Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mourning the Loss of Myself

Way back (seems like a hundred years ago, yet just yesterday) when I got married, I felt like I was ready. I was 26. I had dated around. I had "sewn my wild oats" and I was ready to settle down. I felt like I'd done (I mean, tried but not necessarily finished) everything I wanted to do, and I was ready for the next big adventure.

After getting married, I experienced a huge adjustment period. I had a new roommate! And, if this roommate didn't mind his manners, I couldn't just wait out the lease and move out. This was IT!! I grieved the loss of my own space.

And, after work, I was so excited to get home to my new husband. We would cook together, go for walks together, just talk together, whatever. But there were also times that I wanted to just go to the mall and walk around, window shopping, on the spur of the moment. I wanted to answer to no one, just being free. I grieved the loss of my free spirit.

Once I had children, I longed for my own time again. Time to take care of me. Time to finish a project I had started. Time to listen to a song on the radio, all the way through, just once. I resented that I had to actually schedule time to do things for myself AFTER I had already finished doing for everyone else. I grieved the loss of my time.

As I grew into the woman I am today, through my teen years and all the way through college, I was very proud of my sharp wit and outgoing nature. I was fearless to tread my own path and quite often I went against the grain just for the fun of it or to see what would happen. Now I am the wife and mother who recognizes the importance of harmony in a family. I value the support I give my husband and he gives me. Many times that means compromising. Compromising has led me to leave some of my own ideas behind. I am now realizing how much I am grieving my loss of independence.

And now that I've been married for over 12 years, you'd think I would be used to it. I have become desensitized to having my every thought interrupted. I have gotten used to putting my own desires and plans on the back burner. I have become accustomed to rearranging what I want to accomplish for the greater good of the whole family.

And ya know what? I'm not mad about it. Isn't that strange? I should be furious! Some days, I do feel like I have let go of myself and morphed into someone else who is a pushover, someone I swore I would never become. Quite often I do feel frustrated that my own decisions about how much money to spend, where to live, how to raise our children, must be tempered with someone else's values. My voice feels like it's so tiny.

This is especially frustrating when I talk to my single girlfriends. They can buy a new couch if they want to! In red plaid! They can go on vacations at the drop of a hat. They can quit their jobs if it doesn't suit them anymore. Their decisions belong to them 100%. They don't have to compromise anything.

But, at the same time, I realize that for every compromise I make, one has been made for me. Every time I see my husband about to say something, then he closes his mouth and just smiles, I am reminded that he is making sacrifices too. When I see him look longingly at his fishing poles, knowing he would rather be out on the lake than cleaning out the gutters, I am humbled. Even when I see him napping in the recliner, I know he'd rather be tired from a long day of playing with the kids than a long day of work. I can only imagine the stress he must have, knowing that the responsibility of our family's finances rests entirely upon his shoulders and his ability to provide.

Even before I got married, I know, that sacrifices and compromises that were made for me back then too. As a child, my mom excluded herself from many of her favorite activities because she was my full-time caregiver. We rarely had babysitters except when my parents went out on weekends, usually to entertain some business client of my dad's. My mom had to take me with her to bowling, choir practice, etc. or not go at all. In high school, I begged my parents to send me to a private high school, and they did. They paid the money so I could make new friends and escape my world of unpopularity. And after college, like the MINUTE I graduated, my dad retired and my parents started traveling. It was easy to see that they made sure I had whatever I needed until I was ready to be on my own. They made life better for me, at the expense of their own wishes and plans.

I recognize that mourning the loss of all these things about myself is selfish. I mean, who wants to feel like they've given up themself for someone else? At the same time, I try to see all the ways that compromises have been made for me. It's hard not to feel loved, knowing how much someone else is willing to give up for my own happiness, security, and peace. So, sacrificing a little bit of myself doesn't seem so hard anymore. Instead it feels like an investment in something whose worth is immeasurable.


Cindy said...

That sure was wonderful. I got a lil' choked up. I've been working all day on something along the lines of guilty feelings and you struck a cord!

Jess said...

This really hit me like a Mack truck!! I was feeling like a martyr today and the things you said about your husband reminded me of my husband and really opened my eyes back up!!
Thank you!

Eudea-Mamia said...

You wrote everything I would like to say. Off to kiss the boys and my hubby.

Great post!

Heather said...

Absolutely a great post! I've been in a wee bit of a snit for the past few days, since going to visit (with Kiddo, as she had the day off from school) my BFF (other than Hubby, who is my #1 BFF, of course) who is single and moved to a new house this past spring. She has completely redone her house (as a single person working at a well-paying job with much discretionary income can do) and as I walked through her gorgeous, impeccably decorated rooms, I felt a twinge of jealousy. Okay, more than a twinge, especially as we chatted and her life just seems so much FREER than mine, even with the busy, high-responsibility, full-time job. She's seen every new movie I long to see, has read piles of books I'll never get to anytime soon, can travel on a whim, shop for and buy whatever item strikes her fancy, all that good stuff.

But you know what? Despite being faintly pea-green since Thursday afternoon when we visited her, I still wouldn't trade her life for mine. Not for more than maybe an afternoon, anyhow! ;) This post hit the nail right on the head for me, and was a great reminder of what I *do* have in my life!

Carrie Thompson said...

this was an incredibly well put post. I agree with it all, I have felt the twinges and I have felt the peace. I have felt like a maryter and I have felt like a give... I think you really said what needs to be said to mothers today instead of all the "oprah" crap that is handed to them! I have an oprah soap box, another thing you didnt know about me!

rest assured that mothers everywhere all feel the same but it is what we do with that feeling that makes us better mothers and better wives and better people. There are those who resent it all... there are those who just leave... there are those who realize what was sacrificed were made for them also and understand this is all a season in our lives and are glad to step up to the plate! I am so glad to be one of those people arent you!

Anonymous said...

Wow. So many of us feel the same!
It's so, so easy to lose our essence when we continually push our desires aside to meet the needs of the people we love.
Just one thing...

"I recognize that mourning the loss of all these things about myself is selfish."

I'm not so sure. I think it's completely healthy, my friend. How else can you grow and move forward as a human being?
I like to use two different words: Selfish and self-ful. Selfish is when you are entirely focused on yourself, to the point of neglecting the needs of everyone around you: a narcissist.
Self-ful is when you recognize your own needs and meet those in order to nurture your God-given self. I think that's what He wants us to do.

Oh my goodness. I hope that didn't come off as pissy. I so didn't mean for it to sound that way. I've just felt "selfish" for so long for thinking these same exact thoughts, and meeting my own needs.

Much love to you, friend. ;-)

Jaden Paige said...

This is SOOO true!

I've been feeling really bogged down lately, and this hit home for me. The long and short of it- my husband has a medical condition for which he is going through some harsh treatments that make him sore and beyond tired. He is still working his full time job, so when he gets home there's not a lot he is able to help with... So the majority of the cleaning, cooking, and taking care of our girl has fallen on me lately- AFTER I get home from MY full day of work. It's a nice reminder that though I am doing more now, he is still there and helping with whatever he can, being a great father... And that he has compromised much in his life too, to enjoy the family we have today. Thanks for such a great post today :)

Jaden Paige said...

Thanks for the kind words and the quick response :) It's always nice to know that we're not alone in what we're feeling...

La Pixie said...

wow, this freaked me out. I mean, I love my Boyfriend and hope that we get married soon, but your words scare me. I felt like, "Im gonna be 27 next week. I love him. so... get married." and now, Im afraid. do you think its just something that you have to get used to and there is no "magic age" when you are really prepared to be married and have kids??

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

La Pixie,

Well, I don't think it's about getting married. I think it's more of a state of mind.

Getting married, you have to realize that you are now in a partnership where TWO people matter. Up until now, it is just you and what you want to do. Now, unfortunately, you have to sometimes push aside what I want to do and consider what WE want to do.

But, this isn't always the case. I think it's good, no it's essential, to make sure you still have some interests of your own. Make sure you have something that is your own that you don't have to share. Maybe it's girls happy hour every other week. Maybe it's a bible study on Saturday morning. Maybe you play on a softball team. Whatever. Just don't give it up for the sake of "togetherness". At the same time, realize that you will be able to take care of yourself, in different amounts, at different times. If you have children, your time will be pretty much 100% absorbed by the baby for a while. "Me time" may diminish for a while. But, once the baby is a little older, like after 6 months or so, you can start hiring a babysitter or leaving the baby with daddy and start enjoying me time again.

I think what Pinky said above is so true: there is a difference between "selfish" and "self-ful". Take care of yourself. Love yourself. Be good to yourself. Don't go so far that it affects others' lives, but DO make sure not to lose yourself into taking care of everyone else and you are the only one not getting cared for.

I say this is all a state of mind, because you have to be mentally mature enough to accept this. I think one big reasons a lot of marriages fall apart is because there are folks who refuse to budge on their individualism for the sake of the marriage. I think it's really important to realize that when you get married, you ARE giving some things up. But, in their place, you are getting new good things too. Some people want it all: they want the love and security of marriage, but they want the freedom and independence of being a single. You can't have both, and when people try to have both, that is where the resentment creeps in. I think, no matter what age you are, if you are ready to give some of yourself away, and mature enough to keep some of yourself for yourself, you will be ready for marriage.

By the way, this is all a learned process. I was NO where near where I am today when I got married. When I got married in 1998, I freaked out and had wavering phases of smothering my husband, to wanting to be fee as a bird. Just try to get some balance and make sure your husband does the same. And, if you decide to have children, realize that they need other people besides mom and dad too.

I always say, "Everything in Moderation. Too much of anything is never a good thing." Try to be an attentive wife. Try to take care of yourself - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And, allow yourself to fail every once in a while. Failures are okay as long as we learn from our failures. And, don't try not to fail because you will. We all do. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, figure out how to learn from your experience, and keep going.

You'll be fine.