May 23, 2010

Cave dweller.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that not too many people get what I'm doing right now. Most family and friends are, after all, under the impression that I had everything I wanted, and lost it all through a series of mishaps and bad decisions. I went through that self-pity party myself. I now, however, feel the need to clear up something important to me: I am doing exactly what I want. Yes, I live in a basement; no, I don't have a job; yes, it's a challenge being a divorced, downwardly mobile single mother. But I've arranged my life very deliberately so that I can focus on endeavors other than dinner parties and buying shit I don't need. I have created this window of time in my life where I can be a mom and a writer, in that order. I'm also a friend, a sister, a daughter, a lover and, most of the time, a card-carrying whack job.

I've spent too much of my life trying to fit in. To blend, to not draw attention to myself, to be appropriate. Problem with that is that I was so good at it, I ended up feeling invisible, and wondering why nobody really knew me. Growing up in rural Washington as an east coast transplant gave me a very tangible goal: DON'T BE WEIRD. Learn the country lingo, dress the part and don't let on that my family was at all different than everyone else's. (In that we hadn't lived there for generations, among other things.)

This was fantastic practice for when I went off to college in St. Louis, and found myself surrounded by kids from the east coast. Rather than feeling reunited with my people, I was so thoroughly countrified that, once again, I was a fish out of water. College, for me, was a giant game to which everyone else knew the rules. I was lost, and terrified of being considered weird. So I switched gears and did the best I could to emulate my peers, but I'm not sure I ever really fooled anyone. I certainly didn't enjoy those four years of putting up walls and then waiting for at least one person to tear them down. (One did make the effort; all I can say to him is, "I'm sorry.")

When I moved to Chicago, I felt at home. Something about the anonymity of a large city made it easier for me to move about undetected. Perfect. But then I made a bunch of friends, and had to go through the process of trying to be close without anyone figuring out how weird I really was. I got really good at this; some of my neuroses I was able to pass off as quirky, which provided a release valve. A few toxic friendships torpedoed my self esteem, though, and I still carry around parts of that scared, twenty-something girl who was never pretty enough, successful enough or cool enough. At least I was funny; funny was my thing. But the rest of it eluded me, until...

...I moved to Portland. Here, I finally got comfortable with myself. Not so comfortable that I didn't hate visits to Chicago, but I found my niche pursuing the American Dream with a vengeance. (This blog is about how that didn't work out so well for me, however, as both of my readers will attest.)

I'm more comfortable with myself than I ever have been. Getting in touch with my inner weirdo has proved much more enjoyable than I expected. Much the way I've always imagined a schizophrenic feels when they go off their meds and just listen to the voices in their heads for a change, it's a huge relief. For me, it's been a healthy relief. It's allowed me to write without worrying about what people/readers will think. (Let's face it, most writers are anything but normal.) It's brought friendships that are real and messy and intimate and all that other stuff I avoided for so long, because I've surrounded myself with people I find interesting, and who don't think I'm all that weird. I now find that for me, normal = B-O-R-I-N-G.

I live in a cave. I'm a little weird. And it's okay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Focusing on being a mom is a huge endeavor. And it's not what people who have never had kids think it is. It certainly hasn't been what I thought it would be. Chris likes to say 'Barb and I are both stay-at-home-parents', and then watch people try to figure that one out. I totally agree with you on the simplifying and doing what you feel is right, going for you goals, instead of trying to fit in to what society says you should be doing. Chris and I have followed the same path, and it's worked for us. We may have to be a little more creative, roll with the punches, and be a lot more flexible. You are being authentic. Now. Instead of waiting until you are 83.
Barb (I don't know how to put my name above without giving a url or something)