Do you think when you keep referring to your best year as age 13, it might be time to do some work? That was exactly where I was a few years back. I found myself physically alone for the first time in years, but had really been dealing with loneliness for a lot longer than that. It is something I had felt even though I was part of a big family, from my early teens through college, from being a girlfriend to getting married and becoming a mom. It was pervasive. Sometimes, it would hit me upside the head so hard I was stunned, especially when I was in a relationship because it was so surprising that no one or no thing seemed to stave the pain for very long. So for years, I have looked back to 13 as my best year, not sure why, and kind of embarrassed that I was still lamenting that at the age of 50+. What was it about that age that I had lost?
Apres-divorce, days of sadness and grief turned to months. My friends, sisters, and son were sick of hearing me, I was sick of hearing me, and I wasn’t getting any relief. I needed to do some major excavating to make this feeling go away. One night I googled “when you just want to give up” and miraculously 10,000 answers appeared to talk me out of doing just that. (Since then, I have irreverently said that I google instead of pray, because I get answers faster.) I found a website that night called Marc and Angel Hack Life that provided quick, smart tips on altering my mindset and introduced me to the world of positive psychology and life coaching. I read Pema Chodron’s “When Things Falls Apart” and every book Cheri Huber has written, but especially “ Be the Person You Want to Find”, both lovely Buddhist women with practical, intelligent steps on reclaiming your joy. They inspired me to start a meditation practice to begin quieting the constant dialogue in my head. Sounds easy until you try to take that inner Zen on the road and actually have to interact, but that’s a story for another day.
Then, I decided to get back into therapy because although new routines were helping me inch forward, I still had that nagging “not good enough” feeling deep in my heart and was still just plain sad and lonely. To be honest, I couldn’t get past the idea that I had missed the boat and was too old now to ever find “the” person for me. So, when my very gifted counselor announced that I needed to reclaim my inner child, I said “Oh no, not her again! Did that. I’m cool with that kid.” Hadn’t I done enough dredging up of the past? I had long ago forgiven my parents and teachers for being human and just thought the answer was to move forward and let the past be. She said either go there or I had the wrong therapist, so back in I went. Turns out she was correct, I was not.
Slowly, she helped me recognize that I had let go of who I was as that child, and that I had acquired a pretty low opinion of my adult self. But it was more than that. I began to understand that the loneliness I have felt was because I had started looking for validation from the outside, to witness my life and assure me it was of value, when I actually needed to be doing that for myself. Along the way, I had allowed people’s judgements and directives of me sublimate who I was and had accepted those opinions as truth. In an effort to be loved, celebrated, and seen, I worked on becoming the person I thought would be more acceptable instead of honoring who I was.
When had I stopped just doing things and started over-analyzing my every move? You got it, 13. At first I thought it was a confidence thing, back then I really didn’t care who thought I was too this or too that, I just lived each day with purpose and joy. I was happy. Not to say there weren’t challenges, tears, and heartbreaks, but I loved them. I didn’t worry about fitting in and I didn’t judge what parts of me were good or bad. I didn't think about it, I just was and I took pride in all the different aspects of myself. I was authentic! Turns out, my inner child (who was actually a pretty decent kid), got obliterated in puberty and has been trying to claw her way back ever since. Although I am working hard on integrating myself back together, I unfortunately still think of both the child and the 13 year old me as separate people. Ok, still some work to do there.
This becoming your own best friend, honoring your inner child, and celebrating your uniqueness is really a bitch. The other voice (the incessant voice) in my head is always at the ready to point out my flaws and shortcomings and more than willing to forget any headway I may have made thus far. I work daily on getting her to pipe down and keep plugging along because occasionally I experience fleeting moments of pure bliss. Turns out, I am "the one" I have been longing for. Now, when I am physically, mentally, and spiritually alone ... I am good and I like the company I keep. I no longer look back and regret that my best year has passed, at the impossibly young age of 13. I think the best is yet to come.