The above memes are screen shots from the movie, The Holiday, one of my absolute favorite Christmas movies. It’s a simple love story set during Christmas and New Year’s, and it makes me ridiculously happy. I watch it every year at least once, if not more. Outside of the beautiful scenery, both of Los Angeles and of England (or a sound stage set perfectly to resemble rural England), I love watching Kate Winslet’s character Iris, escape her unhealthy relationship and even more so, the unhealthy thinking about herself that traps her in that unhealthy relationship. The screen shots above mark the beginning of the serious transformation her character undergoes; the beginning of her taking herself seriously and her own life and happiness seriously.
In my adult life, I have never consciously prioritized myself. Ever. There have been times where I have chosen self-preservation, but never have I consciously and intentionally lived my life with myself and my growth and my future and my well-being at the center of my decision-making. Never. I have at best been flying by the seat of my pants, just letting life happen to me and going with it, and at worst, prioritizing other people’s well-being and happiness above my own, and helping them either remain comfortable or to achieve their own success and happiness.
This all changes now. I have spent the past five years examining my life. I have struggled to remain focused or visibly productive in the way self-help gurus and corporate coaches might deem successful, which is another way of saying I have doubted myself throughout this entire process. Nevertheless, I have slowly and steadily crawled and scraped my way up, out, and forward. I am now mentally in a place I have never been before: I know who I am today and more importantly, am comfortable; aligned and at peace with who I am today. I know where I have come from, and more importantly, am comfortable; aligned and at peace with my past. I know on some level where I want to go, who I want to continue to be, and who I want to become even more, and more importantly, I know who and what I want to leave behind. I feel a calm sense of purpose that is heartening, exciting, and only mildly terrifying. For the first time in my life, my excitement outweighs my fear.
Despite my internal sense of peace and excitement as I look ahead, there is much to fear in the world around me. It has been one week since a violent, white supremacist mob attacked the United States Capitol. Five people were killed; others injured, and a nation traumatized. As I write, the House of Representatives is holding a hearing to impeach Donald Trump for a second time.
My reckoning with myself that has brought me to where I am today began in earnest in 2015, although on some level, I have been doing the introspective work of trying to figure out who I am since I was five years old. I am the youngest of ten children who has also felt like an only child and who has also played the role of an older sibling, so my quest to figure out who I am and how I fit into this world has been an ongoing struggle my entire life. What differs now is the clarity of time, age, and experience. There is context to my exploration and a consciousness and intentionality around why I have been reflective; what it means, and where I want to go from here with this knowledge.
My self-reckoning corresponds and overlaps with my reckoning with my country. The rise and reign of Donald Trump and what that has meant to me as a woman; as a Feminist; as a Democrat/Liberal/Progressive; as someone with a queer past who also still loves a lot of LGBTQ people, even if I am in a heterosexual marriage.
It corresponds, overlaps and is fortified by my reckoning with my nation’s racist and colonialist history and waking up to my own ignorance and complicity in perpetuating white supremacy at work; at home; in my family; in my friend circles; in my community, and in my country.
Even when I didn’t know who I was or where I fit into this world, I knew I wanted to serve others. That goal and that mission still rings true. But in order to serve others well, I think you have to have a solid foundation of yourself, so you have the strength and fortitude to persevere and keep pushing forward in the face of so much opposition. Or maybe I just needed that.
It’s taken me nearly 48 years, but I am putting my oxygen mask on first, and I am not going to feel guilty or selfish about it (or I will at least push back on those thoughts instead of elevating them or letting them wash over me, as I have done historically.) I am doing this so I may better serve myself, my husband and family, and the people, groups, and issues I care about and will be fighting for.
Because Ani DiFranco is one of my guides, I hear her words calling me:
“and, you know, they never really owned you
You just carried them around
And then one day you put ‘em down
And found your hands were free”
My hands, heart and mind are free, and it’s time to truly put myself to work in pursuit of serving others; becoming a “good ancestor” (see Layla Saad), and get into some “good trouble” (see John Lewis).
Sharing my thoughts in hopes of defining myself and connecting with you.