic, my true self.
So, for years now I’ve worked on unearthing those qualities that make up the real me. Which does not mean leaving behind all the nasty-seeming character traits but rather transmuting them into a more mature version of themselves. Perfectionism into striving for excellence while making peace with imperfection. Self-sacrifice into self-care. Strength into courage. Suppressing anger into setting healthy boundaries. Resentment into forgiveness. Soldiering on into making peace.
Not saying that I’m there yet. Not even close. In fact, I’m starting to feel that there is no getting there anyway. Only a moving forward in an endless spiral of learning. And getting closer to living the possibilities that our precious life, whatever shape it might have taken, offers to us. Even though it might look nasty and unfair from the outlook. Maybe especially because of that.
Maybe the nasty outlook is precisely what outlines the possibilities.
And it’s our job to catch the ball and play with it.
Rather than carrying it around with us forever.