Monday, April 21, 2008

Blueprints

I've been feeling a vague dis-ease ever since hubby went away on a business trip to Europe. I kept busy, alternating being working out like crazy to lose a freaking pound and eating low-fat snacks (is it fattening if you eat too many?) and rationing out red wine to myself. The whole time I just wanted to binge out on sweets and cakes, but I would reigned it in to 3 mini cupcakes (to celebrate my hubby's birthday) and popcorn flavoured rice cakes. My gohonzon was right behind me, why didn't I go and chant? I know why, I didn't want to face myself. When you chant, it's like saying okay here I am, naked and alone and I'm going to get at the truth. Come on enlightenment! I didn't want that. I was trying to avoid being responsible for taking care of myself.


He's safely back home from a successful business trip and brought me a beautiful Hermes scarf from France. It's bright and beautiful and he was so proud to present his token of love to me. I felt like not quite good enough to wear it. Not ready yet. What had I accomplished? What victory did I have to celebrate? Is it nervousness about the new play I'm about to direct, is it anxiety seeing people I know on TV and wondering why I'm not, is it the fact that I let my hair stay in braids for 3 months longer than I should before deciding to do anything about it? You see when your hair remains in braids for too long, it starts to dread and then it becomes quite difficult to remove. I've never let it go this long, it's just not like me. If someone had told me that I would do that, I would have said you're crazy, no way! That would mean I would have to CUT (with scissors!) what little hair I had to get out the knots. I'm obsessed with my hair, it always has to look good. I've been known not to have money for food but I always got my hair did. I tried to make an appointment in January but my hairdresser was unavailable and then I just let it slide. It just didn't seem that important. I was focusing on my body. What does this have to do with fear?

When I was in my late 20s, I was living in my junior 1 bedroom apartment in High Park. I loved it. It was right next door to a subway, it had deep pink walls in the living room, Caribbean blue in the bedroom. I had a peacock rattan chair and Vision Corningware for crying out loud. I was working, getting by, having moments of pride that I was single and living the life. I had moved away from home when I was 27 causing my mother great consternation. West Indian parents don't kick out their girls until they get married and since I was a long way from that, I figured I better get moving before I got grey hairs. I had a full time job which paid my rent but I wanted to be an actress and get married and have kids and be on a TV series by the time I was 30. When I looked at the blueprint I had in my head for my life and then at the reality, well, I suppose a lot of young women felt that same sinking feeling that maybe their best wasn't good enough.

It's no wonder I started having anxiety attacks. I didn't know what it was, of course. I just knew that one minute I was making a cup of tea and then the next I was hyperventilating and feeling like I was going to die or pass out or something horrible was going to happen. I just had the vague feeling that whatever I was doing, whoever I was being, it wasn't good enough, otherwise why was I so terrified that I had blown it somehow and ruined my own life? I constantly compared myself to those white girls who magically seemed to get engaged to successful men, get all the great paying jobs and have it all without breaking a sweat. Outwardly, I appeared confident, funny, strong and attractive. Inside, I felt rudderless. I had no idea which way to turn. I went to church, talked to God, had lots of friends, I was happy in a way. Except for those stupid anxiety attacks. After a bad breakup with a bad boyfriend, I took to quietly crying in my workplace bathroom, which lead me to finding this amazing psychologist. When I met her I thought, she's got kooky earrings, she must be cool, and she was. She listened to me, she validated me, talked me through the panic. She helped to me realize a lot of things. It was okay to be angry, it was okay to be sensitive, I didn't have to accept crappy behaviour from crappy boyfriends. It had never occurred to me not everything was my fault.

Some rabbi on Oprah once said that arguing in front of your kids changes who they are. Well, in my case, it wasn't really the arguing, it was the verbal and emotional abuse I had witnessed in my parents' marriage. It was the fact that I witnessed my father putting his hands around my mother's neck and choking her. And for my sister, too. I wonder if my father realized that on that day, he changed who were were. In that instant, I lost my sense of security, I learned that to be disrespected was an inevitable part of being in a relationship, and that I was not good enough to be treasured and respected for who I was. My mum was part of me and if that's how he treated her, then what was I worth? He thought he was punishing my mum for daring to leave him and take his kids. He actually choked a great deal of confidence and self respect of his daughters. My mother tried her darnedest to guide us, but all she knew what so limited, so full of disappointment and distrust. My father just gave up and turned into an angry ghost in our lives, shaking his shackles and muttering to himself. I worked very hard for a long time to restore my faith in myself. I'm still working on it. Putting my faith in external things always left me uneasy, the hoops I'd have to jump through were endless; waiting for proverbial other shoe to drop. The women in our family seem to carry a legacy of being used to disappointment. Being let down. We didn't thrive, we endured.

When I become an actress, I knew that I had a lot going against me, but it was my dream. I sacrificed tons of secure, incredible jobs along the way. I had my hopes dashed more than a few times. I doubted myself constantly, I gave up not knowing when my next paycheque would come along. I lived for the moment. I didn't know how to plan for anything. But no one paid my rent but me. Somehow I always paid the bills, had my own place, had enough to eat and friends to hang out with.

When I focused on trying to conceive a child, everything else fell to the side. I mean, it's not like it was going to happen on accident, if it had, it would have happened already. I had my eyes on the prize, I had tried to focus every fibre of my being into this quest. You get rewarded for hard work, right? I felt as if I had somehow, in some way, not done the right thing. Banished to the land of disappointment.

This whole weight plateau thing has thrown me off my equilibrium. I know I have to stick to the plan, hold on, feel the burn, but as I had feared, my sense of accomplishment is now tied somehow to the numbers on the scale. And if they're not going down, down, down ( is .6 lbs good enough?), then where am I going? To the land of disappointment?

Somewhere in all of this rambling, I have a point. Despite my fears, I have jumped from an airplane, gone river rafting, had an acting career with tons of credits to my name, travelled to places on my own, talked to strangers, failed to conceive my own child, partied and danced many nights away, had love thrown back in my face, been fired, born disappointment and shame and emotional and mental meltdowns, fucked up royally and been fucked royally and yet still I breathe air. I have hope of finding a happiness within me that is unshakeable. Frankly, other people have borne much, much worse. I can still enjoy the cherry blossoms (despite my allergies) and the view of the snow capped mountains on my daily walks.

I'll be 45 in a couple of months, and I guess I'm taking stock. Comparing the blueprint I had in my mind to what my reality is now. Mmmm. I think it's time to redraft things a bit.

7 comments:

luna said...

a wonferful, honest post. so sad about your parents. I especially love the image you convey of the external appearance v. the internal reality.

I'm glad you found a wonderful therapist to talk you through the anxiety attacks. so how did you find your way to buddhist chanting? just curious... ~luna

Deathstar said...

To make a long story short, I made friends with a girl who told me about it. I went to some neighbourhood meetings, asked a lot of question and of course, tried it and I found it really worked for me. Frankly I tried it so I could get more gigs, and as time went on, I found that it really helped raise my life condition, helped me to focus on the positive things in my life and kept me from losing hope. If you follow the links on my page, they explain more. Thanks for asking.

Portraits in Sepia said...

I loved your post tonight. As much depth that it contained forgive me for being shallow and saying that I would love to see a picture of that scarf!

loribeth said...

I too had a "blueprint" for my life, but at some point (around the time we started ttc), reality started diverging from the plan -- and now here I am. I loved this line near the end of your post:

"I have hope of finding a happiness within me that is unshakeable. Frankly, other people have borne much, much worse. I can still enjoy the cherry blossoms (despite my allergies) and the view of the snow capped mountains on my daily walks."

While I don't want to minimizing the pain that I have endured in getting to this point in my life, I think what keeps me going is the belief that really, my life, childfree as it is, is really pretty good, all things considered. There are still many things in life to be enjoyed, even if some of life's greatest pleasures (which most people take for granted) are denied me.

And you ARE worth that beautiful Hermes scarf!

Foreverhopeful said...

I always love your honesty and your perspective on things. This is such an inspirational post. I am sorry about your parents and how it has an affect on you but glad that a therapist has helped to find your self worth. I too moved out when I was young (only 22) and moved to a bigger city on my own (something not standard in our culture) and I've always been independent and determined to make it on my own. And conceiving was no different. I was so determined and I thought if I just never gave up, it was going to happen. I thought if I worked hard enough and was determined enough, I would get to the prize. I look back and I lost myself in the process (like you said everything else fell to the side). I was so focused on the prize, the sad thing is I didn't even notice until everything (including my marriage) fell apart. Glad that hubby is back home and how sweet of him to get you such a nice gift. Good luck with your new play...!

OHN said...

I think we all have a blue print so to speak. The things that we plan in our perfect world that we just assume will flow perfectly. I have had to alter my blue print more than once. The first time was very hard but as time has passed I have learned that what we think should be our plan, probably won't be and we need to be open to change.

Sorry about the hair situation...you have lovely eyes (from the picture I see here) how would you look with very short hair?

Deathstar said...

OHN:

Thanks for the compliment. I have a big head and a round face and I have very fine hair, so short hair would not look good on me. Push comes to shove, I see a weave in my near future.