The other day a memory popped into my head that I had long forgotten. Years ago, I was living in Boston and working at a health center. We were having our annual holiday party and my brother, his partner and I were all going together. The week prior to the party there had been a raffle and the grand prize was a night at the hotel where the party was being hosted. I had won the raffle!! So we went to check out my room before heading to the party. They got excited for me knowing I was going to have a suite to myself that night. Something I normally could not have afforded.
When we got on the elevator to head to the party, we ran into coworkers who had paid for a room that night. They learned that I had won the raffle and immediately asked, ” Wait, are you alone?” When I answered “Um yes…” They followed up with, “What a waste! You should give it to us!” (I will give you a moment here to gasp. Yes this is true and no this kind of thing is not uncommon when you’re single, many of you know what I’m talking about.) My loyal family immediately went off on these folks, challenging this idea that I didn’t have the “right” to the room because I was alone. They lovingly had my back.
Problem is? I didn’t have my own back. I actually internalized what those guys had said because deep down I had also started to wonder if I wasn’t enough (lovable, allowed to take up space etc) unless I had a partner. Now intellectually I knew they were wrong, and pretty jerky to say this. But they had tapped into something that was an unseen wound of mine, (that had been shaped by media, the patriarchy, and so many other aspects of my culture) and had rubbed salt all over it. In truth, my story and life were pretty freaking fabulous! I also was a hard working nursing who ABSOLUTELY deserved that room and all the goodies that came with it. But I had let their story of me, determine my worth.
This memory surfaced for me last week, after I heard a story (from author Jody Day) about a woman being shamelessly hit on by a man (making no progress) at a cocktail party. Exasperated and dejected, he took his rejection out on her and loudly proclaimed something to the effect that she would “end up alone as a crazy cat lady!!” to which she replied without skipping a beat, “If all goes to plan!” Let’s pause here to applaud the PERFECT response of that woman!
When we don’t subscribe to someone else’s archaic, misinformed, misogynist views, we can be like this fabulous woman who owned her story instead of internalizing his disdain and making it her own. She reminded me how fascinatingly individual we all are! I have no idea what your idea of an incredible life is! To assume that us wildly different human beings must all want the same thing is quite frankly boring. Additionally the idea that we only COUNT when we fit into a predetermined template, doesn’t leave much room for imagination or the reality of life.
One thing I’ve learned by putting my foot it in and being the recipient of misinformed comments, is that we don’t know each other’s stories. Life does not always go to plan. Loss, heartbreak and grief will surface throughout our life. Loss of physical things, loss of dreams of the future, loss of loved ones, and loss of the life you pictured. But loss/grief can also lead you down paths you might not have otherwise had the ability or courage to see.
I am learning that loss when acknowledged and felt, is a great connector of humans. We may experience different kinds of loss, but loss is loss and when we listen, instead of assume or judge, “they” can become “we.”
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.
Take care of YOU.