Don’t Mind Me

Don’t Mind Me

by Jacqueline Arend

There are moments where I can’t bear it. There is so much inside of me, so many different feelings, thoughts, ideas pulling and tugging at my being. Working through these moments are a blessing… so don’t mind me.

A friend asked me recently if I’ve always been conscious, “woke”, per se, before “woke” was a label. I know I have always been self aware, self conscious and believed that life was bigger than me. Sensitive beyond understanding as a young child, constantly adapting to behave in ways that are socially acceptable, misunderstood and labeled weird. This caused me to become very observant and inquisitive about life and the meaning of my own.

In my 20s… during the days when I was living more recklessly, when driving over bridges, I used to have visions of just driving off them. Imagining what the fear, thrill and shame all at once would feel like to make such a ridiculous choice and then the cause of effect, dropping below on oncoming traffic, the sound of the crash, the impact, the panic in others, the potential casualty beyond my own and it’s no longer a thought. Too much pain and suffering on the other end. Too much unnecessary destruction. I did not imagine this to take my own life… but to understand the experience of such a situation, if an accident was incited by someone else, I may have no control in the action of my car going off a bridge. The sudden realization that your car can be a very deadly weapon, intentional or unintentional is an intense feeling of fear. And so the responsibility to be safe when driving is reiterated and respected. I don’t imagine that scenario as often, yet, still become aware of the impact my vehicle can have on the lives around me… and so, I still become suddenly anxious about it. 

One day, about 5 years ago, I got in my car, pulled out of my complex and felt instantly anxious about taking a left turn onto a busy street, during rush hour. Without thinking, my imagination saw me in that car and began zooming out, the car on the road, the road on a grid, the grid on a map, the map on the globe and the globe in the solar system. For a split second I was made aware of how insignificant my car and I were in the bigger picture… yet still, like an ant, part of a working system…. belong in symbiosis. Then, it didn’t seem so daunting anymore. Much of life became less daunting. I am a part of the whole, like matter… and so, fluidity. Funny. I didn’t know that’s where I would end up… with fluidity, but a good enough place for the now of my life. 

At the ripe ole age of 41… the introspection is maddening. It’s… also beautiful. It’s true what they say about the mid life crisis. I hope everyone is lucky enough to have an awakening of mortality, inventory on quality of life and the drive toward positive growth. If you’re lucky, you have a chance, at this point, to live another amazing 40 years, what are you going to do with it? I have the good fortune to take my time with myself, be mindful and recondition. With that comes a new sense of self that is not clouded by requirements of traditional standards. i.e. dress codes… specified routines… responsibilities even. I don’t have kids, I’m not chained to a career. I’m self employed, work remotely and set my own hours. I don’t have any assets, just my husband, friendship, family, handful of jobs and a few cats.

In 2017, at 38, I had that moment. I took inventory on my quality of life. I made a point to try and begin living my life unapologetically, out loud, shine my light and turn up my volume. I had all these voices in my head about who I was and where I was going, but none of them were mine, so I had to find “my voice”. With this focus comes bold new behavior. One of the first mental choices I made was to extinguish the guilt for saying “no”. I said, “I will not do anything that gives me anxiety.” I have to dull the anxiety, I have to reprogram that feeling into something positive. This meant that I said “no” a lot and… confused my entire understanding of myself by becoming introverted. I was shocked by how easy it was for me to hide away, to avoid people, small talk… to say hello and goodbye and not engage any further. How easy, and how relieving it was. For my friends, it was difficult, some friendships still haven’t recovered and lots of that is buried under piles of dirt… I had to be transparent with many what I was doing so they knew that it wasn’t personal. This is about me and what I need. Saying “yes” led to anxiety, saying “no” led to guilt, guilt led to anxiety. 

So… the guilt. Much of that was dependent on me understanding that how I was operating was beyond full capacity… and full capacity is all of you and then some, so if you give everything to your work, to others… what happens to the stuff that you should be giving yourself, it overflows the cup, spills, shame, guilt and creates anxiety. I began living by the “love yourself first to love others” motto. I love community, I love people and supporting others… but if I don’t have that love for myself… am I truly living? The realization of how much I loved myself was disheartening. I was becoming aware that I was existing purely on the reflection from others. I did not truly have an identity beyond my life in the eyes of others. Well, I did, I was just afraid to make it important.

It’s true you attract things, well, I think we’re always attracting things. I had a boyfriend once who was reading the necronomicon and bad shit kept happening to him. I was like “duh, stop reading the necronomicon”. Anyway, I had a full cup, I am making room, because my cup was gross… it was once delicious, but it spoiled or I didn’t want that taste anymore. So I emptied my cup… and I’m being very picky about what I fill it back up with. I’ve carried a number of beverages in my hands as a server, I could carry up to five with two hands. I was amazing at it and still love to show off at parties. Strong hands and amazing balance. I loved to impress myself and others with the skills. Now… it’s like, one glass is nice, just enough for me. I’ll let others get their own drinks for a while. And, let’s leave room, ya know, no need to have to walk around all day worrying about spilling. And, let me try to attract a variety of things before I decide what to add to it. And funny enough, when you have room in your cup, things come round to fill it. When you vibrate high, things will attract to you. Once you’re comfortable saying “no”, find your own voice, it becomes much easier to choose quality for that cup, guilt free. A lot of this is also understanding your value. I never could sell myself, I did not believe in my value. I did not love myself.  

So, I look in the mirror everyday, I wear what I like to wear, I look how I want to look, and slowly, I began to love myself, more and more with each passing day and soon my body began to look right, my face, my smile, I began to see my own glow. I admitted to a friend a couple years ago that perhaps if I was born later and a youth in this age, maybe I’d be non-binary. I can’t claim that today, I’ve lived too long in society, where it was, to accept my biological womanhood and truly appreciate the gift of having been born a woman. However, my image of myself is very androgynous and my own ability to see gender within is incredibly fluid. I was this way as a young girl, where I rejected super feminine clothing and liked my hair short. I conformed, over time, especially because I wanted boyfriends and it was made clear to me that boys don’t like girls who look like boys. Eventually, I got boyfriends, a husband, and then…. in the advent of loving myself… here I am. Living my best androgynous life, trusting that in being myself inside and out, I will love myself more for being brave, authentic and bold… 

I know many woman, people, friends, like myself, getting the hair cuts they want, dressing how they want, turning up their volume and living out loud… These people are inspirations on others to do the same. You see people living their best life and you think, I want that. Slowly you start to make bold choices that fully represent your innermost self, your authentic self, that which you’ve hidden so that society will accept you. I’ve seen people around me bolder and braver… 

So perhaps I’m not alone with these things I’ve shared… and isn’t that meaningful in humanity, to be reminded that we are not alone. Yes, we have individual thought, but those thoughts resonate with others. We can relate to more than we imagine. After all, any which way you look at it… we ALL come from the same ilk, we are all a small spec on the planet, we are living in symbiosis. 

My life, at 37 was like a metaphorical car crash. A pile up, and I went off the bridge. Ultimately, we as people can do damage too, we are a weapon of the heart. That year and the events within, changed everything I knew my life to be. I had a passion for something, a purpose, and suddenly it was gone. I tried refocusing, I thought, oh, this has made it possible to put more into acting, writing, what the fudge is it? … turns out it was me. I had to come to terms that I wouldn’t find the answers right away. I had to become okay with just being. I’m grateful for that event in my life… the “car crash”, cause I wasn’t happy, I was no longer living my best life… I’m now grateful to be alive and to look everyday, every moment for the opportunity to feel alive, in all its pain and glory. I believe this is where the joy of humanity lives. I still have no clue what’s ahead, I don’t know my purpose, I don’t have a burning passion driving me. However, my energy, my heart, my mind, my all… is open to whatever magnificence this life has to offer. I do believe I still have a purpose waiting to be realized, a calling, something to do yet on this earth, whatever that thing is that has been eating at me my entire life, telling me there’s more for me. I don’t know how else to get there, other than love life more and be better than I was yesterday. Knowing that is enough is a wonderful place to be.

Don’t mind me, I’ll just be wandering this party with my half full cup, having a ball.

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