Yes, you read that right. I admit it now because it is Christmas and at Christmas you tell the truth, right? I have all but lost my Christmas spirit, clinging to the damaged threads for the sake of my children who still glow with all of the excitement and expectation of Christmas Day. We are baking cookies and turning on the twinkling lights every night, singing carols and listening to them as often as we can. Still I carry this emptiness, wearing it like an open wound rather than a badge of pride. I have frequently contemplated this idea over the last few weeks, mulling over the transparent wound and how it came to be a part of me. To this end I have come to understand and accept a few truths that I previously could not face or simply did not want to.
I. Am. A. Fraud. I walk through every day at a job that I do not dislike but does not bring me joy. I live in a town that allows me to survive but does not feel like home. I smile at strangers and acquaintances, wearing the clothes I am expected to wear and saying the words I am expected to say. But inside I am screaming. I spent more than thirty years searching for my identity, more than thirty years chiseling away the things that did not quite fit but now I am wrapping myself in those very things I worked so hard to strip away. I’ve tried on different careers, different dreams, and different homes. I’ve done what I had to in order to survive, at times barely able to tread water through the dense waters. Now I look at my life and realize that I truly am a fraud wearing whatever skin I find, no matter how ill-fitting it may be. I wonder what happened to me and how I got here. I wonder if I will ever find my way back to the most honest version of myself, no masks or walls, just me.
This is about more than not being able to have my dream job, I am not deluded enough to believe I am the only person who is unable to make a living doing what s/he loves. Do not misunderstand me, I appreciate my job and it is exponentially better than what I have done in the past. I simply am stating that I put a lot of effort into appearing enthusiastic or outraged or proud or whatever strong emotion I should feel at a particular moment in order to disguise my complete apathy. I think my colleagues are on to me though. In fact, I am certain they are aware of my ruse. I attend trade shows and meetings and it is apparent that I do not belong. I lack the passion. I see it in their faces, a light that does not burn in me.
It is about more than living in a place I cannot call home. I’ve tried. Truly. I have tried my entire life to find that feeling of home here in Ohio. I even built a lovely house once. I decorated it in my colors and tastes, customized the kids’ bedrooms and for a time I almost loved it. Almost. There are two places in this world that have ever felt like they could be home to me and I was able to live in one while the other will likely never be a possibility. I should never have left the first. The “me” inside was screaming the whole time I was packing, shrieking even, yet I did not listen because I did not think it possible to fight the things dragging me back to Ohio. And, a part of me had hope. A part of me was foolish enough to hope for something that the other “me” knew was not possible. If I had only listened to the inner “me” I may not be the fraud I am now.
This is even about more than working so hard to be a room parent at a school full of parents who care nothing for me or my “kind.” I have not missed that I do not belong there either. It has been painfully obvious from day one, and only become more apparent with every event. Still, I don the mask and grace the halls for my children. For now they fit. I hope that does not change. But that is an entirely different post. This one is about me and how I am a fraud. This is about how I am failing myself and ultimately my children who have seen the real “me.” I tell my children not to settle. They see me settle every day. I tell them to fight for what is right, not just for the world but for them. They see that I do not. I am boisterous and indignant when I simply want to be left alone. I am quiet and withdrawn when I’d rather be arguing a point. How did this happen?
I have been talking with a friend, a delightfully optimistic person who sees me as far fairer than I truly am and for that I am grateful. Still, I should tell this friend everything. I should tell this person the truth of how broken I am and how it happened. I should not hide my past from those I meet, should not allow them to continue the sunshine and daisies ideas about me. I am not sunshine and roses. Perhaps I once was but that was before I met myself.
And to that end comes the truth of all truths. That one fact I could not face, or did not want to until now. The person who knew me best in the world, the person who loved me best could not handle me in the end. I am not an easy person to love; I know this and always have. I am passion and fire and loyalty and I expect much of the people I love. I expect them to be as loyal as I am. I expect them to be as fierce and passionate as I am – about anything they want so long as they are fierce and passionate about something. I expect them to pull their weight in the relationship and let me into their world. I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself and everyone else that I could settle for less. I tried to compromise things that should not be compromised. I am not taking the full blame for my failed marriage but I am accepting my part in the downfall, my mistakes and my own failures. I again was a fraud and it cost me my husband and my best friend, it cost my children so much more. I was a fraud because I allowed myself to put so much into a relationship with somebody who stopped giving equal effort and I knew better.
So here lies my conundrum. In some aspects of my life I do what I can to blend though I merely end up straddling the line of accepted and outlier. I applied this same compromise to my marriage and lost miserably. Is it better to grab hold of “me” and stay true in light of the consequences? And yes, I am aware that many will say “those who truly love you will love you no matter what” but, respectfully, to those people I say that in 35 years I have not witnessed that love from any other than my parents, siblings, and children. For that I know I am lucky, to have six wonderful people to love me that way but should there not be others? Am I impressively difficult to love or utterly impossible to love? Is it better to suppress and/or destroy the “me” that will forever be on the outside looking in so that I can become a Stepford and blend? Would love built on a fake, lesser version of me be fulfilling? Is that even an option? Doutbful. No. Definitely not an option. So what then is the answer? I guess that’s why I wrote this. I do not have an answer though I know that something must change. Perhaps now that I have made the admission and connected all of the thoughts an answer will present itself. Look there, a little optimism…