“Who am I, that anyone should care what I have to say?”
“What use, or space, or function do I fill that a dozen other people could not fulfill just as easily?”
“Who am I to ask for anything?”
“I’m not worthy of Happiness. It is simply the ideal, but finding contentment in any circumstances is the only realistic goal, true happiness is fleeting.”
I’ve believed these things for so long. And there is a grain of truth, perhaps, to some of them – happiness can sometimes be a choice. My counselor has highlighted several feelings and beliefs central to my worldview, things that have crafted my history to be the foundation for my struggles today. From a very young age, I was aware my parents had given up a lot to become a family. To raise me, to commit to one another. While on one hand I knew they loved me, that understanding lived alongside the feeling of always being an imposition. Of them always having to sacrifice for me. That I was to blame when they fought and argued.
So I grew up, believing I had to sacrifice in turn, just to be worthy. To show my gratitude that they had sacrificed so much. My mother would chivvy me, sometimes, for my ingratitude. Layer this atop my already perfectionist tendencies, and you have a young woman in her 30s, just beginning to realize she is worthy of the most common things others take for granted.
My mother’s insecurities landed squarely in my lap when I was in my teens. Sometimes she would be jealous of me, and the attention my father lavished on me. That contradiction of attention didn’t help my feelings of worth. It left me feeling as if I couldn’t fully accept my father’s love. I’m realizing even back then I was made to feel responsible for other’s emotions, and that it was my responsibility to manage others actions and attitudes towards me. It was just a part of life.
Whenever I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, I would simply slip into another. A heroine in a fantasy tale, who succeeded against all odds. Daydreams of stories I crafted in my waking hours, escaping into fantastical settings of my own creation. Books of other’s crafting drew me in as well, an addiction and a coping mechanism. I would go to the library and pull stacks of books nearly every week, and could finish nearly all by the time for the next library visit. I was never alone with a book in hand, the voices of adventurous spirits as near as the next page, ready to transport me away from a life where I felt a burden.
My counselor asked me last night what memories of happiness I have of my child. Answering was a struggle. There are brief moments that stand out – five or six years old, sprawling on my parents bedspread, Simon and Garfunkel playing in the background as a cool, crisp spring breeze carries the scents of sunshine through the window. I know there were times I must have felt happy, all the basic necessities of living were met, but it is hard to conjure them to mind. It feels ungrateful, somehow, that I can’t reach those memories. I was happiest when I was only responsible for myself: my trip to international locales on my own at 16 for half the summer.
Yet, even saying what I have here, in this blog, feels overblown. Whose childhood is perfect? I have a lot of supportive people in my life, now, and I suppose that is what matters.
I am worthy of being respected.
I am worthy of finding happiness.
I am worthy of being loved for who I am, and not for what I do for people.
Happiness is a choice, yes, but calling unhappiness what it is doesn’t make me a bad person.
Maybe if I say these things enough… I will start to believe them.