I’m realizing more and more lately that I don’t know how to remain in a state of contentment. I am pretty sure I never learned how, there was always something going on, something changing, someone moving in, someone moving out, constant motion. When I look back to when I was little, the one thing that sticks out in terms of consistency was the feeling that I couldn’t settle down emotionally because the majority of my weekends (and sometimes weeknights) beyond the age of 8 or 9 were spent somewhere other than my home, in my bed. Sometimes I slept at the house of the woman who cared for my aging grandmother, or with a family friend that I didn’t really like, or at a friend’s house. I honestly can’t say how often this happened, but it was a regular enough occurrence that I vividly remember how it felt to be ‘shuffled off’ to somewhere else.
Why was I being shuffled? Because my parents had to spend their free time dealing with the ever evolving, ever emotionally draining, and ever challenging enigma that was my older brother. They drove hours to Pennsylvania to visit him while he was enrolled in ‘school’ (it was really a rehabilitation center for troubled youth). Or, they went to secret court meetings with lawyers to work out what would be the best course of action when he stole the car. Or, they were out looking for him when he ran away from home for the 15th time. It must have been so difficult for them. They were trying to care for the their troubled kid who sought their attention through vehement rebellion and utter behavioral dysfunction. That’s what they had to do. They were without a choice; he was self-destructing by the age of 11. But, in the process they were essentially forced to neglect their other kid who’s emotional hard drive was being infected with a nasty, invisible virus.
It wasn’t as if I was abused or had a terrible time while my entire family was away from me doing things I wasn’t a part of. I usually had a great time with my friends. We watched Rated R movies before I was allowed to – Silence of the Lambs when I was 12 – Yikes…no wonder I have an unnatural love for Stephen King. We ate candy until we were practically sick and wrote the names of our crushes in cursive all over any surface that could be easily concealed. We obsessed about when we would get our first period. It was a very formative time, one I remember fondly. Mostly.
While I have the good memories, I still carry the hurt of feeling left out during those years. I didn’t understand why my parents always had to be ‘away’, or why they never explained where my brother was. He would simply be gone and then he would magically reappear one day without a word of explanation. All I did know was that I couldn’t get too comfortable at home because I would have to pack a bag and sleep somewhere else in a matter of days. I know my parents were protecting me – as they should have – I just haven’t been able to shake how consistently difficult it can be for me to remain content where I am.
Is that because when I was a pre-teen I spent many, many nights in a foreign house, knowing that the following weekend I would be in a different foreign house? Is that why, to this day, I am so annoyingly unable to sleep soundly in a bed that isn’t mine? Is that why I developed a destructive coping mechanism, because I learned that being away from home meant something bad was happening behind the curtain of protection? Is it why I feel more anxious nowadays than I ever have because things in my life are actually going, dare I say, smoothly?
I’m pretty sure that’s part of it. I’ve spent years not being able to truly settle into a pattern of healthy, positive, loving behavior because I’ve either been sorting through a loss, a giant mess of my own making or I’ve been bracing for the shit to hit the fan again. Part of me is waiting for that to happen now. That’s where the anxiety comes from – the anticipation of something awful, life changing and completely out of my control barreling straight for my pretty little forehead.
And that’s fine. Things will happen. Life isn’t easy and it owes me nothing. I can breathe more freely, more deeply now. I can sit with anxiety, knowing that it is fiercely fickle and will eventually move on.
The last 7 months have been a lovely, progressive shift from some dark, dark days into the light for me. The relationship I’m in grows more complex and fulfilling with every passing week. I got accepted to graduate school and my classes start May 15th. I’m going to move in with my boyfriend in the next few months. My future seems bright, and more importantly, it feels possible.
Everything feels so new. Everything feels so exciting. Everything feels so fragile. I don’t want to check out because I feel anxious. I don’t want to miss anything that is unfolding now, I am so very aware of how precious it is. My life is finally, finally facing in a direction that I am in love with and I deserve it. However, I’ve never, ever had this feeling before – it’s no wonder I feel nervous. Of course I’m going to feel scared to let myself curl up like a cat sleeping in a band of sunlight because I’m brand new to the areas of healthy relationships, meaningful work and self-acceptance. Brand spanking new.
But, it’s never too late to let go of the insecurities of the past and embrace the confidence of the future.
Never. Too. Late.