I just spent an hour going through old journals, notebooks and pages of badly written poetry. I’m currently knee-deep in writing a memoir, and have been paging through journals regularly – revisiting my past. Not only am I reminded of how broken and fragile I was upon leaving an abusive marriage, but of how far I’ve come in the years since. I’m reminded of how important it is for me to take time to honor myself for the roads I’ve traveled and the destinations I’ve discovered along the way.
Reading the heart-wrenching, desperate entries, I wish I could go back and tell the younger me it was going to be alright. I wish I could tell her that there’s no shame in wanting a better life for yourself and your children. And assure her that she would eventually find her way, learn to create her own happiness and discover an amazing world of creative joys and freedom.
Along with the notebooks, I found a scrap of paper with the words “Vulnerability is not an option” written on it. I don’t remember writing this. Where was I in my life? What was I feeling? Why was I so afraid to let people see me? But as I sit here today, typing these questions, the answer appears – it’s because I have lived my life under a shroud. Much like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak – it hides my secrets. For my entire adult life, I’ve kept my fears, failures and frustrations to myself. I’m a private person, believing that no one is interested in seeing me struggle. The words “I’m fine” should be tattooed across my forehead.
I wonder what kind of message I’ve been sending? Do I come across as private and mostly fine, or as a quiet, unapproachable, unfriendly person?
In writing a memoir, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve looked back on the past two decades and realized I am incapable of asking for help. Probably for a variety of reasons: Fear of what others will think, pride, and shame have all played their part. And making damn sure no one thinks I’m a complainer. I just tuck my problems under my cloak and cope with them privately. Alone.
Dealing with things alone has certainly made the journey more challenging. Not reaching out and asking for help is my one, big life-regret. Asking for advice and seeking help would’ve given me the courage I needed to be a better mom, a more reliable friend and a sober, more authentic version of myself.
Then again, maybe it all happens for a reason. The bumpy roads, detours and dead-ends will eventually lead me somewhere, as long as I keep going. Perhaps at this stage in my life, I’m finally learning to reach out – to ask for directions and to ignore the shame on days when I’m feeling a little lost. It’s never too late for a change of course, even if you have to ask someone to help you read the map.