Lately I've been wondering when (or if) I'm ever going to begin to act like my true self. First, I have to find out who my true self is. I sometimes think I know, but I'm not always sure because I've spent so many years trying to be what I think others want me or need me to be, and I've lost myself. I often fear that no one, not even family members, will like or accept me if they know who I really am. Does that matter? It does to me. I want people to think I'm nice, kind, loving, and compassionate, and I do aspire to be all those things. But my secret self isn't always such a nice person.
I'm not a felon or one who preys on others and there is nothing sinister or criminal in my past. I just don't show my true self to very many people. My kindred spirit and friend, Deanna, knows who I am and seems to like me in spite of it and I have a dear angel/cousin/friend who also knows who I am and loves me anyway. (I'll share my long lost cousin story soon.) For all of that, I am very grateful. More than a few times I've told my spouse that he doesn't really know me. He says "Sure, I know you", but I don't think he understands what I mean. He thinks he knows who I am, but then, he only knows me as a loyal wife, mother to his child, grandmother to our grandkids, and compassionate animal lover. I don't dare show him who I really am. He will think he married an imposter.
There are things all of us feel we need to do in order to get along in this life, but sometimes those things cause us to repress who we really are. One of my "duties" is to have supper planned and ready shortly after Hubby arrives home from work. I guess that's just part of the bargain for being a stay-at-home person. But does he know there are many times I want to tell him to fix his own supper, because after 37 years of meal planning and cooking, there are other things I'd rather be doing? Has he any idea that I'd almost rather go to the dentist than do one more load of dirty bike shorts and sweaty shirts? I don't say what I'm really feeling about those things, partly because I know he also does things he really doesn't want to do. That's part of life. The difference for me is that he is paid a wage to do those things - and yes, we do put up with a lot of unpleasantness if we're being paid for it - but wives are expected to do those things without compensation.
I don't want to leave the impression that I'm not a thankful person. I am. I'm all too aware that life can be short and loved ones can be ripped from our families with no prior warning. I appreciate the blessings I've been given and the loved ones who share my life. I also feel grateful for the material things with which I've been blessed, I'm very aware that I might not have those things if my spouse wasn't willing to go to work outside our home each day in order to provide them. But I know there are needs of an inner self that are not being met. That's not ungratefulness, it's reality.
Maybe I'm crazy, but I never realized I was signing up for a lifetime of housework when I said my marriage vows. I was young, naive', and in love. So now these household chores are my duties and it seems that I, alone, am responsible for seeing they get done. It also seems there would be no good purpose served by revealing my secret self to my spouse, though I'd love to just come out and tell him how I feel and not have him be utterly disgusted with me for expressing my innermost thoughts. I'm not secure enough (nor stupid enough) to think I could express myself and not experience major negative feedback. I have some experience there. So instead, I continue to do what is expected of me most of the time, and stifle much of what my secret self wants to do and say.
I was watching an old re-run of a Roseanne show on TV the other day and it occured to me I'd like to feel secure enough about who I really am, to say what's on my mind, as she often did, without worry and fear of chastisement or angry repercussion from family and friends. Don't we all want to be loved and accepted for who we truly are, no matter what we say or how we say it?
When friends or family members disappoint or frustrate me, I would like to feel free enough to approach them and tell them what I think about what they did or said. I try to be tactful when talking with others, but sometimes I'd like to feel free enough to just let the words fly and not worry about how or where they land. That's a secret few people know about me - I'm not always very nice. Or, perhaps they do know and it's not such a secret? Other people sometimes seem to get away with blurting out exactly how they feel and the sky doesn't fall down around them, nor are they struck by lightning. I don't think anybody would accept that from me because I'm supposed to be "nice".
My secret self would love to have a couple weeks of alone time - no pets, no phone, no family, no meals to cook, no dirty laundry - just time to ponder, sing, listen to music, sew, read, and enjoy this life I've been given. I'm never allowed that time and don't see how I'll ever be able to have it in the future. Going off by myself for a sabbatical just wouldn't be what others expected of me, so I don't attempt to ask for it. But that is what my secret self craves - a little bit of time to enjoy life without people or things tugging at me, needing me, or expecting things of me. See, I'm really not very nice. Sometimes I think being "nice" is overrated.
That's not to say I don't appreciate knowing that I'm needed or that I don't have loving feelings for people. I do like to help people and be supportive to them. I just don't want to have to do that all the time and I don't like it when those things are expected of me instead of accepted as gifts from my heart. There is a difference.
Everybody wants to be needed at some time or another and I'm no exception. I love my family and adore my pets, and I like the fact they can count on me. But there are times I simply need a break. Most people in the work force get weekends off and have vacations, but I don't feel that I do - nor does any other stay-at-home person. There is always something to do and someone in need. Always.
What am I going to do about the needs of my secret self? Expressing my thoughts might help me develop ways to meet some of those needs. My secret self wants to learn how to play the piano and my kindred friend Deanna encouraged me to simply ASK a piano playing friend if she'll teach me the basics. I never thought to do that.
My secret self needs alone time and I will have some time this weekend while my spouse attends an out-of-state wedding. I made the decision to stay here instead of going with him. There are many valid reasons I felt I needed to be here, but I was fearful about telling him. I made a similar decision once before and he was upset with me for weeks. This time he said he understood. That's progress. I need this for my own well-being. I don't know that I can even explain it to anyone else's satisfaction and actually, I don't think I should have to explain it. It's just something I need to do for me.
When I finally make a decision for myself, there is often someone ready to judge me or offer unsolicited advice. I'm not supposed to judge others when they decide what they will or won't do, right? So why am I not granted the same courtesy?
Maybe in my old age I'm finally starting to learn how to meet some of my own needs. It sure has taken me a long time to get to this place. One day I might be brave enough to finally reveal who I truly am.