I am a human being, meant to be in perpetual becoming.
–Glennon Doyle, “Untamed”
In August 2021, I made THE most selfish decision of my life. After much soul-searching (and some online searching, too), I scheduled my first appointment with my therapist. And since then, I’ve been able to say AND BELIEVE things like, “I’m a great mom” and “I like the way I look in that picture.” I’ve also been able to start sentences with phrases like “my therapist suggested….” She’s suggested lots, each week leaving me with a “homework assignment.” Something to think about or research or read or do. This week, she referred me back to a couple of chapters in Untamed by Glennon Doyle, a book I had read before starting therapy and one that she’s referred back to several times since. She asked me to reread the chapter called “Let it Burn” then reread (and do the writing assignment) in the chapter called “Imagine.”
So here I am. Day 2 of the new year, a fresh beginning. Quietly reflecting on my Momma on this 16th anniversary of her passing. And feeling like I need to put some words on a screen to feel some sort of grounding, some semblance of peace. I took the opportunity to open up my copy of Untamed and get my homework done, ever the teacher’s pet.
My therapist, though a relatively new addition to my life, knows me better that most. And why’s that? Because. I’m. doing. the. work. I open up. I’m completely honest about everything I’m thinking and feeling. I cry. Oh, lord, do I cry. I have the hard conversations, answer the uncomfortable questions. I consider her feedback, even if it casts light on a part of me that I wanted to keep tucked away, or on an emotion I planned to push down and ignore, or something I’d never considered as a possibility. I lay myself bare every session. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do in therapy, right? I want to follow the rules. I want to do it right.
So as I reread “Let it Burn,” I did so with an eye toward “What does my therapist want me to glean from this?” The central theme of the chapter was on deconstruction. Unbecoming. Dialing back everything you’ve been taught, everything you believed was true. Giving up on the “good enough” in search of a truer, more beautiful existence. The author wrote, “They’d convinced me that the best way for a woman to love her partner, family, and community was to lose herself in service to them.” And I felt that to my core. I’ve lost myself, bit by bit. My sense of self-worth, my autonomy, my whole identity. Lost. Because as a woman, a wife, a mom….I’m supposed to give myself up to fill the roles others rely on me for. But that just leaves me walking around as a shadow of my former self. Hiding. Trying to bend and fold and fit into the life I created because I was supposed to.
I immediately understood why my therapist wanted me to revisit this chapter. And immediately flipped backward to the previous chapter, “Imagine,” the second one she had asked me to revisit. In it, the author speaks about imagining a truer, more beautiful version of one’s life. This line from the chapter sums it up perfectly: “There is a life meant for you that is truer than the one you’re living. But in order to have it, you will have to forge it yourself. You will have to create on the outside what you are imagining on the inside. Only you can bring it forth. And it will cost you everything.”
After rereading those two chapters, I turned on some piano music and sat with my feelings for a bit. I understood that my therapist wanted me to write about the life of my dreams. The version in which I’m supremely, unquestioningly happy. I understood and yet I was having a hard time picturing it. As my mind wandered and I tried to imagine a truer, more beautiful life for myself, I began to identify feelings that I want out of life. Just not necessarily a roadmap as to how to arrive at those feelings.
In my ideal future, I won’t have to work so hard to convince myself that I’m a great mom. In fact, it won’t be a question at all. I’ll just know it to be true. I’ll know it because I’ll be setting an example. My daughter will see the importance of being authentic, how it makes you bloom and thrive. Being self-reliant yet still vulnerable around the right people will come naturally to her because it’ll be what she’s seen modeled for her. She’ll grow into a well-adjusted, confident young woman and it will be because of me. And there won’t be a shadow of a doubt in my mind when I sit back and look at who she’s become and proudly say, “I helped her do that.”
In my ideal future, I won’t have to work so hard to convince myself that I’m a good person. Worthy of acceptance. Loveable. I won’t feel the need to seek approval or validation from anyone. I’ll feel confident in my ability to make the best decisions for my life. I’ll feel capable of taking care of myself and justified in picking and choosing who I let get close to me.
In my ideal future, I won’t care about what others think. I’ll unfriend or block people who don’t bring me the right sort of energy. I’ll cut ties with friends, even family, who bring me down or who make me feel unsupported, disrespected, or less-than. I’ll speak my mind, unapologetically. I won’t bite my tongue or pretend just to save face or make someone else comfortable.
In my ideal future, I’ll curate my inner-circle to include only those with whom I agree on “the big stuff.” People who I can trust and who trust me. People I can be completely myself around and who won’t judge me or gossip about me when I’m not around. People who love me unconditionally, including me. I’m going to love ME, unconditionally.
In my ideal future, I’m going to put myself first. I won’t write off the creature comforts that I want as “not needed.” I’ll trust my voice. Trust my gut. I’ll accept help when it’s offered, maybe even seek it out before I’m at my breaking point. I’ll get comfortable with saying ‘no.’ I’ll enforce my boundaries with more conviction and not let myself believe that what I want doesn’t matter.
I’m primed for change. I’m prepared to pay the price, even if it does cost everything. If the end result is a life truer and more beautiful, better suited to me, then the cost is a bargain. Will I get there in 2022? I hope so. It might be a tall order to accomplish in just one year. But at the very least, I know that I’ll be moving in the right direction. Forward progress towards a future more true and beautiful. We’re all in a state of flux, perpetually. And I’m ready to flourish.