The Perfectionism Predicament

It’s me! On a ski slope in Utah.

The other day during a Peloton ride, the instructor said something that I have been turning over in my head since then. He was talking about how often we will do something, like say a Peloton workout, and be upset with ourselves if we don’t meet the challenge placed in front of us. He was encouraging riders to do their best for that day, but to know that some days you won’t achieve the goals and that is okay. Every day is different. Some days are harder. It’s okay to meet yourself where you are. Then he said, “Perfectionism is a disguise for insecurity.”

Whoa. I have struggled with the ugly beast of perfectionism most of my life. I’ve also battled insecurity. But it never occurred to me that the two might be linked, or at least I’ve never heard it expressed quite that way. It’s accurate, though. When you are feeling insecure about something, be it person or circumstance or item, you may feel a need to control it. Like my parents before me, I was raised to believe if you can’t do something well, you shouldn’t do it at all. I can’t attribute a number to the times I’ve walked away from opportunities because those opportunities meant I would have to be new to some place or some task or some one. Appearing “stupid” (a stand-in term for any number of different negative adjectives, like incompetent or pathetic) became my biggest fear.

Around the time my husband and I were first married, we went skiing with some friends for the day at a mountain known for more difficult terrain. Of the people in our group, I knew I was the least experienced skier. I was nervous about it. After our first run, I knew my fears were valid. If skiing expertise ranked from 1 (never tried) to 10 (world’s best), my husband and our friends were solid 8 skiers and I was maybe a 4. I struggled to keep up. At one point, we were at the top of an expert run and there was a tow rope to the top of the ridge. The group decided we would take it and ski a nearby bowl. I had never ridden a tow rope. I was terrified of them. I’d seen countless videos of people being dragged up the slope by one of those contraptions. I was not about to take one now for the first time in front of 7 other people I knew. No way. No how. I told them I’d meet them down in the lodge. The rest of the story got ugly for me. My friends tried to convince me. I rejected their arguments. Back and forth, we went. Until finally, completely exasperated, I had a meltdown on the slope. Raised voice, flailing arms, animated speech. The whole nine yards. The only thing I didn’t do was throw myself down and bang my clenched fists in the snow. It was a toddler tantrum. I basically told them, “You can’t boss me,” and took off down the slope in a big old drama queen flourish. You know what? That was when I realized that my fear of appearing stupid might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I traded the potential to appear foolish if I didn’t navigate the tow rope correctly to the reality of appearing foolish by having a hissy fit on a mountain about a tow rope. Oy.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least a dozen times when my insecurity about something drove me to embarrassing extremes and, sadly, some of them weren’t that long ago. So, I’m still working on this. I’m working not to worry so much about what other people think of me. I’m working to accept that good enough actually is good enough most of the time. I’m working to remember that even Michael Jordan probably missed his first shot. We’re human, and we do all have to start somewhere. And because there is no objectively perfect anything, no final destination, we really are pretty stupid for wasting our time trying to get there.

You Don’t Know Him

Photo by Sergio Rota on Unsplash

As I was driving home after school drop off this morning, a guy in a lifted Ford pickup was tailgating me. Because of the vehicle he was driving, I’ll admit I had some preconceived ideas about him and what kind of person he must be, especially because he was tailgating. But, I have been working on not being quite as judgmental and giving people the benefit of the doubt. In situations like the one this morning, I try to remind myself that I have no idea who this person is or what might be going on his life. I remind myself his aggressive driving behavior is not my business. I take a deep breath in, wish him well on his journey, and try not to stare at him with daggers through the rear view (which I am sure he could see since he was that close).

He did eventually pull around me and, due to traffic, landed directly in front of me instead. This provided an opportunity to see his myriad bumper stickers. He had a Marine Corps license plate, so I thanked him mentally for his service. Then I noticed his Blue Lives Matter sticker, an automatic rifle sticker, and a Let’s Go, Brandon sticker. I took another deep breath. These things for sure told me that this guy and I would not see eye-to-eye in a political conversation.

In these situations, when I am even further inclined to judge someone I don’t know a thing about other than what their bumper stickers say, I like to play a little game with myself. I imagine something about them that would make me change my mind about my negative thoughts. So, today I imagined this gentleman owns three rescue pups and visits his grandmother in the Memory Care Center every Sunday. For good measure, I imagined the reason he was tailgating me was because he was late on his way to a parent-teacher conference for a daughter he adopted out of foster care. I don’t know him. This could legitimately be his story. Who am I to say? I don’t know him from Adam. Hell. His name could be Adam.

I mean, it’s probably not. And he probably does hate Joe Biden and think masks and vaccines are for sheeple, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a decent person with many redeeming qualities.

My point here is that we’ve put a plethora of superficial determiners in place that allow us to dehumanize each other and make each other perceived enemies, which is a lot to do to people we don’t know at all. We can try to be better. We can at least give each other the benefit of the doubt. We’ll be wrong part of the time. Sometimes, the jerk tailing you will be exactly who you think he is, but sometimes he won’t. Sometimes he will be more complicated and not just a caricature that can be conjured up based on some bumper stickers, a lifted truck, and poor driving habits.

My Tin Anniversary On WordPress

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” ~Chinese proverb

This morning when I logged into WordPress to respond to comments on my post from yesterday, I was greeted with a note telling me I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary on WordPress. This seemed a little crazy to me, that ten years have slipped by since I made the commitment to begin writing again, so I went back to revisit my first post. Sure enough, it was written on December 6, 2011. In December 2011, our sons were 10 and 8. Most of my posts were about their crazy antics or our family life, which makes sense because in December 2011 my primary focus was our sons.

Fast forward ten years. Our sons are now 20 and 18, one is in Washington at college and the other will be heading off next fall. So my primary focus needs to change. In my early forties, I was pretty busy becoming what I thought I was supposed to be. I was working to be a better mother, a better child, a better spouse, and an overall better, more informed, more fit, more attractive human being. I was working at becoming something, which was kind of pointless because I already was something. Now in my early fifties I understand that I don’t need to become anything to be valuable. In fact, I am busily engaged in learning how to simply be and to meet myself where I am at. I’m busy learning how to just be me.

Image credit to Gary Larson of The Far Side

I started this blog ten years ago to hold myself accountable. I wanted to be able to track progress and growth. Mostly what I’ve done, though, is create a catalog of my life. I’m still an over-thinker. I still take on more than I should. I still don’t know where I’m headed. But I do have a record of where I’ve been. I’m growing slowly but, thanks to my blog, at least I have proof that I have not been standing still.

Limitless

Let’s go back to the beginning when my identity was fluid and limitless

The best part about being where I am in my therapy journey is that many of the hardest moments of discovery and realization are behind me. I’ve faced that I was emotionally abused by people who I thought were looking out for me but who never were. I’ve digested the fact that I spent my entire life thus far trying to measure up to expectations that had nothing to do with me. I’ve mourned the loss of what might have been if the actors in this play were different. I’ve also grieved the loss of opportunities I was incapable of accepting in my past because of who I was at the time. I’ve accepted that it is unlikely that my relationships with these people will ever be anything other than what they have been or what they are now. I understand that many of the choices I made in my past were made to keep me safe rather than move me forward. I acknowledge that while I can’t go back and make anything different, the pressure of the sadness, isolation, and rejection I experienced hardened me into something stronger, more resilient, and better than I might have been otherwise. All of this is to say that I’ve done the work. And, while I’m sure I will continue to peel other layers from time to time, I think I finally have a pretty good handle on what triggers me and why it does, along with how I can do better for myself going forward. Progress!

My sister and I have been talking about this a lot. When you grow up being told who you are rather than being allowed to explore and follow your heart and interests, it’s a bit like arriving at adulthood wearing someone else’s cast-off, ill-fitting, moth-ball-scented coat. It’s as if you came into the world naked and instead of getting to choose your clothing, you got handed this ratty old coat and because it was all you were allowed to have you used it to cover your nakedness and protect you from the elements. Now, though, with so much work behind us, we understand that this coat is not ours. It was never meant to be. And even though we’ve been wearing it for years, we didn’t realize until recently that it never suited us and we didn’t like it in the least. It simply was what was, something we were forced to wear when we didn’t know any better and weren’t better equipped to advocate for ourselves.

Now, though, now we get to start over. We’ve arrived at the fun part. We’ve ditched the coats, throwing off the mantle of what we were supposed to be according to someone else, and we’re standing here asking ourselves what we would like to wear in its place. It’s both exciting and stressful. Like a puppy let loose in PetsMart, we’re overwhelmed by the options. There are so many aisles to explore, so many shiny things to distract us as we try to figure out what most appeals to us. The only thing I know for sure that I want is to be a better mother to myself. I want to give myself love and acceptance and to feel comfortable in my skin. I want to feel safe and unconditionally loved just as I am right now. And after I get comfortable with that reality, then I will start figuring out who I am, what I want, what I like, and what I am willing to put up with.

The other day after therapy, I was driving home and the word “limitless” popped into my head. Limitless. I started to think, for just a moment, that maybe this is where I am at. If you remove the obstacles that have kept you boxed and trapped and there’s nothing holding you back, maybe, just maybe you are limitless. I’m going to need to sit with this because this is big.

Walk This Way

Mondays are my therapy day. On Mondays when I do some EMDR, I spend most of the rest of the day exhausted, filled with thoughts, and emotionally raw. Today was that kind of Monday. So, while I am still processing some of what I worked on in therapy today and plan on writing more about that soon, for now my brain needs a little break.

One thing has recently become clear to me in this journey I am on. When you’ve spent your life kowtowing to other’s wishes, plans, and ideas for and about your life, it takes a lot of effort to step away from those people and bring your subservience to an end. I thought for many years that I could extricate myself slowly and deliberately from relationships with those who were holding me back without affecting other people in my life. It was a ridiculous thing to ask of myself, but boundaries can be difficult to negotiate. If you are trying to extract yourself slowly, you are likely doing this because you are looking out for someone else. You don’t want to hurt anyone. You don’t want to ruffle feathers. You don’t want to cause trouble for someone else. But what is the cost to you when you are acting against your best interest to make situations easier for someone else? Sometimes you need to choose the nuclear option and immediately disengage without worrying about the fallout because that is the fastest way to get yourself safe. Besides, once you decide to be free, you want your freedom to begin now and not eventually. The hardest part for me about walking away from people who don’t and can’t have my best interests at heart was the feeling that I had to explain myself to others by answering their questions. Why wasn’t I speaking to my parents? Were things really all that bad? And then, one day, it hit me. I don’t owe anyone an explanation about the steps I take to protect myself. I am on a break from my relationships with my parents while I get my head in order, and that is all there is to say about that.

Freedom from negative relationships and abusive cycles is not a luxury. It’s not a frivolous thing that you should put off because you don’t want to trouble anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. Taking steps to secure your mental peace and physical well-being matters in the short and long term. And if that means you have to block contacts and upset a few people, that is the price of taking back your life and your power. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it or talk you into doing the “right” thing (which is only the right thing for them). Look out for yourself. The people who care about you will understand. The ones who act troubled or inconvenienced by your choice have done you a favor by identifying themselves. Don’t give them another minute of residency in your brain.

Life is short. If you’re lucky enough to be able to discern what is holding you back, jettison it. And then walk on.

Moonlit Inspiration

I saved this meme to my phone a while back, and it popped up in one of my memories for this date. This message is one I think many of us need to hear. When we’re going through difficult times, when we’re questioning our lives, our loves, our hopes, our plans, our history, or our choices, it’s easy to decide we’re lost and to feel we have nothing to offer. But that simply is not true. It never is. We don’t stop exuding the positives we have just because the negatives are raging in our heads.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Looking back on my life, I see the disconnect between the person I thought other people must see and the person I actually was showing the world by being myself. I spent decades feeling broken and unlovable and not actually even likable. That was my sad, internal view of myself. It was all I knew of me. That was not, however, what other people saw of me. I’ve always had friends; some of them have stuck around since my childhood. In my dating years before I met my husband, I nearly always had a boyfriend. No one else saw me as the worthless potato I saw when I looked in the mirror, but I was so indoctrinated by the voices I had heard growing up that I was not able to see the reality of my life. If I had truly been unlovable, I wouldn’t have had friends. People, god bless them, continued to see in me what I could not see in myself. Maybe I wasn’t whole, but others still saw my shine even though I could not. This revelation has been amazing to me. And I am grateful to every single person who has been able to recognize my value even as I continued to assert that there was none there.

We all have a shine that others witness. We all light someone up, a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a parent, or even a pet. When we’re feeling at our worst, others often fail to see the same dreadful image. If the people in your life aren’t holding up a mirror to show you how special and loved and worthy you are, maybe it’s time to find new people. And if people are holding up that mirror to share the reflection of the beautiful light bursting forth from within you, I hope you are able to see it, own it, and revel in it. If you aren’t ready to acknowledge that eternal light in you just yet, hang in there. Someday, somehow that light will get through and force you to reckon with your imperfectly perfect, shining, beautiful, kick ass self.

If you get a chance today, take a few seconds to hold up a mirror to someone who looks like they could use a little encouragement. You just sparkle their radiance right back at them. Tell them they are luminous. Remind them to shine on.

“Who on earth d’you think you are? A super star? Well, right you are. Well, we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.” ~John Lennon, Instant Karma

Leave The Door Open And Growth Sneaks In

Thought for the night:

“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chodron

I ran across this quote on my phone today. It’s one that never really leaves my heart. When I was growing up, my mom told me that if you pray for patience, god gives you something to be patient about. I think that goes hand in hand with Pema Chodron’s thought here. If you are working through something, which most of us are on some level even when we aren’t completely tuned in to it, it will keep showing up in little ways to give you an opportunity to unpack it, understand it, make peace with it, and finally move on.

I used to struggle with boundaries, but it happens a lot less these days because the universe kept sending me people who wanted to test them. People who refused to listen to what I wanted made me even more emphatic about standing up for myself. Through their annoying and troubling inability to understand when to stop pushing, I’ve learned that it’s absolutely okay to ask for what I want. I might not get it, but I should at least feel deserving enough to ask for it anyway. I’ve learned that if I set a boundary and it makes someone else angry, it is likely that the other person was previously benefitting from my not having had any. So, I set boundaries carefully now. They are like the ones that accompany an electric fence. I’ve marked them with warning flags but they are largely invisible otherwise. If I feel uncomfortable with how close you are coming to the edges of them, you will get a warning and then possibly a shocking consequence for crossing them. I’ve learned that I’m not going to please everyone all the time, which is totally okay because that was never my responsibility. And I’ve learned that I deserve peace, and that keeping the peace for someone else at the expense of my own is poisonous. I’ve eliminated some people from my life because I realized that being around them made me less kind, less understanding, less forgiving, and less happy.

I’ve noticed that if you’re paying attention in life, a skill that involves mindfulness and self-reflection, you realize that the universe is constantly providing you with opportunities to grow, expand, and change your life for the better. This doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or your life. It means, instead, that there is more out there for you. When I was struggling mightily with setting boundaries and wanting to do better for myself in that area, situations kept presenting themselves that required me to figure out what I wanted and summon the courage to ask for them. It was through the practice that I improved, that I found my voice. And it was through finding my voice that I started to feel confident in my choices about my boundaries or my wishes because I’d had to take a few minutes to elucidate them clearly,

The things that keep coming up in your life as areas of struggle, areas where you don’t feel quite right or comfortable, they will keep presenting themselves until you’ve had the opportunity to learn from them. If you struggle to deal with your emotions, you will be put in situations where you have to do just that. If you struggle to ask for what you want, you will keep being given chances to speak up. And if you struggle with patience, you’d better believe situations that require your patience will continue to be a thing you encounter. Once we name our issues and stand face-to-face with them, we can begin to recognize the opportunities we are given to remedy those issues.

At least, this has been my experience, and it seems like Pema Chodron agrees. So, I’ve started to name the areas that I don’t like about myself or my life, and when I do this I become more aware when a crack has opened to give me the chance to work on rising above or putting behind me the negative belief or behavior. I have issues with asking for help because I grew up believing I could only count on myself. I have issues with trusting others because I felt betrayed by those who were supposed to be looking out for me. I have issues with perfectionism because I was made to believe that I was only worth something if I was without fault or flaw. I’ve named these things here now, so I expect the universe will begin to provide me with opportunities to work on these soon.

The good news is, while I may still have areas in which further excavation and practice should occur to help me live my best life, at least my struggle with boundaries has improved. Thanks for offering the chance for growth, Universe. I will keep my eyes and ears open for the next opportunities you have for me.

Not All Little Golden Books Were Golden

(Editor’s note: I’ve decided to do a little blog work on memories. I am hoping to tell one story from a past memory each week. This post begins that practice.)

No idea why these little girls are wearing Victorian clothing in 1972

When I was a young girl, my middle sister and I shared a full-size bed in one bedroom. At night, my mom would read us a Little Golden Book. One book that sticks in my mind more than any other was called Good Little, Bad Little Girl. The story was about one little girl who sometimes was well-behaved and other times was not, just like most humans. The “good” little girl was depicted as being neat, clean, calm, and polite, the very ideal of femininity. The “bad” little girl was messy, disheveled, emotional, stubborn, and rude, everything a little girl was not meant to be. As I look back at the book now, I find it appallingly sexist. At the time, however, that is not at all how I understood the story. 

The good little girl in the story looked a lot like the sister I shared that bedroom with. She had lovely, smooth, straight, blonde hair that was easy to comb through and was held neatly in barrettes. She was sweet with her baby doll toys, compliant with parents’ wishes, and not any trouble at all. The bad little girl in the story reminded me of myself. She was depicted with unruly hair, sticking her tongue out, pulling the good girl’s hair, and acting like a tomboy. She was not at all what she was “supposed” to be. The parallels between the good and bad girls in the story and my sister and I were uncanny in my young mind. This story was about us.

When my mother read that story to us, I was probably 5 or 6. I didn’t realize the tale was about one girl. I thought it really was about two girls, one good and one bad. At the end of the book, though, the narrator says (spoiler alert): “If you would be happy, if you would be wise, open your ears and open your eyes. Make the bad little girl grow smaller and smaller. Make the good little girl grow taller and taller.” My understanding of that passage at the time was that I, with my less than perfect hair, behavior, and demeanor, was so bad that perhaps I should simply disappear. I had no idea that the girl in the story was one young female child who simply had good days and bad days and was alternately sweet and ornery. I didn’t understand that the book was meant to be a cautionary (if outdated and sexist) tale for young girls about how to best behave. Because my sister looked and acted like the girl in the book, because my mother often held up my sister to me as an example of a good girl (look at how nicely she holds her baby doll), I understood that I simply was the “bad” girl. I realize that my mother was just reading a story book, but we never had any qualifying conversations about the meaning of the book. There was no objective talk to break down the notion that most of us are basically good people with bad days and that, if we strive to be the best versions of ourselves, our bad behaviors may dissipate with time. Without that conversation, my creative mind was left to run wild. And run wild it did. I did not like that book, but it came to be the one I most identified with. It has stuck with me for 48 years.

I’ve discussed this Little Golden Book book in therapy because it is one of the earliest memories I have about how I internalized the notion that I was not a good, acceptable person deserving of love exactly the way I am. There are many stories about myself that I accepted over the years without stopping to question their veracity. I will continue to work on growing my self-esteem through self-compassion until I can put this book (and other stories I was sold about myself) behind me as false narratives that were never true and that I no longer need to carry.

While I am, in nearly all cases, against banning or destroying books, maybe someday I will get my hands on a copy of this book. Then I will burn it for the symbolic and therapeutic relief it will provide. Don’t worry, though. I will leave The Poky Puppy, The Little Red Hen, Scruffy the Tugboat, and Tootle in tact.

The Dihydrogen Monoxide Discomfiture

Me and the kid who gave me an opportunity to grow today

Ever feel like a giant dummy? Ever have one of your kids provide the reason for that feeling? Today, Thing Two and I were discussing the chemicals in our foods. Well, we’d actually started talking about the chemicals and chemical processes involved in making dog food, but we eventually got around to discussing human foods. I started carrying on about fertilizers and pesticides that contaminate our food. And that was when my son decided to test me by saying, “Yeah. There are a lot of them, especially dihydrogen monoxide.” My brain began scanning some of the chemical names I could remember from books and articles. I was coming up blank, but not wanting my son to think I was some sort of uneducated buffoon, I quickly responded, “Yeah, sure. Among others.” That was my big mistake. BIG. Because Thing Two then points out that dihydrogen monoxide is the chemical name for water. Yep. It sure enough is. It’s right there in the H2O terminology. And had I taken a minute to think, I would have figured it out. But I was in the middle of dinner prep and distracted. Plus, I took chemistry for a hot minute in 1985, and that was the last I ever thought about any of it.

I felt like a jackass. No. Wait. I felt like a stack of jackasses, piled one on top of another to infinity. It hurt my pride to realize I was foolish enough not to really think through what he was saying. It made me ashamed to be old enough that I couldn’t remember the chemical name my addled brain was searching for, and dihydrogen monoxide sounded like something I should be concerned about. And it is because, you know, you can drown in a teaspoon full of the stuff. At any rate, upon realizing my colossal foible and listening to my son’s gloating about getting me with his funny joke, I felt hurt. When he reminded me about the H2O thing, I remembered he had told me he and his classmates were teasing another kid about dihydrogen monoxide a couple months ago. So, not only had I failed to think it through today, but I had totally forgotten that he he told me about this before. Not once stupid, but twice stupid I was.

And while this is a story about my senior moment (handed to me courtesy of my high school senior), it’s also about something else. It’s about how I handled my humiliation and shame. There was a time in my life when I likely would have gone into a bit of a rage over this. I might have yelled at whoever set me up, trying to make them feel bad about embarrassing me. I might have wanted them to feel the same shame I felt. I might have stormed or pouted my way out of the conversation. I didn’t do that today. I sat with my mistake and felt ignorant and uneducated for a while. Then I acknowledged that I am human and I don’t know everything, nor do I remember most of what I learned in high school 36 years ago. After about 10 minutes of feeling like a complete dolt and an embarrassment to myself, my gender, and my children, I stopped. I made my peace with it. I moved on and let it go until just now when I decided to tell the world about it here. This is growth, my friends. This is what it looks like when you face the things that have plagued you your entire life and you get to know them up close and personal.

I grew up in a house where one of the worst things you could do was appear foolish. I learned it was better to not try something than to try it and fail. This has been a real issue for me since birth. But I am getting over it. I’m learning that it’s okay to say something dumb. It’s okay to trip and fall. It’s okay to suck at something. It’s even okay not to know something you should know because we all do it sometimes. It’s what being human is, and I am a human. I’m learning to be fallible, to embrace myself, even the things I don’t like, like the notion that I don’t, in fact, know much. I’m learning to laugh at myself. And growth happens when you take the thing you’re ashamed of and share it. So, there you have it, folks. Proof that I’m a learning robot. Next time I will definitely remember what dihydrogen monoxide is. And next time it will only take me 5 minutes to beat back my shame. The time after that there may be no shame at all. Perhaps then it will just be me being perfectly okay with being imperfect.

The Roads We Can’t Ever Travel

Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

On a good friend’s recommendation, I started watching Maid on Netflix yesterday. I finished all ten episodes already, if that tells you anything about the quality of the show. It is about a young, single mother trying to make her own way after leaving an abusive relationship. The characters are raw. Their lives are complicated and difficult. They have mental illnesses, chemical dependencies, financial struggles, and broken dreams. It’s painful to watch, but that is exactly why it should be seen. It’s a poignant reminder of how little we know about the lives of those outside our own circle.

In a time when it seems everyone is on edge and no one seems to notice or care about anyone else, when everyone is quick to anger and judgment, this is the kind of show we need to see. It’s a lesson in our common humanity. If you watch the show and it doesn’t make you a little softer and kinder to your fellow humans, watch it again. It’s time we get our heads back on straight. The pandemic has taken a lot of out of us. We’ve been isolated, stressed about our survival, our lack of freedom, our health. Maybe it would be a good idea to recognize that we are all struggling.

As I’m writing all this pontifical, pie-in-the-sky bullshit, though, I am realizing that I need to be honest with you too. There’s another reason this show grabbed me the way it did. It’s because a large part of it is about surviving emotional abuse, the abuse that has no outward scars so people don’t believe you were injured. There’s plausible deniability in emotions. Well-meaning people tell you to your face that the people who hurt you over and over didn’t mean it. They tell you that you’re being dramatic. They tell you that because they are fortunate enough not to understand what it’s like to have someone close to you manipulate, terrify, and crush you. The show is about deciding to put your mental health first and making the difficult, conscious choice to let others deal with their own demons while you face your own. It’s about using your outside voice to proclaim to the world that you want something for yourself, and you’re ready to believe you deserve it. While watching these characters interact, I saw my life. I saw their struggles and nodded my head. But I also saw their strength, and for the first time I am seeing my own too. It feels good to be at a place where I can like myself for both my beauty and my imperfections.

We don’t know what anyone else is going through. What we know is filtered through our own lens. Tread lightly. Be gentle with others if you can. It’s been a little rough on this rock recently. We can’t know the roads others are on, where they lead, or why they wind the way they do. We can’t help others read their map or give them directions. We can’t ever travel their road with them. We’re not meant to. We have our own road on which to focus and that one deserves our full attention.