One of the boxes from the closet contained several of my journals from my college days. Just for kicks, I decided to look through them and relive my youth.
Leafing through page after page, I was struck by two things; how much I have changed, and how much I haven't. If I sit quietly and mentally travel back to that period in my life, I can resuscitate the thoughts and feelings so prevalent in my entries. I remember the uncertainty with which I regarded the future. I recall the unsettled emotion of not quite fitting into my surroundings. "Almost perfect, but not quite..." rings through my head, a line from a childhood poem by Shel Silverstein.
Now, I know that many of the problems I faced during that period in my life, were not wholly a result of my own deficiencies. I recognize that by moving to the South, I had thrown myself into a culture into which I could never really fit. I could appreciate it. I could be comfortable in it. I could make friends with others who lived there.....but it would always be like wearing beautiful shoes that were two sizes too small for my feet. At the time I assumed that it must have been my feet which were the problem; too big, too strong, too used to traveling on their own.
I tried everything to make those feet fit into those shoes. I painted the toe nails. I walked tippy-toed, heels hanging out of the backs of those infernal shoes. When my feet hurt, it wasn't because the shoes didn't fit, but because I had worn them incorrectly.
This was complicated by the fact that my relationship with God had become melded to a specific, cultural incarnation of Him. When certain aspects of my surroundings were uncomfortable or I felt particularly on the outside, it was hard for me to distinguish between the cause of my struggles. Was it me, or my environment? Did I feel distant from God because of something I had done, or because those around me were certain that He moved in ways A, B, and C, whereas I thought it was more like D.?
Some lessons I have learned. Others....I still haven't quite figured out.
I still struggle with some of the same emotions. I have recognized that we all have certain issues which will always be with us. We can make a little headway now and then, but we can't change our personalities or the vulnerable spots in our psyche. An awareness of the troubled waters in our soul won't calm them, but can help us navigate through them.
I was taken aback when I came across entries written at the beginning of my relationship with DH. Having been married for over 11 years, relatively happy and content, I had forgotten any turmoil I had felt beforehand:
I'm so scared sometimes...not so much about J---, but more about myself. I'm scared that I can't commit, or that somehow I'll fail in marriage. Right now in my life, If I screw up or get depressed, or falter in my relationship with God, the effects are mine, and mine alone, to bear. What will I do if I start hurting other people?...my husband and children? That scares me. I know that I can't let that fear dominate my life. What options would I have? Never get married? Never have kids?I can't run all my life. I know that, and yet I have such a fear of failure. It is going to be difficult to stand and do battle with myself and my fears.
It's funny to read that now. At the time marriage was frightening to me. My mother had been married four times. My father had lived alone for many years, not even dating anyone. I had no idea what a healthy relationship would look like, other than my own idealistic notions of what it should look like.
Making matters worse, I had experienced some personal failures which stung me, causing me to question my own suitability for relationships and commitment.
I have come very far, indeed. To say that I had forgotten those feelings is inadequate. They have been excised from me, and my soul has filled in the spaces left behind by their removal.
If anything, my marriage and the family springing forth from it, has firmly grounded confidence within me. I have seen the fruits of commitment and love. I have felt the reassurance of stability in relationships. It has been transformative for me and I could never imagine feeling as I did before.
Age really does bring wisdom.....may even more come to me as I grow older