I didn’t see or talk to anyone in my family Thanksgiving day. I couldn’t find it in myself to be the bigger person and call: Hey sorry I hand-grenaded your holiday plans! Let me call and bask in how not-family it was for you. When no one called me, I let it molder.
Two days later, I called my mom and apologized. We hardly remembered it was Thanksgiving, was my mother’s breezy answer from across the country. I spent the day sorting out your grandmother’s estate. Which might not sound that bad, unless you know my mom, in which case you also know that doing accounting/legal/bills drudgery is her most reviled task, taken to new lows since it involves the death of someone she loved.
Meanwhile, my MIL came to our house. She was perfectly kind, made a turkey, played endlessly with the kids. I could hardly bear it.
Ideally, one should be, you know, thankful, for every scrap of goodness during this particular holiday, especially when segments of one’s life are going shitty. Failing that, one should at least have the decency to fake it reasonably well for the joy of others. Instead I was an inconsolable, moody asshole. I couldn’t even muster the grace to offer an explanation to my MIL. To do so would have been implicitly or explicitly asking an adult to forgive me/ tell me I was OK/ etc. The idea felt like drinking poison.
I spent a lot of time considering what it would mean if my own approval is good enough, if I stop twisting my life in order to win someone else’s OK. It made me realize how tied up in approval seeking I am, and how those are perhaps good skills for a child, or even an adolescent, but not for a woman who turns 39 this month.
To be motivated primarily by acceptance, for me at least, is to be in a constant state of hiding, of being ready to jettison aspects of myself that don’t meet someone else’s cut. It feels incredibly lonely, and weirdly incompatible — by always seeking acceptance, I’m painfully aware of how the whole of me never actually sustains OKness.
I’ve been frightened about where my place in the world will be if I let go of all these approval-seeking behaviors. Will I be one of those angry middle-aged women who (I previously thought) embarrass themselves with their outspoken ideas and their lack of toeing the social graces line? Eventually, though, I always come back to this: I could continue to think like a little kid, but that does not keep me safely in the position of being a little kid. It doesn’t keep me youthful/ beautiful/ acceptable. It just makes me a weird middle-aged woman who never matured.
Recently, Middle’s had an ongoing health scare, my BFF (who knows I am Anne! Gak!) separated from her husband and is moving away, another friend is going through a horrible divorce and has to move, an acquaintance my age who had a low-level cancer issue went to surgery and they zipped that person right back up without taking out anything because HOLYSHITCANCEREVERYWHERE, something I spent a lot of time working on failed, and a distant relative died. So pretty much, my world right now has a thick smog of GENERALLY NOT OK hanging over it. I’m just sitting here trying to breathe and be OK with the NOT OK, and not to slip back into asking for someone besides me to say if it’s OK. (It doesn’t take a genius to see it’s not. Not OK is OK.) (That is my mantra.)
It’s incredible to me, that before I saw this damaged, approval seeking aspect of myself, some part of me must have understood 1) how to be healthier and 2)been looking out for me. This blog is my jettisoned personality traits. Instead of truly losing that part of myself, it got saved. Better, actually — it’s been nurtured by all of you.
Like I said, I turn 39 this month. I want to put myself together and be OK. So. My given name is Natalie. My real name is Anne.