For the last several days my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds have been lit up with New Year posts, resolutions, and other goal-oriented proclamations.
I have taken my time the first few days to reflect on some important changes I must implement that will ensure I not only get the most out of this new and fresh year of opportunity, but that I get the most out of myself.
My aunt once gave me some advice she received from my grandpa, her father-in-law. When she married my uncle she had dreams not only of being a good wife and mother, but those she carried with her since time began–the dreams she dared not share. You know, those selfish dreams where people do things for themselves and realize their own potential. Instead, she put them away in a box along with her yearbooks, pressed flowers, and other girlish notions.
The advice Pa gave her was:
“Start out like you can hold out.”
I asked her what that meant. She smiled as her blue eyes pierced me and said, “It means don’t give yourself away all at once. Pace yourself or they’ll want you to keep it up long past that moment you run out and have no more to give. When it happens–not if it happens– they will break your heart. You will break your heart, too.”
When my aunt passed this wisdom on to me I had already been heartbroken, more than once. Life had not turned out even remotely as planned. I was optimistic, though. I was writing, playing my guitar, and happy in my own skin.
When I met John and we got engaged, she carefully chose her words and tried once again to share her wisdom with me. I was okay with that. After all, she had been married to my uncle for thirty-seven years. “I don’t want you to dive all the way in and lose yourself, Kim. Don’t do that. You finally found you.”
Her words haunted me with each setback my husband and I faced in the first two years of our marriage. I thought I had understood her meaning but I came to realize I was clueless until I was so far in the deep end I just knew I was going to drown. Our obstacles were mutually shared at first, but soon had us running in different directions as we started splitting open from all the wedges hammered between us.
One day I looked in the mirror and I did not recognize the woman looking back at me. I stared at my reflection: sad brown eyes circled with darkness, with a good many more lines on my pale skin. A frame of silver grew more dense around my face while my eyes stayed puffy and red from so many tears, pronouncing the death of hope and dreams.
I had gone all in, just as predicted. I opened up my heart and soul, my mind and my arms, and I gave all I had and then some. The more I gave, the more they took. I stopped writing daily as dust collected on my computer. I stopped playing my guitar everyday and I lost the callouses on my left fingertips and the song on my lips. My muscles and joints began to wither and stiffen because I stopped walking and jogging or doing my yoga. I rode the motorcycle with my husband but we quit dancing. Then we stopped riding the motorcycle. We began to walk the dog by the creek, then we quit that, too.
Who am I and what have I done with Kim the Artist, the free thinker, who loves the outdoors and the wind in her hair, the one who used to have a positive outlook and preferred to live and let live? Why have I been anxious, crying, and wringing my hands? Because of all the loss? Because of the distance between me and everyone else? Because some have been unkind, rude, hateful and disrespectful?
Perhaps. But I also mourn the loss of my true self, the one my husband had fallen in love with–the one who had loved herself as well and did not need permission to do so.
Therefore, for this new year I have a simple set of goals:
- Start out like you can hold out
- Love yourself
- Be yourself
- Be true to yourself
These are simple and seemingly generic goals but they are also complex and will require a lot of work on my part. I have to learn, once and for all, that I am worthy of my time, attention, care and respect. I must expect it from myself if I am to have healthy boundaries with those who would take much more of me than they will ever give back.