Self-doubt is a relentless menace -regardless of birthplace. And telling him you’ve ‘got his number’ won’t stop momentum in the slightest. He doesn’t care a whit about whether you can identify his malfunction. He has one agenda: ruining your life. Nestling deep into neural pathways he’ll light big blasts of bullying fireworks; kick back and watch the show.
When this happens some find blessed refuge from concepts defined by religious beliefs or meditation practices-led by individuals who found their ‘center.’
Except, there’s a few who aren’t standing at the gates of either option.
I know I’m a part of that motley crew. Vulnerable, tired and suckered in by seductive logic frames.
Anyone who’s lived long enough will experience the consequence of stupid decisions. And some of us (me) will make really bad decisions more often than we ‘should’ — busting all parameters of ‘acceptable windows of learning.’
I don’t know exactly who makes those rules -it’s like there’s a term limit on getting your shit together and if you reach a certain age and your life doesn’t reflect ‘that’ — no other explanation counts. Before too long, words like “mental illness” or “personality disorder” start heading your direction and let me tell you –Shame and Stigma aren’t far behind. Whether it’s true — or not.
When I came to the Northeast two years ago, I packed up as much Grit and Determination I could find in order to accomplish one objective: build a new life for me and my daughter.
But our culture has a trajectory for how things need to go, generally speaking, and if a person lives as an outlier to those ideas…well, let’s just say, Self-Doubt descends like a heat seeking missile.
At least he did in this little corner of the planet.
It took me a long time to acknowledge his presence. Which is funny, and a little pitiful, seeing as how he managed to create (and install) enormous, poorly made billboards all around with statements like:
“You’ve been here for a while now. Shouldn’t things have turned out better than…this?”
And other not-so-nice sentiments like:
“Anyone paying enough attention knows you’re just hiding up there in shame.”
Well, telling him to just Shut-UP works – sometimes.
Not often enough.
Then Mid-Life sort of sits around, a lot, on my overstuffed chair and gives that knowing (annoying) look while she’s flipping through a National Geographic “uh-huh, yeah…. you’re on the downhill slide, closer than ever to 50. Good Luck with all this.”
Mid-Life is like that well intended, ‘honest’ extended family member who comes over every weekend because no one else lives closer. She says whatever’s on her mind because she likes to keep things “real.” Lately I can’t get her to leave.
When Reinvention knocked and I answered the door – I honestly thought she was selling something illegal.
Self-Doubt just about elbowed her off the porch with his arrogant buffoonery.
But She’s good. She’s got this stance. Like Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth.
She’s just not moved.
I still made her stand outside for a while.
Letting her in meant shoving Self-Doubt aside — requiring every fiber of strength.
He knew it too.
I debated for a bit until Mid-Life opened her yap and said “Come on, Jen, what do you have to lose. I mean: really.”
Finally opening the front door I gave Reinvention a look of despair.
She winked and with the slightest flick of her finger tipped Self-Doubt right off the porch and calmly walked inside.
Mid-Life eye-balled her a bit but didn’t say a word.
Reinvention sat down, opposite Mid-Life, and all I could think about was how the couch she chose reminded me of Chattanooga, TN.
I almost started in on that tangent but she put a finger to her lips and said “Shhhh…..wait.”
Reinvention’s arms were covered in scars and she had a limp. She wore bright clothing and a sky blue scarf around her shoulders. Her posture was straight, shoulder’s back, eyes steady. Chin up.
She was old–
and she was beautiful.
And then she began to speak:
“Stop leaving food out for Self-Doubt. He’s not a victim in need of rescue. He’s nothing but a destructive bully. Get him off your lawn and never let him back. He’ll never tell you the truth. Ever.
Trust the forgiveness you’ve given others and yourself. Whether they acknowledge you, or not, doesn’t change the truth of your own heart. You aren’t in exile. You Belong.
Do not buy the terrible lie of being defined by Critics, Grief or Losses experienced. Those are only some of many Teachers. Use that wisdom as a restorative function for building a maternal legacy your daughter, and your daughter’s daughter’s will remember.
They need your lived example of choosing Love, Hope, Kindness, Compassion, Resilience, Honesty, Accountability and Self-Forgiveness over bitterness, suffering, angst, blame, hatred or disconnection.
Refuse comparisons. I promise you have no idea what their lives are truly like. Keep the vision of Service and Meaning you’ve developed over the years. Collaborate with others who walk similar paths. I will help you. Believe. Live.”
I can’t remember when, but at some point she motioned for me to come sit next to her. And when I obliged, she took my hand and held it for the longest time. She didn’t care I’d used 1/2 a box of Kleenex while listening. Wouldn’t you know, Mid-Life ended up sitting on the other side and although she saved her two-cent comments for another time – her energy felt different. Kinder. Softer.
Then Reinvention folded me into arms. She smelled like Lavender. Tears kept streaming down my cheeks. I heard her whisper “You really aren’t the first I’ve had to visit. You aren’t alone.”
I later learned Reinvention brought an old 1987 camper and claimed a spot at the local KOA before ever coming over. And when she said she’d stick around for as long as I needed, she wasn’t kidding.
Now, most evenings, she stops by and we burn together all the nasty billboards Self-Doubt ever made. (Every once in a while he’ll lurk near the property but Reinvention just shoo’s him away like he’s nothing but a pesky housefly.) Mid-Life often waits in the kitchen, but I suspect she’ll head on out before Summer’s end. She simply can’t help herself.
As the blaze starts Reinvention often takes my hand and starts to sing:
“It is well…..with my Soul.”
Last night — I joined in.