This is a guest post from Claire. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
For a long time, Girl Interrupted was my favorite movie. A movie about girls, “out of control” by societal standards, locked away, no longer dangerous to the world. Since I was a teenager, I’ve been one of these girls. The scandalous one in high school who lost my virginity to a married man, the one who stayed out late in questionable places, the one who desired the darker things, those things that made innocence a distant memory. Reactive, emotional, irrational, dangerous to all the things that are “right” in the world. I belonged with these girls in the movie.
I’m 32 now. Married, a stay at home mom to two kids, a good husband who works hard to support our family. My life was never supposed to be this structured.
At 21 I imagined sipping tea on the deck of an apartment in Columbia, SC while I attended grad school (I didn’t). I imagined traveling the world, leaving a trail of loves and lovers, drinking in the sights, smells, tastes, and cultures that didn’t belong to me. I imagined roof top parties in NYC after a long night of clubbing. I imagined a part-time partner who would accompany me when I wanted. I imagined climbing tall waterfalls, camping far from civilization and burning fires late into the night with friends. That girl still lives in me. I imagined being a long way from who I am now.
And to be honest, even while I dreamed those things, I was still unhappy. Just as unhappy as I am in this cookie cutter structured life that affords me about as much opportunity to explore myself as, well … it doesn’t. I always want more because I know MORE exists.
So here I am, settled with a husband who claims to adore me, yet belittles me for my unhappiness. A husband who determines the happiness of our marriage based on how much sex we have (or don’t have in reality). A husband who has been gone from home most of our marriage, for his responsibilities to work, church, the military, and whoever else needs him. The only person he can say no to is me.
With all this “free time”, I get to take care of the children. High need, spirited, busy children. Children I never wanted until I became Mormon and married my husband. Even now, if I could go back in time, there would be no children. I love them with every depth of my being, but I loved myself without them too. I am a distant mom, attentive to their needs, loving to their souls, but not with the fervor and desire of most women I know. Many days I am resentful. And I am shamed into admitting such things aloud.
I am more than this. More than a machine to produce babies. More than a wife who tends house. More than a wife who does laundry. More than a woman who attempts to cook meals (and admittedly cooking is one of the main ways I show love) that my husband may or may not eat depending on his commitment to his diet whichever day of the week, which often ends up in fights. More than a friend who is committed to relationships, but can’t find others who are equally committed. More than a woman trapped in the secrets I hide from my family, the self-medication, always afraid of being exposed. More than the façade of the distant, yet dedicated Mormon who teaches Sunday School twice a month. More than a daughter subject to a constant barrage of criticisms and conditional love from parents who have told me I am an embarrassment to the family. More than a woman gripped in violent hormonal swings as a result of PMDD. More than this. This was never meant to be my life.
I am meant to soar alone. I am meant to set fire to the ground around me, reveling in the flame and dancing in the shadows. I am meant to dread my hair, tattoo my body, pierce my flesh–even if only to feel the pain. I am meant to wander through this life, stopping where I find contentment, and running from discomfort. I am meant to smoke a whole fucking pack of cigarettes if I want to. I am meant to share a cheap bottle of wine on the banks of the river with a stranger. I’m meant to re-explore my past, relive and correct old mistakes. I’m meant to take a lover when my mind and body need something new and exciting. I’m meant to walk away when I need to, be free to be silent when I need to, sing, laugh, speak with fervor when I want to.
I am meant for more than what I have become.
However, there is no room in my world for any of these things, so I sit in silence and let the storm rage within. Silent. Afraid to offend. Threatened with being left alone for wanting to be me.
When I drift into sleep at night, I often yearn to dream about the things I want to be. I beg to meet with old lovers, even if only in the realm of dreams. I want to fly over an island. I want to bathe in waterfalls. I want to get lost in an expansive forest, sleeping on moss beds and wading in cold streams. I want to passionately fuck a stranger in front of a crowd. I want to be exactly who I am not during my waking hours–all over the place.
Life is about sacrificing ourselves for the implied benefit of others even though I know my discontent leads to discontent in those around me. Yet to be myself, would also offend. It’s an confusing, helpless place to be. There will be a day when I can be myself again, but I must sacrifice that person to be who I am now.
We talk about freedom, liberty, and seeking happiness, but unless it is within the confines of what I am told those things mean, the inner me must remain just that. Inside.
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