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.