I’ve been chatting with two of my best girls recently (you know them both – or if you don’t know them yet, you SHOULD! find them here: Victoria and EV) about some big, heavy, deep topics. One of us is working through an existential crisis and is asking the big questions like: What am I doing with my life? and What am I meant to do with my life? and How do I find happiness and fulfillment in my professional life?
Phew. Deep. I’m feeling overwhelmed just writing those questions! You see, there’s no one right answer to any of those questions, there is no one answer that works for everyone, and even if you find the right answer for you – it’s not going to be an easy fix. The three of us have a long road ahead as we are all on our own paths, making our own way in the world, trying to believe in our journeys, and also trying to get on with the mechanics of day-to-day life (which often get in the way of finding your path, owning your you, and finding your happiness!) BUT while the three of us are on our individual journeys, we are also on this one big journey together. We’ve discovered a lot about each other during our courtship (we’re now in full-blown long-term relationships with each other. We don’t have to play nice or hide anything anymore…we let it all hang out) and now we are able to work with each other to aid each other’s journey. It’s really quite amazing and powerful. But, I’m getting sappy. And also majorly digressing. Ok, focus, Annie. What I mean to say is that we are on a collective journey, and at this moment we are working on some of these big questions for the one of us who is feeling truly at a crossroads.
EV, being who she is, took some time and listed out the “gifts” she sees in both Victoria and me. I read the gifts she sees in Victoria and I was just like, “Yes. Spot on, EV. Way to call it.” Everything she said about Victoria’s gifts was true, in my mind. And then I got to the gifts she sees in me. And I was like, “Whoa. Hold up a second. THAT is a gift? Why has it been something I’ve felt I have had to overcome my whole life?”
For example, one of the gifts EV sees in me is, in her own words: “You know what you like and you know what you don’t like and you don’t feel bad about not doing the stuff you don’t like. Umm, what?! This is like, amazing and super rare…most people are plagued with guilt about not doing stuff they don’t like…Annie is just like, nope, I know myself and I don’t like that and I’m not doing it and that is that. This is a great lesson for others.”
I read this and thought, wow, what an interesting take on what I’ve seen as simple stubbornness my entire life. She’s correct in the way she describes it, absolutely. But living with this “gift” my whole life has often made me feel that I’m simply stubborn or difficult (and don’t get me wrong, I CAN be both of those things sometimes!) I’ve ended relationships because of things that would fall into this category, and that has made me think seriously that I just was not meant to have a meaningful relationship because there was something wrong with me. (That’s a bitter pill to swallow…but another post for another day.)
For example, my last long-term relationship before I met my husband seemed to be going along well. We lived together and got along and all of those important things. As with many relationships, there were definitely a lot of factors that came together to equal the end of the relationship, but I remember in vivid detail being in bed with him one evening and talking about the relationship problems we were having. (Sidenote: I don’t cook. I loathe cooking – everything about it…planning, chopping, stirring, cleaning…EVERYthing about cooking is a huge chore to me. Literally, there is not one thing I don’t loathe about it. And not just, “I wish I didn’t have to cook dinner tonight,” sigh of resignation…no. This is something that I actually get angry about and will be in a horrible mood if I have to do it!) So one of the issues that came up was that I never cooked…well, no…I RARELY cooked. I would cook if I HAD to (meaning, if he asked me to because he’d been doing it every night for a month or if I lost a bet or something) but it was never something I offered to do, nor was it anything I did without complaining. (For the record, I’m all for sharing chores and everything, and I’ll clean the damn toilets and do the freaking laundry and all of that other crap without (much) complaining. This is just something that I cannot make myself be ok with! I do not EXPECT anyone to do it for me, though. I just want to make it clear that I’m not a bitchy diva who expects to be waited on or something.)
Back to the story…we’re discussing our issues and he brought up my lack of cooking. And he said to me “I’m just saying that it would be nice to come home to someone who wanted to cook me dinner a few nights a week.”
I responded honestly, “I’m never going to want to cook you dinner. I’m sorry. I’m not that girl.”
The conversation went on and I don’t really remember it, nor is the rest of it relevant to this story. When I did finally make the break, one of the things I pointed out was that he wanted someone who would want to cook him dinner, and that’s not me, which translates to ‘I’m not the one for you, and you are not the one for me.’
The breakup was hard, I suffered. I second guessed. I went down the path of “I’ll never find anyone, there is something wrong with me…”
I’ve since learned that hating cooking is simply part of who I am. I cannot force myself to like it. My husband now is ok with it. I will make dinner once in a while, I have two or three dishes that I am comfortable with and can handle. And I don’t complain when I do it – because I don’t HAVE to do it, and he’s not EXPECTING me to do it. I do it because he does it 98% of the time and sometimes It’s nice to give him a night off.
Finding a partner who accepts this as part of me, and part of our relationship, taught me that it is OK that I feel this way and don’t want to do this specific thing. That there’s nothing wrong with me because of it. This was a HUGE part of my journey towards owning my me.
But this story, among others, came to mind when I read EV’s description of that “gift” of mine. Maybe it really is a gift…maybe it isn’t just another obstacle I have to navigate in my life. Maybe if I embrace it and accept it, I can save myself the anxiety of trying (unsuccessfully) to make myself want to do things that I “should.”
So, I challenge you, dear readers. I challenge you to identify characteristics in yourself that you perceive as obstacles or hindrances, and see if you can see them through a friend’s eye and describe them as gifts. Maybe you even ask a friend to identify the gifts they see in you, then take a look at them and see what kind of response you have to their descriptions of your gifts. Then go deeper. Think of specific examples of when the gift/obstacle has come up and how you’ve handled it. Were there instances where you handled it better than others? What happened? What have you learned about yourself because of it? Do you always try to “overcome” it, or are you starting to accept it?
It’s hard to do this! It’s hard to take an honest look at yourself and it’s even harder sometimes to acknowledge your gifts. But you have many gifts. Identify them. Accept them. Own them. Love them. And finally, Own Your You.