I wonder, can I do it? I am not sure I believe that I can. I don’t know that I’m acting as if I can.
Fragile and flighty are two terms that have been used by key folks in my life to describe me in my younger days. In fact, I’ve spent my adult life doing everything possible to exude strength and stability, because those two descriptors seem to chase me constantly, nipping at my heels with an eagerness to take over my psyche with impulsiveness and recklessly destructive behavior.
But these two words have not ever really described my internal state or my behavior. As a child and especially as a teen, my self and my actions were more about doing as well as possible in the things I considered important; while attending to family needs in a way that I had no business doing.
To be completely over-responsible and strong for everyone around me, and then called flighty and fragile by those who borrowed my strength, should have been an obvious giveaway. But I was young and didn’t know any different life. And now, in my mid-forties, I’m realizing how much of that “be strong and stable and take care of everyone” mentality I have lived out.
In the meantime, my inner landscape has not been a meadow filled with yellow flowers, or for that matter (and on the other hand) a borg cube. Instead it’s been a place of self-doubt. Can I be stable enough, responsible enough, can I be steady, can I avoid flitting from activity to activity or decision to decision on a whim?
Well, the result in my behavior has been that I move so slowly it surprises people. People in my life now, who didn’t know my younger life and didn’t hear me called those things, think of me as incredibly stable, unchangeable, steady, consistent. I’ve prided myself on my capacity to be both flexible and steady, adaptable and strong.
But I think I may just be running from old demons. I’ve been reluctant to say what I want in key situations in my life for fear of appearing impulsive and disorderly and disrespectful. I’ve held at bay key dreams, even in my mind, believing that I can’t be steady enough to make them happen. I’ve turned the courage of my coming out into a further exhibit in the gallery of flightiness, and I’ve told myself I don’t deserve any part of what I had before I came out.
It comes down to not regarding myself as lovable, and not putting myself in the position to receive, acknowledge, or accept what caring may come. Instead I’ve made myself a fortress and then wondered why my existence feels solitary even at times when I do not seek solitude.
I don’t know if letting down the castle gate, so to speak, of my true self, will bring love or attack. I don’t know if it will bring devastating indifference.
But the thing is, I can do stable. I can do steady. I can do strong. I can do the things that make for a solid personal and work and life reputation. I can do that. I wonder, can I do trust? Can I do vulnerable? Can I put myself in a position where I might be some color other than strong?
Most of my dreams depend on the answer being YES or at least PLEASE DO TRY. I’m afraid to even dream some of my dreams these days. But I am going to go with the PLEASE DO TRY option and see where it takes me. At the very least, perhaps I can turn the childhood messages on their ear and move into what I think of as flighty and fragile. Maybe I can let myself melt into those descriptors and dream even from inside them. Maybe what I have called flighty and fragile are behaviors that were so out of place for a teen that those who required that strength and care-taking from me had to call me flighty and fragile in order not to face the monstrousness of what they required of me. So maybe if I move toward flighty, fragile, impulsive, changeable – maybe if I move toward those words as I understand them in my life and experience, I’ll find that I’m OK under there. A little overworked, even, maybe.
I hope so – ’cause right now it’s achy and lonely underneath all this strength. And I’d like to at least give myself permission to daydream that I’m soft and vulnerable and capable of (deserving of) being cared for, as well as for caring.
It seems to me that most of this should be an internal thing, but I don’t know how to play it out except on the larger stage of my external life. We’ll see.