Recently I started going to counselling again. It’s kind of a shame I waited so long because she’s really wonderful and talking to her is easy. A lot of weight in my life isn’t necessarily caused by the big, clunky stuff but by the constant drip, drip, dripping of independently insignificant things. It’s that slow drain of energy reserves caused by trying to maintain a household, work full time hours and see to the well-being of two children. My mornings are a whirlwind. My lunch breaks at work are often occupied by making phone calls and appointments. My evenings are filled with homework, housework, cooking, laundry and social media so I can try to find some connection with other people. Squeeze in self care. Remember to call on friends. When did I last call my grandparents? On the days when my kids are with their father, I’m fielding questions and troubleshooting problems for them. It’s a lot of late nights, broken sleep and early mornings. So when I walked into the counsellor’s office and she asked me what was going on…the dam broke.
“I can see what’s real and what’s not.” She shifted in her chair and asked me to elaborate. There’s this ideal normal in society: find a partner, buy a house, get a decent job, two cars, have kids, get a dog, go on all-inclusive vacations, drink wine with friends on the weekend and bake your arse off at Christmas. It’s not really real. Life doesn’t work like that and happiness is found in all sorts of different ways. The ideal normal doesn’t fit my life or my inclination but conditioning keeps me doubting and feeling failure when things get hard. There’s that voice of doubt that creeps in and says, “If you would just conform, things would be easy.” I tell the voice, “I tried that before and it didn’t go so well.” The voice turns sickly sweet and condescending, “Well if you failed before it’s because you didn’t stick to the plan or try hard enough. This time it will be different.”
This inner struggle alone is exhausting. Keeping things in perspective and playing the long term game takes dedication and devotion that only the most stubborn of us can achieve. Add in having to ignore thoughtless comments and educating when it might make a difference. Add in the subtle, subconscious cues of inadequacy that I’m not living in the ideal normalcy.
$10 per ticket, $15 for two
And then the counsellor said something that seemed completely off hand and simple but it knocked me over. She said, “You deserve to be happy.” I’ve had many friends, coworkers and acquaintances express these exact words to me before but this was different. When a friend says, “You deserve to be happy” they’re saying it to make you feel better. They’re saying it as part of the bargain of being friends. Making each other feel good is part of the currency of friendship or kinship. Lifting your spirits in that moment and you’ll return the favour to them as well. I don’t mean that they’re insincere or that it isn’t true. In that office, when this woman I don’t really know, who has no stake in our relationship said, “You deserve to be happy” I heard her saying it is a basic human right. She made it sound like I didn’t have to do anything to earn the happiness. I didn’t have to suffer for it and this is a completely different notion from the ethics I was raised believing.
So I left counselling that night a whole lot lighter and with restored faith that I am living my best life. That it’s possible to be happy doing things my own way and following my heart. I’ve been trying to focus on the things that are most important to me. Saying no more often and planning time to myself instead. Listening to my body and my soul when it comes to care and not the ads telling me I can be better if I just (fill in the blank). Prioritizing my life differently so I don’t feel as much pressure, strain or anxiety. And working on habits that have failed to serve me in the past. For me, self improvement is all a part of self care and there is always room for improvement.