Thursday, February 26, 2009

Becoming a Californian

All of my life, it seems, I have been struggling against what I, and others, have expected of me.  I know that the people who've hoped and wished for me to settle down, grow up, and get a real job have only felt these hopes for me because they love me and really deeply wish for my happiness.

For a long time I struggled to figure out how to do those things.  I felt guilty and ashamed because I never was quite able to fit into any of the ideals and positions that I saw other people fit into.  I envied my family and friends for being able to find contentment in their families, their jobs and careers, and their lives.  I wished I could be happy being a great housewife and mother, having a stable job that allowed me to have a comfortable life and be independent, and have faith in a spiritual belief that could give me hope and sustain me through the difficult times we all have to endure.

I made progress in my struggles:  I found a way to live independently, be reasonably secure, have good friends, and make some really important achievements.  Always, though, I felt like an outsider, like I was in the wrong place, or time, and I couldn't quite connect with other people and my life.

in July of 2008 I started taking a new anti-depressant, Cymbalta, which was a catalyst to me starting to have a new kind of life.  Since I was a child I was told by "professionals" that I would likely never be able to fix the emotional disconnect and limited feelings I experienced.  They all said I 'might' be able to slowly improve a little with therapy, but that the traumatic experiences of my childhood had likely permanantly damaged my emotional capacity.  For as long as I remember, until Lily was born, I was always (every day) suicidal to some extent.  I hated my life; I was incapable of feeling more than momentary joy, the only form of attachment I could feel was having an intense fear of losing the object of my attachment (none of the reported joyful parts of bonding), I could never feel deep connections with people (emotionally) because I felt like an emotional alien-- I didn't know anyone else who couldn't really feel, I felt isolated and alone--even with my closest friends and family... in all I was emotionally void.  My suicidal wishes were due to that emotional emptiness-- Since I had been told I didn't have hope, I always felt like it was masochistic and pointless for me to live my lonely and unlucky life.

With Cymbalta, though, a new door suddenly opened.  I first noticed that I was feeling an amazing sense of joy about being Lily's mother and experiencing her life and growth with her.  I also began to notice that I was feeling much more emotionally connected to Eric.  My experience of emotional growth spread very quickly and soon I was able to feel closer to my family members and friends, I felt like for the first time I could understand their feelings for their families and relate to them and their experiences.  Admittedly it was not all positive feelings I began to experience-- I also began to feel very guilty and sorry for the times and ways I had been very insensitive to the people in my life.  I began to understand how my actions and words may have been hurtful, even though I didn't mean for them to be so.  On the whole, though, being able to experience a full range of human emotion has been an amazing discovery and gift.

My experience of life was steadily improving in St. Louis.  I had gone from always being suicidal to, from October of 2007, having a reason to not want to die-- Lily needed me.  A few weeks ago, though, Eric was driving a little fast and I suddenly realized that, for the first time ever, I really and truly want to live!!! 

The thing is that being here, in this beautiful place, I finally feel like I belong (even fit in).  I don't feel like I'm missing some important element of humanity that lets me be happy with what makes other people happy.  I don't feel like I'm odd, eccentric, or weird.  I don't feel like I need to be anyone other than who I am.  

I've always been a big thinker, a dreamer (as they say).  All of my life I have felt like my ideas were too big, unrealistic, or in some way simply innatainable.  That belief was usually seconded by the people around me.  I was always "the creative one" and thus it was ok for me to be a little 'weird.'  The thing is, I'm not really weird here.

In St. Louis I was too self-conscious (due to my apparent oddity) to talk to most anyone.  I was even shy with my family and sometimes my closest friends.  But here, I go out and comfortable talk to strangers on the street.  Share my "big" ideas with people I don't even know in my art group, and find that they aren't impossible.  Here, my thoughts and dreams are appropriate, acheivable, and realistic.  Here, the impossible happens every day.

I wondered how long it would take me to feel 'at home' in California and I've found it didn't take me very long at all.  I almost feel like my life in St. Louis was a dream and I'm where I was always supposed to be.  I am  making friends and discovering that highly educated and successful people take me seriously and are interested in my mind.  I can talk to people, even in my house-cleaning clothes, and they don't judge my potential by my appearance.  Here, I am beautiful because of my talent, intelligence, kindness, and potential.  Here I am finding out that I really do have the beginings of all of the things I dream to be.  Here, I don't even fear (too much) that I'm too old to become successful.

I wish I would have been born here.  I've finally found my home.

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