“It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.” ― Betty Friedan


The “Who am I?” question has invariably reared its head numerous times for me over the years. I know the day after a good drunk, it popped into my head most of the day. But I would push the question down further, shake it off, and move on. Actually stopping to define myself was too painful, shameful, and regretful.

The funny part is, after 44 years, I don’t know who I am. I know who I THOUGHT I wanted to be. I wanted to make great money, be successful, happy, full of life. I wanted to be a person others envied. (Ego, much??) But, I shuffled on haphazardly through life. And the shuffle was in anger (Why can’t you just be more motivated?), resentment (Why does SHE get to have that opportunity?), inadequacy (What would you do anyway? You couldn’t handle that.) The inner voice was so cruel, callous, and downright degrading. All the while, I seriously had no clue what I wanted. Simple things like what did I want to do (duh, drink), where did I want to go (somewhere comfortable around other drinkers so I can blend in), how did I feel (numb, isolated, disconnected)- all became demons to me. I literally had become a shell walking through the motions of life merely living to get the next drink. A large part of me simply couldn’t answer the most basic questions because I didn’t know. Funny coming from a woman who loathes looking stupid. And, I cannot honestly say I became anything.  I just sort of morphed. But what I do know is that my shell was definitely not what I had wanted to become: wishy-washy, unsure, ambiguous. I was at a crossroad. I had to figure out what and who I was. But, more importantly, I had to start digging deep to clean up the mess I had made.

 

So dig I did. What I have uncovered (so far, this is an ongoing process after all) is that part of this is a blessing. I practically have a clean slate. What I mean is that for so many years, I bumped along doing what everyone else wanted, felt what was “dictated”, thinking whatever was politically correct for that moment. What I actually wanted, who I really was were a mystery. So, I get a “do over.” Yes, I know, I am still responsible for my actions; I still have amends to make; I still have a ton of growing up to do. But living life on my terms is an amazing thing.

I find myself checking my gut when my husband asks me what I want to do. Sometimes, I take a while;  but that’s okay. I know I am really doing what I want and not bumping along because I am trying to make someone else happy.

I know this all sounds incredibly selfish. On some levels, it is. But  when I find  myself truly thinking about how I want things to be, feelings to have, thoughts to entertain, I am being in the present- something I haven’t engaged in for years, hell, decades.

Having the freedom to make choices with a clear head- not a hungover, guilty, resentful, angry self is truly liberating. And for that, I am grateful.

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