The Shield of Self Sufficiency
Yep, I totally use self sufficiency as a shield, or maybe a barrier but I like the alliteration of shield so I am going with that. I am super competent. Always have been and likely this will not change. I am super organized (some, like my ex-husband, might say to a fault), driven, passionate, controlling and generally project an air of "I have got this and you do not need to be concerned with what is going on over here!"
I suppose it could be just as likely that I was not super self sufficient. There have been lots of things that have happened in my life that could have sent me into a learned helplessness kind of being. But, for whatever reason, that didn't happen. I did not develop that maladaptive coping strategy, instead I worked really fucking hard to ensure that all of you knew that I was ok and handling shit. Which would all be well, except, I am not always ok and I do not always have it in hand.
For those of you who know me well, you have seen the cracks. You have seen the falter in my step. You have been to my house when I am sick and in bed and my hyper need to have everything perfect all the time has been driven into the ground by the physical limitations of fever, vomiting or malaise. But most of you, you don't see it because I won't let you. I project the "I am busy but have everything under control and you need not spend too much time looking over here because my life is just fine and you can look elsewhere for someone in any kind of need." And for the most part, this is true. I do have it under control and am fine. I do not want to project anything else...because that would also be misleading. I do generally "have it" and am most of the time "fine".
So what the fuck am I blathering on about then?
I am trying to get honest about the fact that my need to have tangential and random people out there believe that I am good has become a way of life for me. This need for there to always be a shield up rules my life and, in many ways, keeps me separated from really connecting. Because I do not have my shit together all the time, often, I am in total need but have this image of myself to protect, so I cannot let you in or tell you what is really going on...
I have an inner sanctum of women that know me. Know what is really going on with me: my mom, my therapist, my tribe (most of the the time) and that is really it. To everyone else in my life, I am acting, projecting and creating a show for you designed to get you to not look too closely so that you do not see the minute cracks in the facade.
This is not new information for me. I am not just now coming to own that I do this. I have known it for at least 24 years. I guess I am writing about it because I have more recently come to see this tendency, this trait of mine as being something that I am willing to let go of. I believe that for whatever fucked up reason, my childhood and adolescence required that I get some kind of barrier between me and you. I needed it...could not survive without it in fact. This was, in total, a pretty good thing. I ran around showing you how ok I was, you believed me and left me pretty much to my own devices and that was that. However, there have been many times in my life where I needed, I mean really fucking needed, someone on the outside to see that I was, in fact, not ok, I didn't have it all together, I was lost, scared, alone and fucking it up on the daily. The big reveal to me more recently has been that my shield became a barrier that forever separated me from you. My fundamental and pervasive need to be ok, prevented me from being real to you. I hid behind the shield and while I am sure many caught glimpses of my fracturing, my ability to shove that shield in your face was super effective in making most look the other way.
I am totally my own worst enemy which really just makes me human. Which is what the fucking shield is all about...I didn't want to be human - fragile, breakable, fallible. I want to be like Captain America and use that shield to ward off the forces of evil and stand tall in my heroic suit for all to see, my handy and trusted shield always at the ready to protect me and you from the world's perils. Problem was that the shield became a weapon against myself. It was all I had in the end because, unlike Captain America, I hold no real super powers and my shield does not deflect bullets, pain, hurt, or need. In my experience, my attempts to shield myself from everyday life struggles only enslaved me more. It was my unwillingness to set the shield down and say, "I need help. I am in pain. I am lost. I do not have it all together." That became the ultimate weapon. One more potent and powerful than anyone else could ever use against me...
Again, not new thoughts here. I have known that my need to be ok and have you believe it has been my life's work. What is new is this idea that I do not want to live that way anymore. I do not want to shield myself from my life and whatever peril that may entail. I want to live fully and be a shit show when I am, in fact, a shit show. I want you to see it, feel it and know that I need help. I want to be able to ask for help when I need it. I don't want to have to hide anymore.
However, my lifelong commitment to shielding is harder to give up than one might think. Turns out that I need to work pretty hard at NOT maintaining an image of self sufficiency. Turns out that my ego hates this and reconstructs this shield almost as quickly as I am willing to put it down. For me, there is no real solution except to keep trying. To allow more to see the holes, and worn spots in my super hero costume. Because, in truth, that is all it really ever was, a costume, designed to make you believe that I am someone different and better than I really am. And just for today, it is more important to be real than some dressed up fantasy version of myself that I can peddle to you. Because today, I know, that real super heroes tell the truth, even when it is ugly, unflattering and much more like the all the movies on the screen today...we all have super powers but none of us can fight the fight alone.