My life has been a bit of an unpredictable mess for years. I’m “that” friend! If there’s a problem, I will find it or, it will find me. It’s become such a part of my life that it’s laughable. There have been jokes with my colleagues that I willed this pandemic and I actually believe it…a little.
There were not many things in this world that I was good at. I was never the athlete, I was born with two left feet or as my grade 9 teacher said “I ran like a chicken with my head cut off”. I was never insanely bright and academically inclined, I had to work for my grades (even the 60’s I got in grade 10). I was never popular because I was the chubby girl in class and let’s face it, only the skinny girls got a seat at the cool table. I was insecure and self-conscious and felt awkward most of my young life because I never really fit in.
From those who know me personally, I would be described as a drama queen or an actress. I dabbled in theatre and musical theatre when I was a teenager and then again when I was in university. There’s always been something so cool about being someone else, living through their trials and tribulations and being watched by an audience. I found my niche!! I found what I was good at! I could read a room and act! I was able to successfully chameleon myself to the energy that the room needed me to be. I found a way to portray myself to be the person that others wanted me to be. I have lived this way for most of my life. I hung out with the kids that were the bad influence because it’s “what you’re supposed to do to be accepted”. I got married young because it’s “what you’re supposed to do when you’re with someone for 10 years”, I met someone with kids and jumped in with two feet because “that’s what you’re supposed to do when you date someone with kids”, I supported my spouse through his divorce because “that’s what you’re supposed to do when you love someone”. As I was doing all these things “I was supposed to do”, acting out a role that was written by some higher-powered playwright, I lost myself. I stopped knowing what I wanted. I actually don’t even think I ever knew. I didn’t trust my own judgements. I didn’t trust my ability to make good decisions for myself. I didn’t think I was smart enough, wise enough or brave enough to make decisions that my head told me were right and that leads me to here. Right now…
I have weathered a few storms in my short life. My family lost my Dad to ALS when I was 27, I was divorced by 28, I met a guy with 3 kids and a less than kind ex-wife and I became the spouse to a man who was the driver in an accident resulting in the death of a passenger and life altering-injuries of the second passenger (I’ll get to this in future posts). This all happened between 27 and 29 years old. To most who watched me go through these traumatic events, I was a stoic, calm and composed pillar. Through all of this I acted. I portrayed the person that others were comfortable with me being. I hated the idea of sharing my disappointments, sadness, panic, fear and despair with anyone. I knew that it made others feel uncomfortable because that’s just what pain does to people. If you’re feeling big emotions, your friends and family don’t know what to do with it. They dismiss it by saying things like “oh man, I don’t know how you do it” and move on to other topics, instead of talking about the pain with you. They downplay the despair by saying things like “at least…blah blah blah” instead of sitting with you in the panic. And most painful…they avoid! They avoid like the plague…or Covid…whichever resonates more with you. I found that when a family member or friend was not avoiding or dismissing they were comparing. I never felt heard. As a coping mechanism, so I felt I had people to talk to, I acted. I was the stoic person they saw. I was the girl that never let anything get me down. I was the friend that went through “some stuff” so she was the best person to go to cause “she got it”! But guess what??? That actor got tired! You can only be an inauthentic version of yourself for so long until you burst open and other things come out. For me it was anger! I was angry that my friends didn’t care. I was mad because my significant other didn’t think about how I felt. I was irate because people didn’t check in on me. I was pissed!!!! I was angry at the people who did me wrong and who didn’t do me wrong. I was mad at anyone who listened long enough. I felt like nobody got it or understood me. But really, it was because I acted. I pretended everything was ok because I didn’t want to put anybody out. I portrayed myself to be someone and something I wasn’t to “benefit” others. I lied about my feelings because it was a safer way to make others comfortable. In here lies the problem!!!
We are not different…really. We are all the same. We all want to be heard and validated. We all want to be encouraged and loved through our challenges and triumphs. We all want to be understood and accepted. We all bleed the same colour and snot comes outta our noses when we bawl our eyes out. We cry silently in the shower, or closet, or bed or car when we feel we have nothing left in us. We yell and throw grown-up tantrums when we feel we have no control in our lives. We push people away that are closest to us and “act” when we feel we can’t be ourselves. We are also incapable of being the fake version of who we are destined to be. And this is the stamp I want to leave on this world. To find your voice, be your truth, create your tribe and listen, feel and experience pain that others feel so that instead of it pushing us apart, it brings us closer to being our authentic self. Not the actor in all of us.
I am a 33 year old Step-Mom to three kids who would describe me as a dramatic, fun-loving hopeless romantic (insert eyeroll). Transplanted from Pickering, Ontario and currently living in Calgary, Alberta. My friends would describe me as an open-book, a safe space and an ever evolving shoulder to cry on (my friend told me to say that). I work with children with special needs; a career inspired by my involvement with Willowjak. I have been thrown some pretty big curve balls in my short time here on this planet but, have faced them with a good book in hand and a cup of tea on my night stand. My hope is that what I have experienced in my life can be of use to others. Some support to prove that we are not alone; though we may feel like we are, that we are seen; though we feel invisible and that we have a voice; though we may not know we have one yet.
You can hear more about Michelle’s story when she appeared as a guest on Willowjak’s ‘Choose Your Own After’, by listening HERE.