I was having a phone conversation with a younger cousin. We lost his mom a year ago, and things have been quiet between us. All of us are reeling and healing from her loss. Grieving deeply. Trying to make sense of a world without her in it.
My cousins and I grew up like siblings. Time spent at my grandfather’s farm north of Toronto was constant. And to my younger cousins, I think I am like an older sister. The oldest female of our bloodline is still here. I should be more present in their lives. I live in another country now. None of that feels right. Nor does being far from my best friend or sister.
I’ve lost so much since 2018. My marriage I didn’t lose…it was extricated. That was a positive, shrouded in four years of decline, insanity, chaos, irresponsibility, tantrums, infidelity, and more. God, I think back to 2017 actually when things started to go downhill. I know now things were always at the bottom of that hill and in the gutter. It just waited for me to open my eyes to the truth of that.
It changed me. Everything I sacrificed to move here. Time with my Aunts I couldn’t have, thanks to the pandemic and travel restrictions (and their health). Working beyond my capabilities to make “all the monies” and buy a house, indulge two sweet little boys and an undeserving spouse. The kids I regret nothing. They deserved all of it. He did not.
In the course of the conversation, he made a comment: “My friend is getting divorced a second time. He said you have no chance of financially recovering after a second divorce”. I said nothing. Gave him no indication of how much that comment hurt because I know him; there was no intended malice in it. But that was a javelin straight through my heart.
Acknowledging Loss and Understanding Why It Hurts
I suffered health crises that meant three years of a brush with my own mortality. Not kidding, IVs and ICUs. And the new burden of healthcare debt. I was debt free two months after moving here in 2014 and the world was my oyster.
Some days, I feel like roadkill on the highway of life. Dried by the sun, and flattened to a pancake, while people with forward momentum run over what remains of my optimism and existence. I bought my first house at the age of twenty-six. I’ve owned three. I rent an overpriced apartment in Austin. I feel “speshul”.
There is a big love and then there are soulmates. Last year, I lost a soulmate and best friend. I can’t even put words to how much my Zia Antonietta meant to me. She was my everything. My anchor and my joy, and my sense of who I was. My roots. My confidante. My laughter. So many things.
I thought I was going to die three years in a row. Fighting through it made me see things (and people) differently. It was a catharsis period where I realized that my time is not given. And I was unwilling to keep pouring water into a bucket with massive holes in the bottom. Or a marriage that made me miserable, and a spouse that (with me) was not capable of holding water.
Hindsight is 20/20 and it aches like a MF. What would have happened if I had never married him and moved to the States? Financially, I was ready to buy a condo about two years before I met my former spouse. If I had bought that condo, I’d have a mortgage of about $290k on a one-bedroom with a den slightly northeast of Toronto, worth about $800k.
[Insert slumpy shoulders].
Digging Out From Debt and Other Soul-Crushing Things
I hate debt. Hate it. I managed to graduate school with no debt, by working full-time. Yep, while my buddies were taking trips to Greece and drinking it up at the pub, I was working full-time hours in retail and every bit of overtime I could grab. I also worked in a car part manufacturing factory every summer. I graduated with $2500 on my Visa card.
So staying out of unsecured debt was part of my DNA from the beginning. My first divorce left me with some debt. I consolidated and paid it off, taking on a $579 per month payment. Doesn’t sound like much? That was back in 2009 when I was making $39,000 per year. It was a titanic payment to me. But it led to me starting freelancing, and the rest is history.
We celebrated that last payment in July of 2014 shortly after I moved to Texas. Now, like a game piece on a Monopoly board, I pulled the wrong cards from the deck. No, I’m not in jail (and never will be). But I have been set back to GO without the chance to buy any properties. And I keep rolling snake eyes, with painfully slow progression.
My Inner Critic Is Tearing Me Up Inside
My inner critic has never been louder. I consider myself smart. And therefore, I should be able to progress in the game called life, right? God knows I’ve worked so hard to get there. But here I am at 49, doing the epic life reset AGAIN.
And for that, I am going to be honest… I do hate my former. Not in a malicious way that hopes he fails. No. I trust God and karma to serve him the life lessons that will make him a better person. But I hate that it was such a waste of time and money. But most importantly? I hate the injuries I have to heal because of the chaos and toxic life he invited me into. And that, I will never forgive.
Including myself. The signs were there. I chose blind love and dove in. That can never (and will never) happen again. The absence of a pragmatic evaluation of a companion? And getting married. Neither outcome.
My inner critic is a dark shadow in my brain. She carries the longest razor-spiked bullwhip you have never seen, even in a scary movie. And since 2020, She has been flaying me relentlessly. I’ve been bleeding out from the spiritual aperture, trying to put bandaids on to stop it. To make it feel better.
Dating, drinking, eating, exploring, writing… but not really doing the self-care of allowing myself any downtime. I turned 49 in May and had a conversation with myself. As I do every year. Who am I? What do I want? How can I do this life thing better? What needs to change?
Self-Injury Doesn’t Always Leave Marks Other People Can See
That absence of downtime? Just figured it out. My productivity at work is insane (but earned me a big bonus). My productivity in my private life is insane (my couch had dust on it… just sayin’ from underuse). My anxiety and blood pressure are up because of inflation, the economy, my brief financial hit from being unemployed this year. Yadda yadda yadda…
I know the reasons. But what I didn’t know is that putting myself on an impossible treadmill of ridiculous expectations? That was a form of self-harm. I have been punishing myself. On and on, I have been denying myself basic self-care (including fun and relaxation) as an exercise in self-hate.
But do I actually hate myself? NO! I think (most days) that I am nice and smart, and funny. I think I have a lot of love in me. I am classy and have good intentions with everyone I meet. I am kind and generous. And beneath this weight I am carrying, there is a free-spirited adventurer who loves life, travel ,and learning new things.
My Inner Critic as an ‘Out of Control Karen’
Yes. I think I am “the sh*t” most days. I mean I used to. No, I do. Until it comes to the financial progress and trajectory aspect. Which seems to (right now in my head) outweigh any other possible measurables of my value as a human being.
[Inner Critic]: “Oh so smart. Renting an apartment at age 49? NAILED IT!
[Me]: “Bad things happened. I couldn’t see into the future. I did the best I could. I still am doing the best I can right now. I know I can reach my goals and get back on my feet, and buy a house again. I know I am capable”.
[Inner Critic]: “Good luck with that. You will never own a house again, loser.”
Can someone hand me some duct tape so I can make this internal KAREN STFU? No, of course not. I control her volume and influence. And it is an indication that I have a lot more work to do inside of me. Because she is out of control.
My friends HEAR my inner critic in our conversations. Not kidding. My inner critic is not only being a harmful negative influence on my own mood and mindset, it is worrying (and upsetting) those that love me. That’s definitely not okay with me. I’m causing them stress. Unacceptable.
Aware of Feeling the Symptoms of Burnout
I need to get my inner critic back in her lane. As soon as possible. Because I feel myself pulling back. Not from my boyfriend, best friend, or sister. But the part of me that thrives on social and fun? She’s in a cage right now. Working on freelance writing projects every evening and weekend that the boyfriend doesn’t drag her (gratefully) away.
A year ago I couldn’t wait to make new friends. Now, I couldn’t be bothered. After a few attempts and getting back cattiness, gossip, or general exclusion for not being down to be life support for a chronic dumpster fire? I’m burned out on people.
How bad is it in my head right now? Well, it’s something like this:
- I’m sad that I don’t get invited as much as I used to (haz great boyfriend, people make assumptions that I only want to spend time with him). 🙁 We’re allowed to have friends.
- When I do get invited, I don’t have the energy to go.
- If I do go, I feel withdrawn and like an outsider.
- I don’t want to share personally about myself in conversation (except with a sister, boyfriend, and best friend who sadly get novels about it). Sorry guys.
- I don’t fear rejection. I am pre-rejecting of friend opportunities. Because my few attempts were not successful. With two women who had a lot going on in their lives, to be sure, and their own transformational phases and difficulties. Still, I count that as a misfire.
- I feel a certain degree of intrusion into my boyfriend’s circle of friends. He has friends after moving here ten years ago. I don’t. I did try. I just don’t think I am their Jamba Juice. And that is okay. I’m currently apathetic about it. Neither wanting in nor lamenting that I do not welcome in. It’s all good. I’m happier doing my own thing right now.
- I decline invitations when they do come. That is more of an energy thing for me right now. I am burnt out. Completely. And need to work on recharging my batteries. The problem? People recharge my batteries… I am an extrovert! I’m aware of that conflict in methodology. Not enough energy to be socially active; feel lonely because I am in hermit mode, and creating that loneliness by proxy.
- I’m not sleeping well or eating a balanced diet. Sure, I am losing weight (yay!) but most days I can’t remember when I ate. I have no appetite. I’ve set an alarm on my phone to remind me to EAT SOMETHING! And a second reminder on my phone says “OTHER THAN TORTILLA CHIPS AND QUESO!”
As I continue to watch free YouTube videos on self-forgiveness, some pieces are drawing closer in this puzzle. I’ve always thought of self-forgiveness as this mushy, indulgent dianetics kind of bullsh*t. Who needs to really forgive themselves? Like, come on!
My eyes are open to the possibility this is all related. The adversities. The traumas. The grief and loss. The financial reset. The loss of equity isn’t financial. I’ve lost the sense of equity in myself, as I powered through all this crap. Like a warrior, sure. With no one intimately helping me (except Diane).
I’m carrying the blame for things I didn’t deserve, or ask to happen. About choices, I made that, at the time, were the only choices I had available. Bad things happened to me. I didn’t die. I kept moving through it all. But sustained some heavy hull damage.
Not that you would know from the outside. Let no balls drop. But inside where there was once a garden of daisies, blue water, and peace, it looks more like the moon. Quiet. A little cold. Knee deep in Coke Zero and nachos. And self-hate.
And the only one who can fix it is me. Come on Lori… you got this. Nothing keeps you down for long. You are a MF Phoenix… but let’s get through this with love, instead of flaying your gentle heart. That heart has had enough cruelty to last a lifetime. And she deserves forgiveness, love, and kindness. Without exception, going forward.
I’ve never been good at protecting myself from pain. Because this big heart is always “all in” when I bond with someone. To my own detriment. I’ve worked on protecting myself better. From everyone and everything but myself.
And I see now that I have bigger weapons of mass self-destruction than anyone on this planet. Time to put the knives down, and wrap me (for real) in the love, warmth, loyalty, kindness, and compassion I spend on everyone else. Except myself.