There have been times when I have felt the urge to place MISSING signs on doors, trees and lampposts in an effort to find myself. Times when I have looked in the mirror and did not recognize the person staring back. When did those bags appear under my eyes? What’s with the dark circles around my eyes? Is that a furrow between my brow? Are those frown lines on the sides of my mouth? Why do I look and feel as if I have aged 100 years in 100 days?
“Where is Lisa and what the hell have you done with her???” I scream at the mirror.
I used to fancy myself as an okay looking young lady. And I say “okay” because of my head situation. See, when I was born, I came out as a normal, proportionate 9 lb baby. But as I grew into my child body, my head seemed to grow faster than the rest of my body causing me to look like a chocolate Blow Pop. There I was, a little brown pig tailed girl with small shoulders, skinny legs with ashy knees and this big bobble head. True story, my uncle nicknamed me Waterhead! (Ain’t that some shyt!) Fortunately for me, as I grew up, my body caught up with my head. (Okay…let me stop lying…I STILL have a big head but I am working on getting bigger shoulders to balance it out. And so what I am in my 40’s!) The blessing in all of this is that despite my head being so bobble, I had a decent face and felt pretty good about myself for the most part. I was a trained dancer…I danced in a dance company (which was really cool and fun). I loved to draw…I could draw just about any cartoon. Writing was my passion…I kept a writing pad and pen with me at all times. It didn’t matter how good/bad or complex/simple or deep/shallow the content was…all that mattered was that I wrote. I loved to run. Saturday mornings would find me running down MLK Ave at the Big Chair. When I ran, I could think…and when I thought, I could resolve…and when I resolved, I could release…and when I released, I could smile even bigger. I rollerskated. Now THAT was my thing! I would hear The Whispers or Barry White come on and I would get my roll on!!! I could forget about the cares of the world…and in that moment when I am rolling on that cloud of music, in that melodic space, all is right with me. And I loved those carefree years. Those years when I felt free to be myself. When I lived life and fully enjoyed life. When my laughter reached my eyes. When my laughter wasn’t that fake throaty crap, but a loud, hearty belly laugh.
And then I grew up.
What in the hell happened?
Now I know that right here is where I am supposed to cue the dramatic music and insert some huge, life changing event that scarred me for life. Ummm…I hate to disappoint you, but my life was pretty boring. I graduated high school, went to college, got a job and got married. Later on had children.
But somewhere along the way, I lost Lisa…
I look at my reflection…the puffy eyes that used to twinkle when I smiled, now dull and lifeless. I look at the hair that used to be fly. I don’t give half a damn about the hair anymore. The hunched shoulders, sagging ass, lack of motivation and chronic fatigue. And I wonder what the hell happened? Who IS this woman?
When I got married, I felt that my duty as a wife was to make my husband happy. So I was the happy little wife. I learned his favorite foods and cooked them. I kept a clean home while working full time as a police officer. I made sure to keep him happy in the bedroom. I learned his hobbies, listened to his music, met his friends…basically immersed myself in his world…while withdrawing from my world little by little. Did he require this of me? Of course not! But growing up watching Leave it to Beaver, the wife’s life revolved around the husband and family, right? And making her husband happy is the wife’s number one priority, right? It has to be because it’s on freakin Leave it to Beaver and TV doesn’t lie!!! And the mother is ALWAYS smiling and happy as she serves her family. And then in church, there is always the preaching about the Proverbs 31 woman who is up before dawn’s butt crack and then going to bed just before dawn. Of course, the Bible doesn’t mention time, but I am thinking that that Proverbs 31 woman was only operating on like 2 hours sleep, tops. So with those in mind, I made it my business to make sure that my focus was on my husband and his happiness.
As I focused on keeping my happy household, I stopped dancing…cold turkey. My skating dwindled from four to two to one to zero days a week. My writing was stunted because who has time to write when there is vacuuming to be done and dinner to be cooked? My thinking was cloudy because I couldn’t run…which meant no resolve…which meant no release. And little by little, it got harder for my smile to reach my eyes. But in public, I faked the funk. I smiled and laughed…yeah, the fake throaty laugh…but in the middle of the night when my husband was asleep, I lay there staring at the ceiling, feeling a huge hole opening in my core. Trying to convince myself that I am happy and that I really don’t need my own outlet or hobbies anymore. Why do I need those when I am happy and married? And so day in and day out, I smiled my fake smiles and lived my fake life and little by little, bobbleheaded, fun-loving Lisa faded into obscurity.
A couple of years later, children came into the picture. I was excited. No…I was ecstatic!!! I am actually becoming a mother!!! I watched all of the baby shows…read all of the baby books. I wanted to make sure that I had this mothering thing down right. I mean, after all, Claire Huxtable made it look easy! She had like five children and I only have two. So if she can handle her brood, then why can’t I handle my duo…and be happy with it?
And so there I was…wife, mom and full time police officer, living a charmed life. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together. Looked like my life was perfect. I smiled the correct way, said the correct things…did it just like the books said. But on the inside…I was dying.
Do you know what it’s like not to know your favorite food, but you know your husband’s and children’s?
Do you know what it’s like to try to write but cant because you don’t have anything to say?
Do you know what it’s like to know your family’s hobbies but to have forgotten your loves?
I do…and over the years, I became angry and bitter. In my heart, I blamed my husband for taking my individuality from me. I silently accused him of stealing my dreams. I made excuses for my lack of accomplishments independent of the family unit. I used my children as reasons why I could not do anything or go anywhere. I got angry as hell when I would go to church and the minister would preach on this Proverbs 31 woman. I wanted to find that woman and whoop her ass cuz she was making life hella hard for me with all of that overachieving! And I spent several years harboring anger within my heart while smiling (yeah, that fake one) on the outside.
So there I stood looking in the mirror…tired…mentally broken. Daydreams of riding off into the sunset with only the clothes on my back. Wondering how I am going to get through another day. Another bottle of Moscato on the bathroom sink so that I can unwind. Shoulders slumped, feeling beat down…wishing that I could do something…but not quite knowing what to do because I kind of forgot what it was that I liked to do.
And the tears came. One, three, ten…then the floodgates opened.
Who is this broken woman??? And WHERE IS LISA???
And as I stood there crying, I looked at my pitiful reflection. And as I looked back at myself, I saw a glimmer in my eye.
Could it be?
My eyes began to sharpen and focus…my back unhunched itself…my shoulders rolled back…the right eyebrow raised…and I realized that bobblehead Lisa had entered the building. And she was PISSED!!! Enough is Enough! And standing in that mirror, bobblehead Lisa had a talk/showdown with broken Lisa.
The reality is that everything that had happened to me, I did to myself. My husband did not ask me to change. I had some warped, preconceived notion based on television and fairy tales of what a happy wife looks like and what her responsibilities are. And I gave of myself at the expense of myself with no regard for the fact that in order to truly serve and create a happy home, there must be balance and that I had to be…myself. My husband did not fall in love with and marry me for me to be his servant or concubine. He fell in love with my quirky personality, my sense of humor, my love for crazy clothes, my zest for life…all of those things that made me, me. And I did him a disservice by taking that carefree, loving woman away from him because I thought that being a wife meant forsaking self. I never considered that while I was secretly angry and blaming him for me not having any hobbies or likes anymore, maybe he was secretly disappointed that I wasn’t the woman he married. Maybe I wasn’t the only one unhappy…
I was tired, burned out, broken and washed out because I CHOSE to be. I willingly put myself in that situation time and time again. Ms. Martyr of Nothing.
And as I talked with myself, I realized that in life, we all have choices. And we have to choose wisely. In my case, I chose to give up those things that made me me…and I have no one to blame but myself. I had to come to grips with the fact that my husband loves me whether the floors are vacuumed or not. He loves me enough to be cool if I want to go out skating or go for a run…because that gives him time to pursue his own interests.
I have learned that I have the power to control what I pursue in life. And if I succeed or fail, I have no one to blame but myself. I had to get out of my own way, stop making excuses and push forward. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies. Its time to take life by the horns and live with purpose and passion…find that old self who used to dream and set goals. Dust off those dreams and goals and start pursuing. NO EXCUSES!!! And definitely no more depressed, dream killing, excuse making “strangers” allowed!!! Let’s be our new and improved selves!!!