"Because of You" by Kelly Clarkson was playing in the deli yesterday morning. They are often playing Kelly, Taylor, Miley, Beyoncé. I'm a Kelly fan.
And while I will always stop and listen to this song, I think my biggest takeaway from this insane year has been the opposite: that you can't rely on anyone else for either happiness or blame them for unhappiness. You make your own, and I've made plenty of both. I don't mean that to sound misanthropic, but if I ever needed a reminder that I can't be a good friend when my life is at rock bottom, well, last week brought that. I need to take care of myself first and foremost and sometimes, maybe even often, that is a selfish act, but it's also one of sheer survival. I'm learning that saying no is sometimes the most powerful thing I can do, and constantly saying yes when I mean no makes me resentful.
I'm also learning just how much of each of my parents, the social and the antisocial, I have inside me. Both sides run deep. I keep longing for a free weekend to go to, if not a silent retreat, a retreat, one where there is more silence and stillness. And because of how I've structured my life, I don't have that free weekend til mid-September but you know what? That's not that far away.
The other day, I found out that a deadline I thought was ages away was actually last week and my first thought was, "I can't handle this." I think that a lot, like when I switched purses and go to the gym and realized I didn't have a lock because it was in my old purse. It's my go-to reaction, my instinctive freakout. I'm so used to thinking "I can't" that I don't pause and go into problem-solving mode. There will always be little snags, things you have to do that seem to pop up out of nowhere, and I find myself bogged down by the minutiae and sometimes it grinds me to a halt. All my enthusiasm dies in an instant and I become convinced I can't do not just that specific task but really anything. There are a lot of deep breaths and perhaps, soon, some drugs.
But back to Kelly. I was listening to that song as I bought my seltzer and water and two eggs on whole wheat and I realized that that is how it works for a lot of people but that I am so over giving away my power like that. I have done it what feels like a million times and I see that I am the only one responsible for being happy, and that that has to come from somewhere so deep and strong that it can't be cracked by anyone else, and also can't be given by anyone else. I'm not saying I'm going to hole up and be a hermit, just that I know I have a tendency to overvalue what other people, close and not close, think of me, and I am trying to separate from that, to be able to be whole and together like I was one particular night in January that is etched on my mind. I was so proud of myself for not crying (one of what I sometimes think is this hallmark of adulthood) and yet maybe I should have just let myself go a little bit in order to come back to myself stronger and more aware.
Taylor Swift has that song "Back to December," and for me it's back to all sorts of random episodes, like that January one, some much closer in time, where I hate something I did, where I see how I could've acted kinder or smarter or whatever, and of filing that away and figuring out how to apply it int he here and now, I think if I reconfigure whatever low moment in my mind enough I'll discover some new nuance to them, and I'm trying to banish that way of thinking. I was tempted to say my dad does the exact same thing, because he does, but again, that may be true but I'm 35 and there's absolutely no reason for me to repeat my parents' mistakes. There is literally nothing I can do to chance one second of the past and by focusing on it I lose out on the present. I see that and yet it's a very hard habit to stop. I wish I'd done x, written y, and I don't quite get it together to do, say, z today, and sometimes I need a giant reminder that whatever action I take today is action, forward motion, and even if I only get 1 or 2 of 10 items on the agenda done, those are 1 or 2 I didn't have before. Sometimes bravery, even when you think you can't, when you're sure whatever you propose or write or say will be rejected, is what it takes. I'm trying to live up to that. And I know that the more I do it, the less needy I will be, and the more I can say, not with a note of disdain, but with a note of pride, that I did it because of me.