There are few moments in life, pivotal moments that we experience that change the trajectory of everything. It’s hard not to revisit these moments from time to time, even though we should always live in the present moment, knowing full well that we can’t change the past.
But the question still echoes deep inside of me, “What if I made different choices? What if I followed what my gut told me to do instead of my head? What if I hadn’t betrayed myself? What if I had trusted myself? What if I followed my heart?”
I’ve retraced the steps back to my earliest betrayals, all the way back to childhood. I remember it vividly, from the very first moment I stepped onto a scale and allowed a number to determine my worthiness. I bought into the lies that this is what women do: we diet, we restrict, we contort, we give our power away, we trust others more than ourselves. You have to remember I grew up in the 80s when fad diets were all the rage, and the word supermodel was first coined. The name Cindy Crawford comes to mind, but that’s a whole other story.
My mom was the first to buy into the notion of dieting, of needing to control what we long lost faith in, our inner knowing. I was her little sidekick. Whatever mom did, I did too. If she restricted, then so did I. If she went “off” her diet, then I followed suit. This had become normal. I never stopped to question why. I wasn’t even an overweight kid. Yet what I was too young to realize then was that this was my first offense in unknowing, giving my self-worth away.
Back to the scale, to say it owned me is an understatement. Little did I know that the scale and I would have a love-hate relationship that would last almost thirty years. There was more hate than there was love. Depending on what the number was that morning determined my mood.
It wasn’t true love. It was a relationship that taught me what conditional love was, and to this day, I still struggle. I would love myself if and when I reached this magical number, but until then, I wasn’t worthy. “Where did this number even come from?” I questioned years later. Mostly from the latest magazines or in comparing myself to other girls around me.
Conditional love would be the foundation I built my house upon; it’s quicksand. “Maybe if I lose those 10 pounds I will be happy.” It’s funny how, after losing those last 10 pounds, I was never any happier than I was when I was 10 pounds heavier, yet I still needed the diet. A little codependent? I would venture to say so, mainly because we had such a needy relationship. What would life have looked like without it? I can only wonder.
The stronghold grip that this relationship had on me infiltrated into many more moments of betrayal. Betrayal can be so insidious. It happens in the many incremental ways we neglect our truth in order to play it safe, to do what’s familiar. I wasn’t ready to let go of needing to be controlled. The thought was too scary and uncertain, yet what my soul craved most was freedom. It would be decades before I would open the gates towards freedom I never knew possible.
Betrayal begets more betrayal.
The worst type of betrayal isn’t what somebody does to you; it’s the many ways you’ve turned your back on your spirit because you believed you had no choice, which leads me to my second pivotal offense. I’ve always known since I was a little girl that I wanted to help people. I decided early on that I wanted to be a Psychologist. I loved helping people with their problems and offering solutions and an empathetic ear. I felt deeply for people and had such a strong desire to help, that is until I entered the room of a college Psychology class that would change everything.
I cannot remember the name of my Psyche professor at the time, but he left me with quite an impression. I have to paraphrase what he said that day because, after his opening lecture, I wiped the slate clean. His message was… Most of you will end up changing majors. This field is not for everyone. It takes a particular person to hear the difficult struggles that most humans go through and come home and live an ordinary life with your family. So you need to think long and hard if this is right for you.
That may not have been his exact words, but his message was loud and clear. Now mind you, I was about 19, listening to this message from someone that had a considerable amount of experience, and I digested his lecture as truth. Need I say it again, the foundation that I had been constructing up until this point was built on quicksand, and if the wind blew hard enough on any given day, that would be the end of it. And so it was, the end of it, the end of a dream I once had as a young girl.
I struggled. My roots were not strong enough to withstand the moments where life tests just how bad you really want something. I decided to play it safe, and eventually graduated with a business degree.
Playing it safe and allowing my head to lead the way instead of my heart brings me to the last pivotal moment, and that was giving my power away to “the checklist.” What happens when we lose trust in ourselves and listen to everyone else around us? We rely on others to tell us how to live and what’s right for us.
If life were a race to the finish line, this would be the point where the scale had passed the torch to the checklist. “Here you go again, Marisa. Giving your power away to everything on the outside, meanwhile neglecting your inner voice,” said my spirit. If only I had listened to my heart. It would be years before that would happen.
We live by this construct of to-dos, this empty list that tells us when we achieve these items, happiness will follow, and we never stop to ask where these ideals even come from. There I was allowing a list to dictate my happiness, unaware that this list was never my own.
One by one, I checked everything off the list. Get a college degree: check. Marry an acceptable man: check. Buy a home: check. Have a family: check. Travel around the world: check. Start investing: check. Divorce: check…wait that wasn’t on my list! You know what else wasn’t on my list?…listening to my heart instead of my head.
Nobody told me that my head wasn’t designed to make me happy, that its only job was to keep me alive. I didn’t want to SURVIVE this lifetime; I wanted so much more. I wanted joy, passion, a desire for life, the freedom to be myself; I wanted love without conditions; I wanted a legacy my children can be proud of. I wanted to burn the checklist up in flames and let my heart lead the way!
I realized that happiness doesn’t come from anything I could ever achieve; not from a magical number on the scale, not from someone else telling me how to live my life, and certainly not from a checklist. Happiness came from inside myself when I started living my truth, and when I stopped giving my power away and started trusting myself again.
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