For almost as long as we have had our beloved rescue dog McKenna, my husband has wanted a second dog. I understood why and was empathetic to his desire. However, I believed that saying “yes” to a second dog would mean saying “no” to me.
July was a month of loss. Four souls in my larger circle passed away. I was doing pretty well being with the loss and staying present to my feelings until the news of last death. That one pushed me over the emotional edge and suddenly I was eight years old again. It’s my experience with this loss and the change it affected on my life that established the pattern for how I would handle transitions from then on.
A tiny, funky cabin in the Oregon Outback. One room with a water closet and kitchenette, and an old Frigidaire mini refrigerator sitting on top of a low table across from the foot of the bed. Poorly sealed doors (the threshold of one having completely fallen off) and ripped window screens (on those windows that actually had screens) gave the flies and other bugs easy access to the inside. And the room was hot with the sun beating in the south- and west-facing windows, and the ceiling fan doing little to move the still air.
This was the start to my surprise birthday weekend getaway that my husband had sweetly planned months in advance. The sad, neglected cabin was just the first surprise that day.
I recently returned to my home state of California. This time, though, it felt different. It didn’t feel like my present. Instead, it felt decidedly like my past. What surprised me was how OK I felt about this. The shift was a welcome feeling, like I had finally let go of some part of my past that was keeping me stuck.
Time and time again I have searched for where I belong, trying to find my place. At first blush it sounds kind of sad, like I have never found my place or where I belonged. That’s not true. Many times in my life I have found my place and been exactly where I belonged. The trouble always came when I forgot where that place is—always within me—and started relying on and identifying my belonging as something outside myself.
Throughout my life I had been pressured to be different than how I was. In one way or another, who I was wasn’t good enough, didn’t measure up, or didn’t fit in. For a long time I resisted, which caused no end of frustration to those who thought I should be different. I fought the good fight for decades but over time, after giving in a little here and giving up a littler there, my battle lines had been severely compromised. I was exhausted from the fight and I gave in.
I cannot count the times over the years that I have unconsciously tried to control someone else’s experience, always with the best of intentions and always at the expense of my own experience. Making sure things were “just so” for others meant I put my own experience on the back burner. Worse, that meant others didn’t get to experience me—the authentic me—because I was too busy tending to their experience.