Funny that I came to this realization on Easter Sunday, of all days. It’s a rebirth-theme, so it’s pretty fitting.
Today, I am releasing myself from the expectations of others. Or rather, I’m releasing myself from my own expectations. Looking back on my life, I realize I’ve spent decades trying to do and say what I think everyone else thinks I should do and say. I’ve defined myself, and determined my worth based on how I feel I measure up to society’s standards of what qualifies as Success.
Spoiler Alert: I never quite measured up.
This has caused me a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, it’s cost me a lot of peace, and has provided another excuse to drown it all inside of a bottle.
I’m done with it.
Officially, completely, unapologetic-ally done.
I have spent my entire life trying to wear a mask of normalcy, trying to appear to the world- especially to those who love me and want to know I’m OK- as if I’m just like everybody else. The problem is, I’m not like everyone else. No one is, really. We’re all a product of our unique experiences, and those experiences have impacted us in different ways. I’m not alone in my uniqueness. The good news is, we’re all unique in this way.
It’s probably the one thing we all share in common: Our differences.
So the idea that I need to be like everyone else is ridiculous. It’s impossible, and that mindset is designed to fail. I failed to be like everyone else, and I took it really, really hard for a lot of years. The thing is, no one actually had those expectations of me. I just thought they did. I took my own definition of what a failure is, and projected that onto myself. Then I blamed everyone else for putting that on me, even though no one actually did.
I did it all on my own.
Effective immediately, I’m done apologizing for who I am.
A little of what I’m no longer apologizing for:
I don’t celebrate Easter because I think it’s a silly holiday and it simply doesn’t resonate with me.
That doesn’t mean it’s a silly holiday to everyone else, but I don’t have to apologize for the fact that I have no use for it, just as those who do celebrate owe me no explanation for doing so.
I used to do a half-assed attempt at celebrating, because I had decided that’s what people are supposed to do. Not this year, and not ever again. I’ll cook a nice meal because it’s a Sunday my husband happens to be off work, but there will be no chocolate bunnies, Easter egg hunts or Bible stories about the resurrection. I don’t feel like I’m robbing anyone of anything, because when I did do that stuff, it wasn’t authentic. I was doing it for everyone else, even as “everyone else” couldn’t have cared less what I chose to do with this particular day.
I don’t do family dinners.
This is a big one for me. I was taught that the very success of one’s family hinges on whether or not they eat together. Eating is a very informal affair in my house, and I actually like it that way. Sometimes I cook a meal for the family when I get off work, but people just eat when they’re ready to eat. There’s no dinner bell that rings at the appointed time, and we don’t set the table with place mats and silverware. Usually my dining room is unusable because it’s littered with junk from whatever art project I happen to be working on. We just make ourselves a plate when we feel like it, use paper towels as napkins, and it works for us.
It doesn’t mean we aren’t a close-knit family.
I have a 17 year old daughter who tells me about once a week that while she knows I don’t consider myself her friend, she still sees me as her very best friend. She tells me shit that I can’t imagine I’d have shared with anyone at her age, and I sometimes find myself thinking, “TMI! TMI!” She’s a deep-thinker, with a strong sense of justice. In addition to going to school and maintaining her grades, she has a part-time job. In fact, she’s been employed since the day she was old enough to be on someone’s payroll. She has bills, and a savings account that she manages herself. She likes having me around, and invites me to hang out at the mall, the gym, and tries her best to get me go with her for mani-pedis (another thing I non-apologetically have zero use for).
I have a 10 year old that likes to spend time with me- we do art projects together, build dollhouses, and geek out with our electronic devices. She tells me about the boys she has a crush on, and why she refuses to ask them out herself. She’s open-minded and comedian-funny. She’s different, and she embraces that about herself. She creates spreadsheets in Excel for fun, and recently created an inventory of everything we have in our house, categorized and color-coded, to boot. When I asked what her motivation was, she reminded me that I am always tinkering with some sort of spreadsheet or another. She says she wants to be like me. I tell her to aim higher.
I have a husband that is closer to me than any human being on the planet. We actually like each other. We share hobbies and dreams, we tease each other and even do the mundane, like grocery shopping together, because it’s fun for us. It’s not a first marriage for either of us, and while I used to think I needed to apologize for that, I’m no longer willing to. It’s because I did such a spectacular job at failing in my first marriage that I now know how to be successful in my second. The two of us have been to hell and back- some of the stories from “way back when” would cause people to cringe and wonder how in the world we made it from that place to marriage. But we did, and we’ve never looked back.
I don’t monitor what my kids watch on TV, I don’t censor my language, and I have no hard-fast rules on dating.
My 10 year old and I watch The Walking Dead together. That’s after binge-watching Lost. My 17 year old and I watch true crime. They both watch Family Guy and those idiot Kardashians. Yes, there’s a lot of cussing and adult material in the things they like. I don’t censor any of it. For what? I just make sure I’m there, and have a really good poker face for when they come and ask me embarrassing questions (like the time my oldest, at 10 years old came to me out of the blue and asked, “Mom, what’s a blow job?”).
I do draw the line where electronic devices and the internet are concerned: my kids are afforded zero privacy in their online activities, and again, I refuse to apologize for it. You want privacy? Write in a fucking diary. The internet is public, it can be dangerous, and I have their passwords and account information for all of it. God help either of them if they ever try some shadiness online.
I have no set age for when it’s OK to start dating, preferring instead to decide when I think they’re mature enough to handle it. I set basic ground rules based on what I think is appropriate, and trust that they will follow them. If they don’t, I will not shield them from the consequences, but you’d be amazed how often even little people make the right decisions on their own when given the opportunity to do so. When they screw up, that’s OK too. I’d rather have them making mistakes under my roof, while I can still stick a foot in their asses, than making major mistakes in the real world, when I can no longer look out for them.
I cuss. A lot. Some may say I do it constantly, and that’s probably true. My 10 year old is busy planning a party for her upcoming 11th birthday. She asked me to try not to cuss in front of her friends. I promised to try. The best I can do is not cuss at my kids. I don’t call them names, ever. They hear a lot of 4-letter words in passing, but I try really hard not to direct any of it their direction.
So as you can see, I’m not perfect. I don’t do things the “traditional” way, but I think for a long time, I lost sight of the end-goal. The goal is to have a tight-knit family unit, and to produce children who grow up to be responsible, happy, contributing members of society. That’s what we’ve managed to accomplish, even with my (sometimes bizarre) way of doing things.
What else matters, then?
I’m rambling, but here’s the bottom line:
There are a lot of things I have not done where my family dynamic is concerned. Yet I’ve realized that there are many, many more things I have done, and have done well.
So, I’m sorry, folks. I’m just not sorry anymore.