Maybe we all lose ourselves at some point on this journey called life.
Well, my time of losing me was recent and, well, very real. It was hard, depressing and worth talking about because at times I felt so alone. As though I was slowly losing my mind as well as what made me me.
Disclaimer. Going into what’s rarely discussed. Enter at your own risk.
I’m married. To a fabulous Frenchman. He’s oh là là devine and sweet and loving and patient and often a pain-in-my-you-know-what. (Said tongue-in-cheek.)
I’ve been fortunate enough to succeed at many things. And I’ve been fortunate to learn from those things I’ve failed.
Normally, in the past, what I perceived as failures just propelled me forward, pushed me to try harder, do better, and not accept failure because my life is blessed, is a blessing and I am grateful to be here, each day, living it.
This lesson was learned perhaps when I lost my fiance back in early 2000s. But that’s a story for another time. Over a mug of vino, I mean hot cocoa (hold the milk on mine)!
We have this idea of marriage and love that is so backwards from reality, if you think about it, and it tripped me up.
I mean, how often do you see what happens after the climatic kiss, the proposal on one knee or the walk down the aisle that takes place on the silver screen or even the one you can now hold in the palm of your hand?
We’ve been Disney-fied, which is fine as long as you understand it’s simply fantasy.
See, marriage, love, kids - that all takes work, commitment, communication, understand, loss of ego and compromise.
And I sucked at just about all of those things when I got married.
At first, I was happy. And for me, marriage wasn’t about a fairytale. In fact, we eloped. A simple event at my favorite restaurant lounge, overlooking the sandy beach and the bay with little mangrove islands in the distance. A location couples pay bookoo-bucks to get married at, often go into debt to accomplish, and we did it for free. (Well, the cost of a drink and then dinner with our two friends/witnesses.)
Now that didn’t go over so well with the old fan-dam-a-ly, eloping, but I did it for me.
Not anyone else.
Marry my guy.
And I kept it close for a while. Too long? Maybe, but that’s me. I’m a private person. (If you are LMAO right now as you re-read that last sentence just know I get the irony in it too.)
And it was my special thing, getting married to this man, and really had nothing to do with anyone else.
So writing these words is terrifying and to actually think about hitting publish is nauseating but I’m learning that if my experience, my words can help one person, than it’s so worth it.
And I wonder too if I’m not alone. If more people, women, feel this way and just don’t say because why let the honeymoon fade away?
Plus, we’re so used to INSTA-sharing our lives and seeing the glossy perfectness of others, that well, perhaps at times it’s hard not to compare.
And not to admit the truth.
That marriage can be hard. That marriage can suck. That it’s not all a Disney film...
Can I admit I’m not on INSTAGRAM yet and know nothing? I don’t even go on it (yet), so I’m not the one scrolling and comparing, but in 2019 it’s on my To Learn List and I certainly don’t want to waste my time thinking Ah, her life looks better than mine!
My other reason for sharing is kids. They are my heart and I see so many of them lost. And losing themselves at an earlier and earlier age.
Now, maybe like rebellion, it’s an archetypal pattern that’s a right of passage for most teens or early twenties.
And maybe that is where losing myself stems from - I never rebelled.
So, in my own strange way, this was my weird-ass rebellion against all the archetypal figures in my life.
I didn’t ask permission.
I didn’t invite.
I did me.
I did what made me happy. (At the time.)
Yet, my happy bubble was totally shattered by the very unexpected, angry even, reactions of those I loved most when I finally shared the news of my marriage.
And this is where the loss of me began.
Who am I?
Well, the better question is Who Am I Being?
I was always, first and foremost, being the daughter. The dutiful daughter. The daughter who asked permission first, even way beyond when she should have stopped that badass habit!
Permission based behavior is fine as long as we’re also taught balance, boundaries and the ability to think and act without permission when the situation warrants or hello, when you’re an adult.
Even as an adult, I realized later, I was still expected in some way to ask permission, it seemed, for my own life.
And the first “rebellion” of not being the daughter but being my own person, my own woman, really came when I made a decision to marry my now husband of - OMG - seven years.
Wow, eye opener there.
Why have I lived so much of my life feeling like I needed permission to all but breathe?!
Well, I could say it was how I was taught and I was a good-little-student.
Great read here about this topic. You can check out more of what’s problematic with the permission based educational model we use right here.
Or just keep reading as I’m a prime example.
Still feeling the need to ask for a parent’s approval of my life actions and choices well into my thirties.
And that need for permission carried into my marriage. Why? Because he stepped into a role previously only help by one man, my father.
My husband was now the most important person in my world.
Everything he said impacted me. Everything.
It didn’t matter that before him I was successful.
It didn’t matter that before getting married, I built, from scratch, a multiple 6-figure tutoring business, was known in my community because I helped children of all ages, and often was featured on stages across the United States in front of audiences of more than 1,000 awesome peeps at a time.
And could rock the house! Or a classroom...
I didn’t matter that I created an online presence with Education Lady and had released my first online course (The Center 4 Learning Tutoring Business In a Box) to massive success and super happy campers - who are still singing my praises OMG, six years later.
It didn’t matter that I was a published author, for goodness sakes, and known by one of the world’s top copywriters.
It didn’t matter that I had a house I’d picked, decorated, loved and made into a home, rental income to pay for said home and lived in a community and location I loved.
It didn’t matter that I was happy before him, that I had a full life prior to marrying him and that I didn’t need to get married but simply wanted to share my life with him.
Slowly, yet also subtly and with more and more speed, I started to lose myself in us and then in him.
It did matter that I had debts.
It did matter that I wasn’t great at communicating.
It did matter that we had cultural differences - oh là là.
It did matter that regular life stepped in real frigging fast and I had no real time to enjoy him and us.
Real life as in other people’s feeling and expectations and my reactions.
Real life as in the focus of our livelihood shifted.
Real life as in his teenage children.
Real life as in my reactions to all those things.
Slowly, piece by piece I shed layers of me like petals falling from a beautiful flower that’s seeing its last days.
Now that’s not melodramatic; that’s real.
The me I was when I married my Frenchman had the shelf life of a gorgeous blossom picked from the garden and lovingly placed in a vase, in the center of the room.
It had no other option but to slowly shrivel and die, as that’s what cut from the root blooms do.
Soon, I wasn’t the center of anything.
Soon, I slowed then stopped tutoring.
Soon, I found less and less to write about.
Soon, I uncovered excuses about why not to work on educationlady.com
Soon, I stopped work on my program and even when people wanted in, I shut them out.
Soon, I took on the role of homeschool parent to first one, and then the other of his children, both at age 15.
And that’s when I started to really lose my belief in me. My identity.
I was the Education Lady.
I was the go-to tutor around town.
I was the smiling, helpful, engaging redhead at events who loved being around people, sharing.
And had an encouraging word, always, for everyone.
I was a believer in myself.
And then I started to homeschool my husband’s son who’d been kicked out of every.single.school.ever and had a back-ass-ward reasoning of why.
Blame the teachers. Blame the school. Blame anyone but himself.
He was a challenge but at the time, I was up for it.
He was a handful at nearly 6 feet of teenage boy with the mentality of a pre-teen.
He was sweet and kind and sneaky and lazy and preferred to get out of doing instead of just getting something done.
He was around me 24/7 minus the eight hours I got to sleep and the few minutes here or there I could steal away, or the hour or two I was tutoring that he wasn’t in my classroom.
I looked at being his step-mom as a gift.
I looked at this opportunity, at first, as perhaps what I was meant to do with my life.
Maybe, I was meant to me a mom (okay, stepmom).
And I was excited, nervous, but asked and entrusted to teach this boy who didn’t even know to capitalize the first letter of a sentence and add a period at the end.
I was happy to dive into being his personal Education Lady and worked tirelessly at it, but man, it was a fight.
And exhausting. And stressful. For him. For me. For my husband. And for us.
We were a team, my husband and I, but at the same time, we were not always on the same page.
He got to learn to fly, as in a private plane, yet it was a battle to get him to do his Algebra.
To me rewards came, at times, before the work was done and the attitude was adjusted.
Was I militant? Sure. And became more so as I felt my other half was rewarding him.
To the point I didn’t like who I was being around this fifteen year old.
My relationship with my husband suffered because of this. I didn’t like who I was being around him either.
And did I mention my step-son was always there? Needy, clingy, mentally younger than his biological age and pampered, spoiled and never gave me a break. But also sweet and cuddly and huggable and kind.
Now I’m the kind of person who needs down time, alone time and relish it.
And not getting time for me to recharge was detrimental to my health. Mentally and physically.
So my health took a nosedive.
Which then snowballed and ended toward depression when, after a year and a half of 24/7 education to get this kid caught up school wise, encouraging better choices and behavior, a pilot’s license accomplished at 16 years old when he’d never passed a test in school in his life (hello!)...
I was told we’d failed…
And I made a choice to shrink, to hide, to stop being me.
The me I was born to be.
The me who IS Education Lady, loves kids, loves to write, gets off on helping others and really has something meaningful, possibly impactful, to say.
- TO BE CONTINUED -
This is deeply personal piece written to help shed light on a topic most don’t talk about over the water cooler because frankly it’s dark and ‘The Bachelor’ or ‘This Is Us’ is just so much more fun to chat up. If you found this essay impactful, wonderful, I am here to support you. And do share it with someone you know or several someones. You never know who’s silently struggling and feels like they too have lost themselves.
When you’re ready for Part 2 of What Losing Myself Looked Like, it’s available for you right here.
If you need a break, a moment, take it. And when ready, head over to the last part of my personal share.