When Someone Else Says It Better

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Original Artwork by Allie Brosh

I remember coming across this blog post by the insanely talented writer and artist Allie Brosh when it was first published. Everyone was all, “Allie’s back!” and I was all, “Who’s Allie?” So I started reading, and I couldn’t stop. Plus, she draws, which I can’t do for beans, so I was doubly impressed.

Allie has since had one book published, but I just found out that while her second book was to be published this month, it has been postponed indefinitely. She hasn’t posted a new blog post – or even a new tweet – in years. She kind of disappeared. I hope that she didn’t disappear into the fog of depression again. I hope that wherever she is, she’s happy and snarky and loving it.

I read “Depression Part Two” before I read “Adventures in Depression” (which could have been titled “Depression Part One” if she had known at the time there would be a Part Two.) And while the latter is exceedingly good, the former is really the best explanation of depression I’ve ever read ever ever.

I was talking to a sister-cousin-friend today, trying to explain just this very thing. And then I remembered what Allie wrote. So now sister-cousin-friend can simply read this and know what I was trying to say.

When you stop changing

I had an idea a while back.  It went something like this:  We don’t change as we get older.  We just stop trying to change.  The more we stop trying to change, the more we come back to who we really are.

Allow me to elaborate a bit.

As children, we do what we love without much thought.  We sing, dance, play, create and express ourselves fully and joyfully.  When you are fully self-expressed, how can you be anything less than joyful?  We lean towards those who show us love and kindness, and we avoid those who are mean and hurtful.

At some point as we get older, we start to change. We stop singing, dancing and playing.  We start changing who we are – who we BE – to fit a mould or a stereotype or an ideal or an image.  Our life gets overtaken by shoulds and shouldn’ts.

I should take this job.

I shouldn’t wear stripes and polka dots.

I should study that subject.

I shouldn’t sing in public.

I should.  I shouldn’t.  I should.  I shouldn’t.

And mostly we get so stuck wondering and worrying about what other people think about who we are and what we’re up to, that we forget about I am, and I love and I’m happy.  We change away from who we are, turning into some version of ourselves that we don’t quite recognize.  We accept people in our life who makes us feel bad.  We do things we don’t love – and don’t do things we do love – because we feel like we should.  Or shouldn’t. We have to, or can’t, or not right now, or maybe later.  

And my favourite: One day.

One day I’ll start painting again.

One day I’ll exercise.

One day I’ll have dinner with my old friend.

One day I’ll write that book.

One day I’ll open my own business.

One day…some day…

This leads to all kinds of drama.  All the Who am I? questions and What’s my purpose? questions and I need to find myself inquiries.  And then we read books (and blogs!) and talk to therapists and friends and listen to tapes and listen to Oprah and then something happens…

We find ourselves drifting away from those people who make us feel bad.  We find ourselves colouring again.  Or running.  Or playing the piano.  Or whatever it is that brings us joy.  We stop worrying about what other people will think, and just live our lives with a little more love.

And we’re happy.

People say “You’ve changed.”

No, you haven’t.

You’re back to being you. Back to who you were always meant to be.

You’ve stopped changing.

The Last Time

The last time, there were 350 other people in the room, using up all the oxygen and leaving with me with no breathing room.

This time, there were only my 10 favourite people in attendance, and we were outside in the sunshine.  I breathed deeply and felt the oxygen filling my lungs.

The last time, it was a beautiful snowy winter wonderland.  Just what I always wanted.  And all I wished was that I could bury myself under that snow and never come out.

This time, the sun shone down hot and scorching.  It was sticky, sweaty and almost unbearable.  And all I could feel was the beautiful warmth of it on my skin.

The last time, my hair and makeup were professionally done and turned out perfect.  And I felt like a fraud.

This time, my hair was not what I had in mind and I had to re-do my dreadful “professional” makeup by myself.  And it was perfectly me.

The last time, the food was divine.  There wasn’t a speck of rice left on a plate.  Everyone raved about it.  I couldn’t eat a bite, because I was too choked up with dread to keep anything down.

This time, the food was terrible, and the service was worse.  We sent in a huge complaint letter about it afterward.  And still, it was one of the happiest meals I ever had.

The last time, I paid for drinks for everyone.  All I wanted to do was drown myself in them.

This time, people bought me drinks to celebrate.  And I didn’t need them to feel relaxed and happy.

The last time, all the voices in my head were screaming that I was making a mistake.

This time, the only voice I heard was the one singing a love song in my heart.

The last time, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time.

This time, I knew it was the last time.

Can’t lose me

 

Dear Amira,

You’re only 4 months and 2 weeks old, and I’ve already written you a hundred letters in my head.  You’ll learn that about me as we get to know each other over the years.  I write.  Always in my head.  Sometimes even on paper.  I promise, I’ll try to write to you more, because there are things I want you to know, and I often write better than I talk.  When I talk, I can get loud and screechy when making a point, and then the point gets lost in the screech.  You’ll see.

But today I read this letter, and it made me cry.  And I knew I couldn’t keep this one inside.

This poor girl, who did nothing wrong, doesn’t have her mom and dad in her life anymore because she is who she is and they can’t accept that.

And I had to tell you – I have to tell you – that there is nothing nothing NOTHING you could do that would make me turn my back on you.  There is nothing you could be that would make me not accept you for who you are.  NOTHING.

Baby, I don’t care if you’re gay or straight.  I don’t care if you’re tall or short.  I don’t care if you like to read or do complicated calculus equations or draw pictures or ride horses.  I don’t care if your favourite colour is pink or yellow or if you love vanilla or hate strawberry.  I just don’t care.

What I care about is that you know that you’re loved.  And you are, baby girl.  More than you will ever know.  I want you to know that we will support you, and be there for you, right behind you, as you make your way through the maze of your life.  I promise that every time you fall – and you will fall, and sometimes it will hurt – it will be made softer by your dad and me.

There is nothing that you can’t tell us.  I know there are things you won’t tell us – like the first time you try a cigarette (don’t you DARE), or the first time you have a beer, or if you cheat on a test in the 10th grade. But you know what baby girl?  You CAN tell us.  Yes, sometimes we will be upset, but we will never be upset with you because of who you are.  The only thing that would really upset me is if you’re NOT being who you are.

Because you are kind and beautiful and important and loving and good.  Even after only 4 months, I know all this about you.  And when you’re not being these things – when you’re not being yourself – it will make me sad.  I’ll be sad because I know that when you’re not yourself, you can feel stuck and unsure and out of sorts.  I don’t want you to feel those things, but I suppose we all go through those moments.  But in those moments, you can always tell me what’s going on.  You never have to be scared or unsure or worried about how I will react.  It won’t make me turn away from you.  It won’t diminish my love for you.  It will just make me love you harder, as though my love were a looking glass, and the harder I love you, the clearer the reflection, so you can see for yourself just how amazing you are, and you can live that amazing every day.

You’ll always have your dad, and you’ll always have me.  Right behind you, adoring you.  No matter what.

Love,

Mummy

Storytelling

We all have stories we tell ourselves about the people around us, about the lives we’ve lived, and about what our futures will be.  We create tales based on things people said, things we did, things we saw and things we want.  But of all these stories, the most powerful ones are the ones we tell about ourselves.

We tell ourselves stories about our worthiness, our intelligence, our abilities, our looks.  We make up stories about every single part of our lives, and then we live those stories out.  And too often, those stories suck.

We tell ourselves that we didn’t work hard enough.  We tell ourselves that we didn’t try hard enough. We tell ourselves stories about all the things we could have done and should have done and will never do.  We make up stories – and we believe these stories – about things that have happened in our lives, and then we spin those stories so they ultimately cast a dark pall over us.  Then we hide under this cloak of  stories for fear of what would happen if we came out and stood alone under the sun.

But what if we told ourselves new stories?  Stories that don’t say thinks like “I should have”, but rather, “I tried my best in that moment with what I had.  And that’s good enough.  And I can do it different in the future if I choose.”  What if, in our stories, we were always good enough. What if we were more than good.  What if we were great?

What if our life stories weren’t filled with doubt and judgement and shame and fear, but instead were stories of triumph and effort and heads held high even in defeat.  What if our stories were stories of love – for others, and our lives, and ourselves?

What if we took a chance to stand alone under the sun, faces upturned and smiling?  What if every story we had for our futures started with “I can” instead of “I wish”.  And what would our lives be like if we believed them?

It’s time we start telling ourselves new stories.  Stories where we are the winners.  Stories where we live with love and joy and overcome obstacles with grace and dignity.  Stories where it is okay to make a mistake – or ten – and where defeat doesn’t equal a diminishing of your worth or abilities or future prospects.

Tell yourself a new story about your life.  A story that starts and ends with you being wonderful and perfect and doing nothing wrong.  A story that is full of lessons and possibilities rather than mistakes and missed opportunities.

You will live the story you tell yourself, so tell yourself a story of love.  And believe it.