28. Labels

LIFE

I am still getting organized and settled back into my life and routine. John and I returned from three weeks on the East Coast visiting family this past Saturday.

 

As with all transitions, I have been having a difficult time assimilating back into my life. The thing I enjoyed most about our time back East was the time I spent alone—mentally, if not always physically. I left here feeling very anxious and fragile. At home I relaxed and softened, but as soon as we touched down in Oakland, I felt the familiar gripping return, as if it were an automatic response to being here. I realized while I was at home how much I value and need a certain amount of solitude in my life. I need a little each day, and I need more significant chunks periodically. I crave a retreat. A sacred place where I can go to escape, to slow down, to be still with myself. Finding my own space, creating a special place where I can retreat, this is going to be a priority.

 

I read an interesting article in an old issue of Oprah my mother had at her house. It was about letting go of labels. It hit me the right way at the right moment. I realized how much of my struggle and suffering comes from my attachment or aversion to labels. Success, failure, articulate, inarticulate, world-beater, dreamer, writer, talented, creative … I have cataloged a list of labels three pages long, and I continue to think of others. I realized with incredible clarity the tyranny labels have over my life.

 

One important label I contemplated this trip is that I am 32 and just me, no more, no less. I am no longer the young woman who everyone thought was special and full of potential. It is not just my parents’ approval I carry around; they moved to a small town when I was in college and I know all of their friends. Many are my “fans” from the summers I spent there before I married, and they stop by to see me whenever I’m home. I put a lot of pressure on myself, anxiety going all the way back to Mind over Media, to live up to everyone’s expectations—which I’m sure are only my perception and not real. I decided to let go. I even met my “replacement.” A new couple has moved to town and their college-age daughter is living at home with them. Everyone is raving about her; what a dynamo she is. When I met her, she reminded me of myself when I was her age. She is bubbly, gregarious and confident. I felt a pang of jealousy and then relief. I realized how much I clung to that image of the young girl I once was. It felt like that was the height of my personal success and to let go would mean I wasn’t special anymore. It’s almost like an addiction to praise, to someone else’s image of me. Now I am ready to create my own—realistic—image of myself.

 

WORK

John and I are still bringing in projects—no grand slams, but we’re making ends meet. This still feels fine. We are pitching web work together with a designer under the name BFD. When he first proposed the idea I freaked out and refused to participate. With a little distance and time, I realized that I wasn’t responding to the work, which I enjoy, but to the idea of starting another business. The emotional stakes of starting a business and succeeding or failing—again—for everyone to see struck a raw chord. Labels obviously play in here too. So I am participating fully, but it’s not my business. It may be semantics, but it feels better to me without the pressure. Other work news, my great uncle was absolutely thrilled with my editing job and his excitement made the whole project worthwhile.