This piece absolutely hit home for me on so many levels. So relatable!
I was 44 when I first identified the role I’d been playing my entire life. Or, that I even realized I was playing a role. We all are. You know this, right? The role you are assigned depends on so many variables outside of your control. The country you live in, the schools you attend, the religion you practice, your gender, the television you watch…all contribute to determining what your role is. Right down to the family you are born in to… it all conditions you to play the role you are assigned. It starts from day one, so you don’t even realize it’s not your decision. It just is.
I think my role was mostly determined by the family I was raised in. And my gender. The role was of a quiet, submissive, obedient “seen and not heard” good girl. It’s a pretty easy role to play. All I had to do was keep my mouth shut for most of my days and I was all set. No questioning anything, no arguing…just keep quiet, don’t make waves and all will be well. If someone tells you to do something, you do it. Simple. That’s all I knew. Not to brag, but I was pretty damn good at it. I mean, even through abandonment, emotional neglect, abuse…I stuck to that role, dammit! I wasn’t happy, I struggled, and I certainly didn’t feel like a “good girl”…but I played that role. I think the struggle was because all of those things happened to me, and made me realize I was actually a bad girl. Playing the role became even more important. Maybe it would keep people from finding out just how bad I really was.
I became an adult, moved out and continued to struggle. BUT, when you can play the role like I can, no one really sees it. Not even me. I repeated cycles of bad relationships, tolerating bad behavior, never believing in myself, because hey…what else was there? Nothing I had ever known. When my husband eventually found out, he told me I should win the Academy Award. I’m THAT good!!!
At least I was good at something.
Fast forward to age 44: I went to therapy. Hallelujah! I peeled off a few layers and realized I had been typecast in a very bad, bad role. I kept playing the same shitty character in the same shitty movie, over and over and over again. The movie was so shitty, no one ever watched it. It went straight to Blue Ray. The plot was kind of like Cinderella…minus her getting to go to the ball. Can you imagine Cinderella ending with her just staying at home, being bullied and unloved? Who wants to watch a movie with a horrible plot that never ends? Not me. Not any longer, at least. I couldn’t even remember my lines anymore.
Brene Brown says vulnerability is the birthplace of courage. She didn’t study shame and vulnerability for 20 years for nothing, you know. So, here’s what I did: I dove into the vulnerability swamp, which was full of my shame, of all that “badness”, and I became brave for the very first time in my life. That’s right…I stepped out of that role.
The thing about stepping out of character in a movie is, the directors get PISSED. It throws off the entire equilibrium of the set. No one knows what to do when the actor ad libs. It becomes awkward and uncomfortable and all the directors want to do is get the actor back in that role so no one can see they aren’t in control of their film. Except it’s not their film. It’s life. And they can’t control my life any more than I can control theirs. And seriously, no one gives a SHIT about this shitty movie…no one is even WATCHING!
I’ll give you one guess as to what happened next. Yep. I got kicked off the set. Was told I’d never work in town again. My new role was an exaggerated version of my childhood role… scapegoat. All of the production problems were now being blamed on me. Even the ones that had nothing to do with me. I guess it’s just easier that way. Kinda stinks, because I loved that crew. It was like the Truman show…been with some of them since day one. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not enough fame or money in the world to get me to play that sad character again. It makes me sad that they won’t let me play a different role, one that’s more suited for me. I don’t need to play a princess that gets to go to the ball and meet her Prince Charming. I’d settle for them just letting me be the authentic me, and loving me anyway. Not sure they know what that means, though.
(This updated scapegoat role sucks. If you’re not careful, it might drive you crazy. Or literally crack your heart into pieces)
Anyway, life is not a fairy tale. So I’m moving on, trying to manage my own production company. It’s not too complicated. There’s only one actor to manage. And no script. However, the entire world is my audience…
This post was written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Social Consciousness Saturday
Much of our lives is undoing the damage we brought forth from our childhood into the adult version of us. For years we reacted from an uncomfortable emotional space, unconsciously inhabited, but seemingly normal. Angry, sad, desperate children trapped in a much taller and larger body. But is it possible we could picture how an adult would respond instead of opting for a knee jerk pitch from our past? Might the outcome be different? Even if we can’t always do the best thing in every situation, isn’t it worthy of a try? It would seem to be a good enough reason to make that conscious effort of saying to oneself, “What would a grown-up do?” precisely because continuing to repeat old patterns of behavior gets us nowhere.
As we’re growing up, we continually shape and define what’s important to us. For me, this was always an easy task as I continually challenged and questioned the world around me. Consistently prioritizing and seeking fairness may be what gave me a strong drive for justice.
I recently came across something I’d written a long time ago. I may have been in my thirties at the time. Not quite sure what prompted the thoughts initially. Even though written over twenty years ago, the original statements remain the same. These are the relatively few things I think I need to stay a calm individual with others. To stay sane, well, that’s another story for another day.
DO what you say. It speaks volumes of you as a person that I can depend on you.
Smile when I smile at you. It does us both good. When you are having a bad day, know that my smiles mean I care about you, and it’s meant to lift you.
Don’t be a liar – about ANYTHING! I appreciate honesty, above all else. If you are honest, we will always find a way through together.
Recognize that every individual on this planet is a human being, including yourself and deserves respect just for that fact alone, regardless of their race, religion, color, gender, sexual preference, political beliefs, or the country where they originated. Maybe then we could look forward to some of that World Peace that beauty contestants speak of during the interview segment.
If you can help someone when they need it – DO IT! Giving to someone in his or her hour of defeat is the best gift you can give, every time.
Read, learn, listen. Take every opportunity to educate yourself about your world. You are a human being who lives on this planet and in this society. Your understanding of how it works and runs contributes to it running better, for all of us.
Please make choices in your life that benefit you, not hurt you. ALL of us deserve a good experience on this earth. I care about you.
If you make a mistake or have done something wrong that causes hurt – big or small – take ownership of it, feel genuine remorse and say “I’m Sorry” like you’ll never do it again. Forgiveness feels right for both of us.
Looking at these bullet points now, it feels appropriate to expect these things of others for my well-being. But when I look at my relationships, in general, it seems to challenge people to give these most basic elements. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to create harmony over distress.
Then I look at it from the flip-side – am I one hundred percent doing these things for other individuals? And I have to say, no honestly. There are a couple of statements on this list that I’ve periodically had a hard time doing. I’ll leave it to you to decide where you think I’ve fallen. I will say that when I stumble, it’s because of this human ego.
All I ask is that people do their best and maybe remember to keep their ego in check. And I’ll match their efforts. At this stage in my life, I’m more determined than ever to be that person I expect others to be. Something I would never have conceived of doing in my youth.