Are you who you want to be?

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Don’t close your eyes.

This is your life: Are you who you want to be?

This is your life: Is it everything you dreamed that it would be? When the world was younger and you had everything to lose.

Switchfoot

It had a hard-hitting beat.  I used to run with it blaring loudly into my earbuds.  It has always been one of those songs that has pushed me to think deeply while charging through my pain even harder than I’d thought I could.  Music does that for me. It fills in emotional gaps somehow. Sweat does that for me as well.  It is a physical reaction I equate to release…emotional and physical.

In the 80’s it was Alice Cooper who joined me on my runs or while in my basement bedroom in high school or home from college. He had a way of validating my reckless spirit.  He allowed, even encouraged, me to feel emotional pain deeply.  While my friends were listening to the uber fast, trend-setting Loverboy, “Working for the Weekend”, wearing bright colors and big hair, I was perseverating over a lengthy list of experiences, thoughts and feelings and wondering how come I was so much deeper than my peers.  “I Never Cry” andThe Quiet Room”  were both significant songs depicting misguided strength and a penchant for being on the edge of an emotional cliff, complete with self-mutilation. I mused over what my next few years would be like, if I made it that far.  I wasn’t really a dark, negative person.  Rather, I was a couple of people in one happy little Mary-Poppins-looking shell.

Alice Cooper, From The Inside, 1978

Alice Cooper, From The Inside, 1978

Nobody, I mean nobody knew me.  I was an overachiever while in the presence of most others.  High school jock, president of student council from 6-12th grades, acapella choir, band, plays, homecoming court, boyfriends….hell, I even scored the honor of giving a graduation speech.  Moments later, I was an office holder in my college honor society and had graduated two semesters early with a bachelors degree, two majors and an associates degree. Of course I went on for a Masters degree after that.

While proud of these achievements, my point isn’t what I’d accomplished.  My point is that I played a part in a play consisting of two distinctly different acts.  One of them surely should have sabotaged the other.  What resulted from that is either pure luck, total passion and/or focus or my higher power working 24/7 on my behalf.

Loverboy, Lovin' Every Minute of it, 1985

Loverboy, Lovin’ Every Minute of it, 1985

It stuns me. On weekends in high school if I wasn’t being persona  #1 in public, I was persona #2 in dark alleys.  That meant that I was either drinking alone while my parents were out; I was with college friends doing gawd knows what; I was with my college boyfriend smoking weed and dodging his feral libido; or I was at my older sister’s university close by, partaking of life on her campus with or without her present.  Two different people.  And that, my friends, was my world.  One being. Two distinctly different lives.  College life went much the same way.  Self destructive in one area while overachieving in the other. 

Unlike multiple personality disorder, though, I was totally cognizant of each of “me” the entire time.  (I know, I was diagnosing myself even in high school).  Sociopath now comes to mind, yet I have always loved children and animals, life in general and I did have the ability to feel guilt, though I don’t remember it factoring in a whole lot at that time.

I suspect that I learned the art of being two halves of the same whole from growing up in an environment where survival was dependent on being able to assimilate into one’s environment waveless.  Being blendy was a pro in a world where I refused to yield to cons.  If one is unnoticed, one can slither through without being detected. If one isn’t noticed one doesn’t get asked questions.  If no questions are raised then one could deny one’s existence was made up of that which horror movies are made of. It was that simple. I found three critical ingredients necessary to pull all of that off: 

1.) A wonderful ability to lie, or strategic thinking (I like to rationalize);

2.) A gracious audience needing to be lied to; and

3.) A hidden desire to punish oneself as one lie begets another and another and at some point someone was bound to catch on as the mountain of lies grew taller and the risk-taking behaviors grew along with it. 

Would someone please stop me from myself Nope. No matter how much stealing, lying, drinking, drugging I did, the only one left to face was me. The difference between me and an alcoholic or drug addict was the genetics.  If I’d had the genetic predisposition I would have surrendered to it and been swallowed up by it. Not by choice, mind you. The disease would have taken over my brain and washed out the emotional pain, replacing it with any number of other atrocities. I do not make light out of dodging such a bullet.

Even I had impressed myself with social and academic success while being shocked by my own bold recklessness. I was, to use my favorite person, Fr. Richard Rohr’s expression,”Both/And”.  I’m pretty certain that he wasn’t going for this type of experiential  analogy, but it fits. The trick here was to find a balance that satisfied both the positive and the negative attributes of a restless, unsettled “self”.  I continue working on that one…◊

Bottom line: Mirrors don’t lie.

Is your life now everything you dreamed it would be five, even ten years ago?  Did you plan out your world as I did – keeping your eye on the prize and going after it no matter what?  Or did you wing it with little expectation of what you might accomplish?  Were you propelled by parental expectations or self-imposed determination?  And are you happy with the results?  Would you do it over? 

For many of us life is probably a mixture of all of these answers.  Is it everything you dreamed it would be?  Eh, maybe not…life gets in the way of itself.  It tends to flow while tripping us up simultaneously. I took a detour. Stopped and did a U-turn.  I had to go back to move forward.  I have never settled for lifeless.  I cannot do it now.  This is my life.  I’m not where I want to be yet.  But I will be.

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 Take on your life.  Look yourself in the eye.  Regardless of your limitations.  This is YOUR life.  ARE YOU WHO YOU WANT TO BE?

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The Author

I am a licensed clinical social worker who just happens to adore the written word. I have had a private practice and am now writing a memoir on my life in the company of my father and many of my clients who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I hope to dispel some myths and break down some barriers for those with mental illness. I write out of need and complete joy, which I hope to convey throughout my blogs. The human experience is not exclusive to one group. I hope to appeal to most as I touch on some pretty heady material with some self-deprecating humor and raw emotion thrown in for good measure. I have four amazing children, one HUGE dog and a tolerant husband. I am blessed.

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