We have to learn to be our own best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies. ~Roderick Thorp, Rainbow Drive
This weekend I headed off on a road trip to Tennessee with my boyfriend, which left me with a lot of time to think… and some seriously restless legs. His plan was for me to drive down with him to provide company (and alleviate some of the mileage) and then fly back in order to make it back to work on Monday. Adam’s parent’s were going to meet us at his sister’s house in order to drop off the family boat so Adam could haul it back home. He had been planning the trip for months and had even specifically picked out his new vehicle with towing the boat in mind. It was a big deal to him, and I wanted to be there to support him- especially when he specifically asked for me to come with him.
That being said, I was absolutely dreading it. I hate long car rides (my definition of a long car ride is anything longer than 45 minutes), driving in general, and even more: the idea of driving someone else’s car, which in this case happened to be twice the size of mine. In fact, if his truck were any larger, I would need a ladder (or perhaps a gentle boost) to get in. Further adding to my apprehension, Adam is incredibly quite at baseline and becomes increasingly silent in the car. The prospect of spending 18+ hrs in a car with a person who doesn’t speak did not exactly appeal to me.
My motivation 1) it was obviously important to him or he wouldn’t have offered to buy a plane ticket back so I could go and still make it back in time for work 2) I hadn’t met his sister or her family and was looking forward to seeing his parents again 3) I already had the time off from work and figured that spending silent time together in a truck for 3 days was better than not seeing him at all.
Knowing how much I was dreading going made me feel extremely guilty; because, in all honesty, I wanted to be enthusiastic. However, the fact that Adam had recently discussed picking up and moving to Philly and buying a house together had sent me reeling. It triggered my anxiety in a big way. In my head, I had started criticizing every aspect of our relationship- resulting in a laundry list of reasons why I wasn’t currently happy. That, in turn, made me feel guilty for not being happy and for (in my mind) making Adam unhappy. At the top of my list was feeling like we lacked communication, followed by feeling unimportant, unappreciated, and finally, that we weren’t on the same team.
Adam will openly admit that he is unsure of how to function in a relationship, and when it comes to me needing help, would prefer assigned tasks. He is more than willing to do whatever needs attending, but I get frustrated at having to ask when it is so blatantly obvious to me when the dishes need to be washed, the laundry needs to be done, or the floors need to be vacuumed. I get even more aggravated over things like the closet door always being left open with the laundry on the floor instead of in the hamper, the clutter of things dropped through out the house, the dresser drawers left open with clothes hanging out, and the dishes that can’t seem to find their way to the sink. It’s the sort of picking-up-after-him on a daily basis that makes me feel most of the things above. Most of all, though, I feel guilty for getting irritated in the first place (even if I don’t act on it or say anything). After all, it is his home too, and I want him to feel welcome.
Furthermore, I also feel guilty that I want someone who is naturally and self-sufficient to open up about things that bother him, let me know when he won’t be home, or tell me what’s going on in his life. I feel guilty that I may be impossible to please, that I respond to feeling injured and shut out by shutting down myself, and that when a kind, genuine man who loves me wants me to move with him to another state rather than be away from me I respond by pushing him away.
And the guilt is not just limited to my relationship. I feel guilty for not being able to do more for my parents, and for getting annoyed at work when I am overwhelmed or feel that I am being dumped on (even when I don’t express my frustration, and even more if I do). I feel guilty for not being a better parent to my dogs, even though they’d be considered spoiled by most standards. I feel guilty whenever I eat something unhealthy (frequently) or miss a day of working out. I felt guilty for thinking negative things about other people, even when they probably deserve it. I feel guilty for not being happier, more even keel, more fun, or self accepting. That’s right, I even criticize myself for being critical of myself- and of others; and three days in a car offers a lot of time to reflect about all of it. (One reason I run is it’s a break from picking myself apart; although, occasionally, on particularly tough days it creeps in there as well. Generally, running gives me a sense of accomplishment and helps clear my head.)
While anticipating a copious amount of further downtime on my journey home, I stepped into the airport bookshop and looked for something inspiring to read. Plane rides are one of the few times I grant myself the luxury of leisure reading, and recently I had enjoyed The Perfect Mile and Born to Run. I was hoping to find another book related to running; instead, I was drawn to a cover titled The Happiness Project and found the author was struggling with many of my own frustrations. It reminded me that feelings of self-criticism and guilt seem to be more common among women than we may be willing to recognize or admit. Perhaps we all could make a better effort to give ourselves and those around us more credit. For example, I am very quick to pick up on anything Adam or I are not doing well, but rarely acknowledge the instances when either of us does something thoughtful or exceptional. Again, running forces me to acknowledge at least some small accomplishments, and it’s something we can both enjoy together.
I always used to be someone who strived to be more happy and grateful. However, going through years of abuse left me at a point where I was just surviving, and barely surviving at times. My journey back to thriving has been exactly that- a journey, complete with detours and setbacks. As you’ve been reading, I still have days or even moments within days when my insecurities get the better of me, and I self sabotage and pick myself apart the way my abuser used to. However, at the end of the day, I can honestly say I am not only working toward becoming more like that person again, but making progress at it. Afterall, even a small step in the right direction is still growth.
In the meantime, I will continue to work on accepting that it’s not only okay, but normal not to be perfect, to question myself and my sanity when life is difficult, to feel overwhelmed at times, and to get irritated occasionally. I will also work on acknowledging that what I lack in other areas, I make up for in sheer determination.
The only difference between those who achieve their dreams and don’t is the unconquerable will to block out their inner critic and go far it without reservation.
As difficult as it was to share this personal information and open myself to criticism, I have a feeling that I am not alone is harboring these self criticisms and insecurities. Please comment and share your own experiences, or if you prefer email me at firstname.lastname@example.org