If you’ve been keeping up you may be starting to sense a theme here . . . But it’s true. I am scared. When we found out we were having twins, I expected and was actually quite content to have two boys. I’d already had one and he seemed to be turning out relatively okay. A girl just seemed like a minefield of potential mistakes.
Mostly, I was and am afraid she might turn out like me. That I will perpetuate my worst tendencies (the obsessive-compulsiveness, anxiety, depression, constant worrying, pessimisim, impulsiveness, impatience, lack of self-compassion, lack of self-control) by modeling them for her.
I understand mental illness is genetic and there may not be much I can do about that part of it, but I am determined to show her how to protect and care for herself in ways I have only recently come to understand.
Looking back over the past 36 years, on the big list of do nots, I would include:
- Numbing – whether with food, no food, drugs, alcohol, sex, work, exercise, whatever. Do not use these things to compulsively and chronically avoid feeling whatever it is you need to be feeling at a given time in your life. Let the hurt, the fear, the anxiety, the sadness, come, if it needs to, and then let it go. Don’t wallow but don’t run away.
- No boy will ever love you enough to make you love yourself. Only you can do that. The boy is beside the point.
- Try your best not to compare yourself to those around you. You don’t know their lives and they don’t know yours. Besides, it’s not a competition. No one is handing out grades at the end and there’s no curve to beat.
- Bows before bros. Seriously though, think long and hard before pursuing any type of relationship with a boy that you suspect will cost you an important female friendship. Rarely, if ever, is the boy worth it and truly good members of the sisterhood are hard to find and even harder to keep.
- Don’t hold it in. If you are unhappy, say so. At work, at home, in a friendship, in your marriage. Saying it doesn’t make it real. It is real. And if you don’t talk about it, it will find another way out and that way will no doubt be more insidious and threatening to your relationship than even the most difficult conversation.
On the big list of dos, I would include:
- Cultivate friendships with like-minded women. Nurture those friendships and they will sustain you.
- Learn to be comfortable alone. Whether for five minutes or five years. You dont have to mediate or take up yoga (although both are helpful) but you should learn to be still and breathe. It really does help.
- Talk to a professional. Once in your life or weekly, whatever makes sense for you. But talk to someone who is not otherwise invested in your life, who is there to listen to your side and help you figure out your shit in the way best for you.
- Get your heart broken, multiple times even. It will hurt like hell but you will learn so much, including how to recognize the truly right person for you when he comes along.
- Be adventurous. Try new things. Travel. Live alone. Live with roommates. Sing in front of people. And dance too. Work at different jobs. Live in different cities, states, countries. Try out different ways of being in the world. And remember, you can always change your mind.
- Be kind but not subservient. Being a woman, daughter, wife, and/or mother does not mean being a martyr. You are not here to be the stewardess in other people’s lives (thank you, Anne Lamott)
I am sure there is infinitely more wisdom that I owe you as your mother, but this will have to do for start. Know that I love you, always and no matter what; please surround yourself with people who feel the same.