July 4, 2018

Free to Be You & Me

"Freedom lies in being bold." -- Robert Frost

What does freedom mean to you? There are so many freedoms we take for granted, but for me the biggest area of struggle when it comes to freedom is being myself.

Do you feel free to be yourself all the time? If the is answer is yes, I'm jealous. Oh I have moments where I can be myself. Times spent with certain people who give me permission to let my little weird flag fly. But like Cookie Monster says about his favorite treat, for me freedom is a "sometimes food." I only let myself indulge in it when the conditions are just right.

And then I wonder if I even know who 'myself' is anyway. While there are things we all share as humans, I've always felt like I was just a bit different than the rest. And definitely not in a "I'm so much better than the rest" kind of way, just in an "I feel like the rest doesn't always get me" sort of way.

For example, did you know my favorite show to watch as a kid was one where a lady taught cursive writing on a big chalkboard? I can still hear her voice as she instructed viewers to "close the loop" on certain letters.

Something else you might not know about me is that I have gone through many periods of obsession about different topics, reading as many books as I could to learn as much as I could. Some of these topics include but are not limited to: Elvis, the Holocaust, and being in the mafia.

It wasn't hard for me to make friends as a kid, but often I found myself going along with the crowd or doing things to try and fit in. The dearest friends I've made over the years, who were like little beacons of light dropped out of the darkness, are the ones I didn't have to compromise myself with.

Even if they didn't always understand my little oddities, they just let me be. But life happens and we've found ourselves flung to opposite sides of the country, or at least 100 miles away. And my friends who live close by are also dear to me but we don't always get to see each other as often as I'd like.

And now it feels oh so much harder to make friends as an adult.

I have some wonderful friends in my world, but you can always use a couple more, right? I shared this on Instagram, which felt really scary and vulnerable, but apparently others feel this way because it sparked a conversation.

I definitely feel free to be myself with my husband, thank goodness. I can't imagine trying to keep up that sort of a charade 24/7. And I think he feels free to be himself with me. But I'm sure there are people who think they know us, or some version of us. And they'd probably be surprised by what they don't know.

Like how after our most beautiful, magical wedding that we'd waited more than a decade for, we had the hardest year of our relationship on record. Our second year was only somewhat better because we were committed to seeing it through, with the help of an amazing counselor who is part of the reason we're still in it to win it today -- for real.

I've heard friends make snide or belittling comments about someone they know who is "in therapy." Like you're some sort of failure if you need to seek help. Total BS.

Our couples' therapy helped us start learning about who we are and maybe more importantly, how to start communicating in healthier ways....which we DID NOT learn from our parents (sorry mom & dad). They didn't learn it from their parents either so it's totally not their fault. We don't always get it right, but who cares? It's a work in progress.

I also see an individual counselor who has helped me look at all sorts of things to try and figure out who I am and who I want to be. A big theme that keeps coming up is this desire I have to be in a community, whatever that looks like. And this is what got me thinking about friends, and connection, and authenticity in the first place. So I'm trying to be more connected. To make more of an effort to get together with the friends I already have as well as seeking a few new ones.

As part of that effort, last night I invited a dear friend to join me for a swim at our neighborhood pool. I've really tried to get more involved in my community this past year or so and that includes in my neighborhood. Joining the pool last summer helped us meet some neighbors so we decided to join again this summer.

My pal and I were swimming and chatting with a neighbor lady who shared with us that a couple weeks prior she had lost her son to suicide. I think she just needed someone to talk to so we tried to be good listeners while I sobbed silently under my sunglasses.

She said he always felt like he didn't belong. That he could never quite find his place to fit. But that at his memorial service, nearly 200 people attended and shared how much he meant to them. "If only he had known how much he was loved," she said.

She said she felt like telling his story was a way to honor his life and also a way to possibly help someone else who might be in pain. And I think she's right about this. So I'm telling you. He was only 36. An age that used to sound ancient but now that I am here, feels like practically still a kid.

There's so much I don't know. So many things I haven't even begun to fathom. But this is something I do know for sure. We were each created with something beautiful to add to the world. And even though I believe there's life after this one, when that beauty is gone from this world, it's such a loss. To all of us. I've already been thinking about this a lot after Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. I wanted to write something about it but really didn't know what I wanted to say.

I hope you feel free today. Free from pain and self-hate. Free from loneliness and isolation. And free to be your most beautiful self. The one you were created to be.