I am Broken, But I am Beautiful
Tomorrow evening begins the Jewish New Year of 5782. A New Year, whether religious or secular is always a time for reflection. And my mind is racing with so many thoughts right now, I thought it would be a suitable time to reflect.
The past five years have been an amazing journey and struggle for me. One that I would have rather avoided. But sometimes circumstances throw you into the deep end and you must find a way to survive. I have learned how to survive, and now I am on the journey to thrive.
Understanding firsthand the true ugliness of depression and anxiety, I am now sitting watching my younger son struggles with the same monster. The roots of his depression and anxiety are different from mine, but the outcome is similar. He is paralyzed to enjoy life. He cannot attend school or even attend the intensive program we have entered him in because of the fear of being around other kids. I would do anything to take his pain and place it on me. We have a talented group of therapists working with us (but the school system has been a nightmare!) His pain causes such deep pain inside of me, that I have again become paralyzed in despair too.
I crave a community and friends who can see my struggles and help. But I am so ashamed of how much help I have asked for over the past five years I do not know where to turn anymore. I am broken, but I am still beautiful inside and want to learn to thrive. How do I take the first step? This blog entry is that step. It is hard and painful, but imperative if I am going to fulfill my promise in life as a person, mother, friend, and hopefully one day again as a lover. I still have more to offer.
At this high holiday season, I reflect on the countless struggles the Jewish people have endured. I also sit and look at my extended family, the one I was born into, and can lay claim to obstacles they have faced – and always risen to conquer them. Why don’t I have the same resiliency and belief in myself and my own value that they each had in themselves? One answer I know is that I am a passionate, expressive person who needs to release my emotions. They turned inward for their strength – I need more external expression. I have suffocated too long inside my own body.
I moved to a small, what I believed to be a welcoming community 8 years ago. I moved here in part to build a circle of friends that I could bond with, support, and rely on in times of need. I have failed miserably on that goal. We moved here when Eli was entering kindergarten to grow with other families. But I worked too many hours and never fully engaged in the community when those bonds were being built. It is my fault, and I am now paying the price for putting my work before my family, myself, and my community. I do not know how to start over to build those bonds at this time. And that saddens me deeply.
I also thought that I had built a circle of friends through 28 years of working at the same company. But I have come to realize that those friendships, for the most part, were born of proximity not care. So today I sit on an island, and I do not have the strength to live on this island alone.
I need to make changes to stop merely surviving and learn how to thrive. I think about moving to a new community where I can start over, and people will have the chance to get to know me as a person who wants community, as a person whose children may struggle but they are loving, as someone capable of sharing love.
I also think about the new job I have recently started. I love the new people and ad technology I am learning about. But I beat myself up for taking a role that undervalues my knowledge as shown by the salary I agreed to. If I believed in myself more, I would have fought more for the respect I deserve rather than begging for someone just to see me. I blame only myself. When you lose value in your own worth, why would anyone else see value in what you offer? So, on the job front, I promise to demonstrate my value and hope it is rewarded over time.
I have also learned that I need to be the master of my day – to promote my mental health and my children's. So, I will not sit in back-to-back-to-back 30-minute video calls every day. I will leave time to think and eat and breathe and exercise. I work until 10 pm most nights, so if exercising in the middle of the day is what I need – I will not feel guilty – I will know that I am still putting in more than a full day of work (just on my time- not someone else's). I have a wonderful new boss who I know will honor my needs if I just speak up for myself.
And finally, I think about the small group of my faithful friends who I know love and care about me deeply. I will try to be more open and honest. But I have made this pledge before. And it is so hard to live up to. I have lived inside of my own cocoon for so long, that it has become the only place I feel safe. I can vaguely remember the days when I was fun to be around. When my passion at work excited and motivating others to do their best, when I was the life of the party and throw great parties for my friends. I may not need to stand on tables leading people in a round of shots again or stand before my colleagues and cheer them on with terrible puns to have them believe in something greater than themselves. But I would like to stand (or sit) around a tale not reminiscing about times past but building new memories. I want my kids to see that I am fun, have friends, and enjoy life. How can I expect them to enjoy life when I continue to sit on the sidelines.
So as the year 5782 begins I want you to know, I may be broken, but I am beautiful. I care deeply about my family, my friends, my work, my community, and me. I will strive to be the best me I can be each day. And when I fall, I will get up (sometimes asking for an extended hand to help) and try again. I will remember the struggles and perseverance that my Jewish ancestors undertook and drive strength from their resiliency. I will try to live outside of my cocoon and enter the real world and stop hiding behind my fears. I am sharing my fears so you can call bullshit on me when I act cautiously. I authored a poem when I was depressed, pleading with myself to see life in rich, vibrant colors again. So, I began to paint to bring color back into my life. I do not know what trick I will pay on my mind this time to try again. But I will try again. Because I know I still have so much to offer to my kids, my family, my friends, my community, my work, and the world around me.
I am on a journey; one I know does not end until I have breathed my last breath. And that is a long time away. So come walk with me. Push me to run when running is called for. Please don’t allow me to give up on myself. I may be broken, but I am beautiful.