One day I walked to the shared mailboxes, turned my key, and retrieved a larger pile of mail than usual. Among the things I received that day was a booklet which was put together by the people who were planning my ten-year high school reunion.
The booklet wasn't a surprise. I had submitted my own information a few months prior. I honestly don't have any idea how the reunion committee found me. I lived almost 7 hours away from my hometown and thought about little else than my children, my job, this guy I was in love with, and surviving. I wasn't lost exactly, but I wasn't looking to be found either.
After my children were asleep I sat down in my recliner and started flipping through the book. I wish I could tell you how I felt as I turned each page, but I can't. I can't because I don't think I could ever describe the aching pit in my stomach which gaped larger and larger with every passing page.
Before that book arrived, I thought I was okay. I was working hard. I was twenty-seven years old...still a baby. There was still time for me to be something amazing. I was gainfully employed. Okay, so I had a marriage that hadn't quite worked out the way I hoped, but I had found the right guy and we were totally in love with each other. I didn't have a college degree, but I was working on it. I had bought a house completely by myself. Okay, a townhouse. But still. There was food in my fridge and my children had clothes and I seriously thought I was okay.
But I? I was a huge loser. The book proved it.
All these people were the same age as me, but they were doing amazing things. They were doctors and lawyers. They had college degrees and real houses and as many children as they wanted, and random things like farms. They had first husbands, only husbands. They were saving animals in Africa, saving lives in the emergency room. I was trying to save enough to buy some new towels for the upstairs bathroom.
When Jason came home and found me sitting in a puddle of my own tears, he took the book from me. He told me, as he always does, all the things I was doing right. I think he threw the booklet of shame away. I never saw it again, I know that. A few months later we were married in what I like to call the Worst Wedding Ceremony Ever, and if I recall correctly the class reunion happened while I was on my honeymoon. I sent my regrets.
It's been ten years. Ten extremely eventful years.
I can't really explain why my stomach felt icy when I opened the email detailing my 20th class reunion. All I know was that in two seconds, I was that girl from ten years ago again. Hell, I was that seventeen year old girl in that moment, with no hope beyond wanting my mom to live. No plans. I was suddenly every struggle I've ever had, every failure, every bad hair day.
I do get that this makes no sense. I do. For just that one moment though, I felt it. Bad.
I'm not that 17 year old girl anymore. I'm not the 27 year old woman either. I've come to realize that my first husband leaving me was the best thing that ever happened to me, for a myriad of reasons, not even the least of which being that it made me get up, get off my dead ass, and do things I never even imagined I could do. Things other people take for granted, like getting a college degree, or getting a job that can support your entire family, or feeling like you can do it all by yourself and don't need a man. I really don't care if someone I knew twenty years ago is skinnier than me, or has a nicer car or more children. A more comfortable or exciting life. I don't care that I've never saved anyone or anything and I've come to realize that I probably couldn't, even with appropriate training. I can't even keep houseplants alive most of the time and that's okay. The competition, so to speak, is not with anyone else.
It's with me. It's all with me.
I don't know what I have to do to make it all be enough.
Years ago I was in the Franklin Planner Cult and I made lists obsessively. I still make lists obsessively, but these were different. These lists were goals and dreams and what I was going to do with my life. Which is great in some ways, and complete cheese in others. I know this.
I found some of my lists when we moved here a year ago. The only things on the list that I haven't accomplished, hell exceeded, are the spiritual things. Sorry Jesus. I'm trying. Really.
Yet, it's not enough. It's never enough. It's not about how much money I make, it's not about the house, or the job (believe me, it's not glamorous). It's not about the kids. It's not about the husband (who, when listing my attributes says, "You have great kids and an okay husband"). It's not about how skinny or how fat I am. It's not about the book that I wrote a hundred million lifetimes ago. It's really not.
I just can't figure out what it's about.
I cannot figure out where the gaping hole in my heart comes from. I just can't.
I look good on paper now. I have the degree, the real house, the accomplishments. If there was another booklet, I probably wouldn't throw it away.
Even though I know it doesn't mean anything. Not until I figure the rest of this out.
I don't know why you feel you have a gaping hole in your heart, any more than I know why I feel like a failure most of the time too.
I do know I will NEVER go to any H.S. reunion with people who treated me like SHIT for all those years.
And I do know I love you and think you are absolutely perfect JUST.THE.WAY.YOU.ARE.
You want a baby. You will never be okay because you never fulfilled that need. I know, I'm there too.
To be the mom, wife, daughter, cousin, and friend that our families and friends love is a wonderful accomplishment. To judge ourselves based on others just keeps us from attaining the happiness that we deserve. You have come a long way in this life and have wonderful kids and an awesome husband to show for it. Your family (and that includes cousins) love you unconditionally. Your the best. I am proud to call you family. I love your blogs too. Keep up the good work.
Those people who seemed to have it all? They don't. I would dare to say that your life is probably so much more fulfilling because of everything you've gone through. You didn't do it with "Daddy Money", you did it on your own! You have so much more to be proud of!
I personally struggle with the same issues; I am 54 years old and I cannot remember a day in my life that I haven't felt that I was inadequate and a failure. I grew up in a middle class house with two parents, one who worked and the other who was a stay at home mom. I had one younger brother who we now know has a form of autism called Asperger's, but back then my parents thought he was just being contrary. I grew up with all the right things my parents could provide -- except approval. They set high standards and told me in no uncertain terms that unless I was perfect, I was a failure and a blight on the family. They did not do this out of spite, or meanness, but in their misguided attempt to raise an ambitious child. My mother obsessively read books on child raising. I remember once when I was a teenager seeing her reading one and I wanted to rip it out of her hands and yell, "JUST LOVE ME THE WAY I AM!" but that kind of behavior wasn't allowed. Anyway I am telling you all this because it is my firm belief that these deep seated feelings of inadequacy that so many women have are rooted in childhood, whether it was a dysfunctional one or a seemingly normal one like mine. I have no words of wisdom other than to know that you are not alone, and I wish I could overcome my feelings of failure and inadequacy that dog my every step. I could have 95% of my life on track but if one thing is bad, I obsess on it and I am ready to write off the 95% of my life that is going well and declare myself a failure. I hear you, I feel you, and I wish I knew how to fix it.
My 10 year reunion is coming up this year, and I have all of those same feelings that you described. I'm going, but I can't help but wonder how much I will be judged.
I still carry around those feelings from high school. When I look at life as my reality, I absolutely love it! But, when I compare myself to others, I end up feeling awful. So many went on to perform or be super successful... I thought I would, too. I'm trying to learn to block out those feelings of failure. It feels like a daily mountain to climb.
I think we all feel that way, to one degree or another. I totally don't mean that in a patronizing way at all. I think there is this standard that we compare ourselves to, that even we don't understand.
One day, a few weeks ago, my fourteen year old was mad at me so she was yelling at me about how horrible our relationship is. This completely caught me off guard. We share experiences, we talk and laugh all of the time and are completely open about pretty much everything. I have great relationships with my two other kids and it really stung me that- if even for this moment- she could feel this way. When I dejectedly asked her about this- her words revealed she was comparing her ideal mother with some mish-mash of a frankenmother derived from things she'd seen in movies, on the Disney channel and read in books. Without meaning to, she'd created this standard that I could never, ever, ever amount to.
Maybe we aren't so different. Maybe years of being bombarded with entertainment, media, heroines in books, magazine spreads, etc- maybe we've woven a standard we never realized we compared ourselves too. Maybe it's in our DNA so it will always feel empty.
I know that even in my BEST God times, I never felt the way other Christians say I should feel. This causes me to panic in inadequacy and run away.
Wow this post and you last again sound like you are writing about me...Are you looking in my windows? LOL I wish I had words that would make you feel better, but know that you ARE someone. You have MANY people who love you. Those are the important things in life :)
I am ashamed to say that this is the first blog post of yours I have read. I don't Facebook a whole lot and I rarely click on links to blogs but sometimes when I feel a notion... I felt a notion tonight to click on your blog tongiht. Interestingly, I was responsible for that booklet and probably was the one who found you - I tried to find everyone! I (shameful again) never once thought of the booklet as a "look at(me)and what (I) am doing" advertisement of our lives. (Sounds familiar to Facebook now) Anyway, what I am wanting to say is that I was proud of everyone in that booklet, to have known them, to have graduated with them and for ALL of their accomplishments. That includes you! You are AMAZING and always have been. Your smile makes me smile. You bring laughter. You are beautiful inside and out. I know you realize this, but I felt a notion to tell you anyway. Be happy with you! Stick to your goals (including the spiritual ones) and your dreams. You have succeeded and will exceed! Love - Elizabeth Williams Bright
I got an invite to my 20 year reunion last month. It immediately made me feel sick to my stomach. I was also extremely grateful that I live thousands of miles away so I had an iron-clad reason for sending my regrets. There is no part of me that would ever want to go to my reunion... I can think of nothing worse really.
Ah the joys of self-esteem.
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