They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Or really irritates the hell out of you. Or totally fucks you up. Something like that. Go listen to that “Boy named Sue” song by Johnny Cash and let me know which it is, because I honestly can’t tell. Whatever the case, experience makes us who we are and we couldn’t be where we are now if we hadn’t have gone through whatever came before. I was watching my new favorite philosophical font of profound wisdom, aka Scrubs, the other day and Carla was telling Turk that she didn’t regret anything that had come before, because it all ultimately led her to him. Wherever it is we’re headed, we have to get there somehow.
So, I was listening to Johnny Cash singing about being named Sue and how it made him strong and independent (or possibly bitter, alone, and mean, depending on your point of view), and I was thinking about my own fucked-up childhood, during which I moved approximately every three minutes. Just when I would start to finally relax, it was time to uproot everything I knew again and head off somewhere unknown and start all over. People move all the time; kids survive. And I did survive just fine, but moving 16+ times by the time one graduates from high school is possibly a little excessive.
It didn’t help that I was really shy. I have finally stopped classifying myself as a shy person and now, only in the last few years, think of myself as formerly shy. It’s hard self-identification to give up when it’s so ingrained in you for so long. So, here I was, this horribly shy, awkward, insecure person, too scared to talk for fear everyone would think I was an idiot and make fun of me, and I had to face a new town, a new school, and entirely new group of kids who had known each other for years, already had their cliques and friends. And I had to do this over and over again. And when I would finally, finally, work through my fear and anxiety and fight my way to making friends and figuring things out, and was just feeling comfortable and settling in to this whole new life, it was time to move again. When I think back to my childhood, I remember a lot of of first day terror and a lot of crying in back seats of cars, driving away.
So, that sucked. But like everything else in life, all of that did in fact make me who I am. For one thing, I guess I’m over the shy thing. I can walk right into a room full of strangers and talk to anyone. There’s nothing to fear in talking to people. They’re just people. It’s just talking. What’s the worst that can happen? That they don’t like me? I don’t even know them, so who cares.
And change doesn’t bother me a bit either. Moving? Changing jobs? Sure! When I get reviews at work, I’m always told about how adaptable and flexible I am. I know that it’s meant to be a compliment, but being adaptable and flexible is the only way I know to be.
Change is like an old friend to me. But instability and lack of control are old enemies. I don’t mind moving on to something else, I just want to know what that something else is. Lack of control is especially difficult. It’s odd, isn’t it? Going through lots of change made me not mind change at all. Not having control made me crave it.
I guess I also have trouble getting too comfortable. It’s hard for me to think of anything as permanent, to count on anything, to believe that anything’s stable. I think of every job I have as temporary, not matter how passionately I throw myself into it. And it’s hard for me to lean on anyone, to rely on anything other than myself. I always fear that once I get too comfortable, believe anything or anyone will be around tomorrow, it will all be taken away in a moment. Better not to count on anything than to be horribly disappointed and let down.
I mostly don’t let anyone get too close, don’t open up to people, and maybe that’s also because of all those times when I finally would make friends, only to move across the country and never see them again. Acquaintances? Sure. Real friends? Too risky.
I pride myself on handling stress well, on being strong, on getting through anything. That also may be in part because I felt so weak when I was growing up. As a kid, you always dream about how things will be different when you’re all grown up. I dreamt about having strength and being in control of my life.
The truth, of course, is that we can’t always be strong, we can’t always be in control. Sometimes life is in limbo and what we really need most is patience. And a little faith and trust. And maybe even a little bit of letting yourself lean on someone else and allowing them to be there for you. And believing that it’s OK to relax and trust that they’ll still be there for you tomorrow. To take the risk.
So, I sit here facing life in flux. And every inch of me is fighting it. This is the space between the changes, and there’s little control here. I know I have to let it all go, to let life be in flux, to live day to day and not worry so much about this space in between. Lack of control may never be an old friend to me, but maybe it can at least be a comfortable acquaintance. I’m working on it. With a little help and a little faith.