In her “Misfit’s Manifesto,” the brilliant Lidia Yuknavitch states, “I am not the story you made of me.”
Narratives are interesting. A different lens, an alternative look, and the story goes in a totally different direction. New eyes, an added perspective, another firsthand account.
No story line is ever set in stone.
When I was young, I used to experience what I described to myself (because I never dared talk about it with anyone else) as the “out of place” feeling. I might be playing in the field with my friends or shooting hoops in my apartment complex’s back lot or riding my bike–the one I won in a Jim Dandy coloring contest–to Bowman Acres, and it would overcome me… this sense of not belonging, of being an outsider, of not fitting within my own skin. It was almost ethereal–nearly an “out of body” experience–but it always left me with a roller coaster rush in the pit of my belly.
The internalized message: You don’t fit in.
But I did with that message what I did best in my youth… I fought it. I argued with it, I stomped it with my fake Zips, and I rode my bike–the one I won in a Jim Dandy coloring contest–over it.
Because what I wanted most was to fit in.
I didn’t realize then what a glorious, beautiful mess my young life was. I didn’t know how much growth and understanding and strength would come from the struggles that most will never know… sexual abuse, poverty, paternal abandonment, questions of sexuality. What I understood then was that I wanted a white picket fence life. I wanted the marriage and the kids and the dogs in the right house in the right neighborhood in the right town.
And so, I made it happen.
Only, I discovered decades later that there wasn’t much truth in the story I’d created of myself.
My kids. Of course, my kids. They are my ultimate truth.
What of me?
I lived four decades of a mostly good life full of noise and distraction: Cheering sports fans, sorority parties, drunken friends, four kids in five years, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and fish. Kids’ sports, kids’ theatre, kids’ music, elaborate kids’ birthday parties. Freelance jobs, full-time jobs. Long evenings and weekends of parenting solo while my husband got his master’s degree, then his doctorate.
The gift of solitude wasn’t mine to receive until recently.
In late 2016, I came out. In early 2017, I moved out. A month later, my full-time job was eliminated.
For the past year, I’ve been searching… for a job, for myself, for peace and understanding.
And what did I do during that search? What I’ve always done best, of course: I fought. I fought with my ex and my friends and my family and my new partner. I fought with those I loved and those I’d let go of. I fought because facing the silence was too excruciating.
But then I stopped fighting.
And the silence read me a new story… my story.
I spend many hours in this house by myself. Having been used to a house filled with kids and the buzz of constant activity, a silent house was unsettling at best. But I kept the TV off, turned the music down, lit the candles, and listened.
It is no great surprise to me that the puppy I rescued during the holidays–the one who is rescuing me in return–is silent. She doesn’t bark, doesn’t cry, doesn’t whine. She’s never made a sound louder than the reluctant click of her nails on my hardwood floors… and she most commonly makes that sound after I’ve gone upstairs to bed.
She was abused and neglected for the first seven months of her life. She is learning to trust again–herself and others–one baby step at a time. She spends most of her time in her crate, popping her head up to look at me from time to time with those soulful brown eyes. She used to have to be carried out of the house to go to the bathroom, but now she walks out (albeit skittishly) on her own.
She’s finding her footing. Her place.
She’s teaching me that alone doesn’t mean lonely.
It simply means solitude.
It means space to think and listen and be.
It’s a blank page on which to write the rest of my story.
The story of who I am instead of the story of who I thought I was supposed to be.
The story with the heartache, the hope, and the happy ending.