The Square Peg

You know that saying about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? I realized, a couple of weeks ago, that this saying is my life. I am the square peg. And my life is the proverbial round hole into which I will never fit.

Okay. I think I have ridden this particular metaphor (or is it an idiom? hmmmm.) just about as far as I can for this post. But you get the idea, right? This falls into line with my previous post about needing some changes for the new year. I feel like I don’t fit into my own life. I feel like this has been the case for a long time. Perhaps, this has been the case for my entire life, although saying it this way seems more than a little bit overly dramatic. (Oooooh! The Life Draaama. Hide your eyes!)

The feeling of “not fitting” should be pretty obvious, shouldn’t it? And yet, this only hit me recently, as I was thinking about my job and my company. I have a great job, y’all. My company recently reorganized, and my direct reporting boss changed. This was a surprise to me, which felt pretty icky in the moment and on the day that it happened. But the reality is that my new direct reporting supervisor is great. I like her a lot, and I think we will have a good working relationship. I am part of a great team; we all work closely together, and everyone is supportive. I work for a great company, which has so many amazing benefits, including unlimited paid time off and educational benefits. My work is pretty all-consuming because of the sheer volume. But it is not life-or-death sort of work. And the business teams I work with on a regular basis are, for the most part, all pretty fantastic. Honestly, this is the best place I have ever worked, and I know how super lucky I am to have this job. I value it, and I do feel lucky to have it.

And yet … I feel this almost overwhelming dread every evening as I head to bed — a combination of anxiety and a “fight or flight” feeling that comes from knowing I will have to log in for work again the next morning. It is super strong on Sunday nights, as my Beautiful Weekend swiftly comes to a close. Why is this? Why would I feel this way? Why would I have this constant feeling of sadness, dread, and … Ugh. I can’t find words to adequately explain it. It’s this feeling of being dragged away to do something I don’t want to do but that I can’t escape. The point is: I’ve always thought my issues were with the jobs I held. In the past, I haven’t had the greatest luck with finding awesome jobs. The fact that this happens to me when I have finally hit the mother lode of jobs makes me realize: It’s not the job. It’s me.

I was thinking about all of these things a couple of weeks ago, as my husband and I drove home from taking our daughter back to school in Michigan. The nice thing about long car rides is that they give you lots of time to think. I was thinking out loud, and my hubs was being a terrific sounding board. And it hit me: I have never made choices in my life. This probably shouldn’t have been such a huge revelation to me, but it felt like one. It felt like the biggest epiphany that ever “epiphanied”. If I had been in a cartoon, there would have been a giant lightbulb dinging to life over my head in this moment.

I grew up poor. At the time, I had no idea we were poor. Well, I say I had no idea. I guess it’s more accurate to say that I was not conscious of it. We had a roof over our heads. Our house was small but cozy and well maintained. We always had at least two cars: my Dad’s truck and a car for us to use when he was away for work. (My Dad worked away from home, so he was gone for two weeks at a time and, then, home for two weeks at a time.) Our cars were never new, and we drove them until the wheels literally fell off. My Dad’s truck was the same age as me, and I think he drove it until I was well into my mid- to late twenties. That’s the benefit of having a Dad who is a mechanic. We fixed our house ourselves. We fenced our property ourselves. Sometimes, we bartered for things we needed or wanted. For example, I traded babysitting services for flute lessons when I was in high school. And my Dad fixed ranch equipment for my uncle in trade for hay for our livestock. We always had food on the table. It wasn’t fancy, but my Mom knew how to make things stretch. I always had clothes. Sometimes they were handmade, but I never minded that. I felt the love that went into every stitch. But there was also tension in our house. There was always this balancing act around monthly expenses: this month, we have extra, so we can buy hamburger meat … this month, it’s Spam and peanut butter and jelly. I remember feeling this sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach every month when my dad would sit at the table, late at night, and balance the checkbook, cursing the entire time. There was always an underlying fear that things would change. Nothing felt stable or “safe”, even though I know my parents struggled to give that to us. I learned at an early age not to ask for things. I learned to make myself happy with whatever came my way. I learned to “make do”. The thing is, this didn’t translate into my head as “Oh, we’re poor.” It just was, you know? It was just the way things were. It was just the life I was born into. It was just the way I grew up.

The thing is, when you grow up poor — even if you don’t consciously realize it — you don’t plan things. You don’t have a life goal, other than to survive. Or, at the most, to not be poor. Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, but I have realized it was true for me. I never planned anything. I never dreamed about being anything or doing anything with my life. I wrote and escaped into my writing and books, but I had to keep all of this pretty well under wraps. Writing was a big joke in my family. It wasn’t worth anything. I hid a lot of myself all of the time for many, many years. Thinking about it, I would say I hid most of myself for most of my childhood and teenager years. I didn’t bother with dreams or goals; it was like I learned, at an early age, that these things were not for people like me.

As a result, I reacted. Always. There is a big difference between heading in a direction because you are reacting to something else in your life and heading in a direction because that’s where you want to be. I seized upon being a lawyer as a way to get out of poverty. I made choices and took directions in my life because I was moving away from something that seemed worse, not because I had a goal in mind and was heading toward something better. When I look back at my life choices, laid out before me on the table of my memory, I can see this so clearly. I wish like hell there had been someone in my life at the time to tell me the truth of this. To tell me I was only running away from things and not running toward anything. I was pretty much on my own. I was naive and trying to grab onto something that felt very elusive and just out of reach for me. I have so many regrets when I look back over the tapestry of my life. But, really, I did the best I could with what Life handed me. I made do with whatever was handed to me.

I need to change this. If I want something new and something different for myself and for my life, I have to get out of this reactive rut. I have to learn how to figure out my dreams and hopes. I have to learn how to plan and how to have goals for my life. I have to retrain my brain so that I can realize I deserve to have plans and dreams and goals, just like everyone else. I can’t do this for myself. I know this. If I could do it for myself, I would have already done it. Last week, I had an initial meeting with a life coach, and I think I am going to work with them in the coming months.

It’s … Well, it’s scary. I’m not going to lie. I am terrified of the thought of trying to start over at age 52. I am terrified of the thought of sitting down and trying to figure out who I am and what I want and what my dreams are at age 52. The life I have built up around myself may not fit, and it may not be what I want. But it’s here, and it’s what I have. It’s familiar, even if it’s not exactly “comfortable”. Can I even start over? Ugh. I don’t know. The life coach feels that I can. And that they can help me create a roadmap of goals and how to achieve them. It all feels so foreign to me at this point. But … well, I guess I have nothing to lose. I’m tired of feeling like I don’t fit, and I’m tired of reacting.

So … Will it be a success? Will it work at all? Will I continue to flounder around in my not-so-square life? I guess only time will tell. So, stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “The Square Peg

  1. There are so many things here that are similar to my life. I never made that connection between feeling as though I fit with making choices, but I can see how they are connected. I think the only reason I feel as settled as I do in my life is because the one thing I had that I really wanted was to be a mom and I got to do that. That and I made certain that after my divorce from my first husband that I’d never settle for less than what I felt was important. Most everything else is very much about reacting. The times I feel most dissatisfied with my life are in relation to the pieces that I haven’t really been able to choose but just are because of circumstances. Sometimes going with the flow is important, but so is steering the boat in the direction you want to go.

    • All true and wise words! For me, I think it’s a case of I never thought about what I wanted from or for my life. Ever. So … I guess it will be interesting to see if I can manage or figure out how to do that. In a way, it’s kind of like retraining my brain.

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