I watched the Other Woman with my parents yesterday. (Talk about being secure in your manhood on Father’s Day going to see a movie like that with your daughter and wife.) In the past, like most women, I would have enjoyed the 90 minute escape into a feminine cliche - but to be honest, it made my heart hurt. Not because of the plot, or the acting (Leslie Mann is positively divine), but for the projected fantasy that we all (culturally) absorb as reality.
I take my part in responsibility as a writer and working in media in general, but I can also admit to myself, and to my own reality that it’s (pardon the blunt terminology, but sometimes there is just no better way to say it) bull shit.
I stared at these beautiful women on the screen (the cast consists of Kate Upton, Cameron Diaz, and Leslie Mann) and as lines like “together we are the perfect woman. What more could he want?” poured from their mouth I just face palmed my own life and simultaneously wanted to enter the screen and smack common sense into each of the characters. (I do not condone violence of any kind, but I’m going to assume that I don’t have to say that.)
I have spent exactly one year now on an island with a four digit population. Coming from a decade living in a 7 digit population to say it was shocking is a gross understatement. I left LA for a relationship, and genuinely believed that in life up until that point I had "it together." Life was like Lionel Richie on a Sunday morning ...
... I had a gorgeous man that I loved, and a website that I was proud to have built.
Love life? Check.
Within a matter of days the house of cards called a life I had built started to fall one by one. I thought I was so hard-core because I was without a home for a year, but there were no brown recluses, lizards, sharks, or snakes. I couldn’t even put a shrimp on a fishing line, or put my head in the ocean without shaking from head to toe. When I slept in the car, I slept in Venice. Have you seen Venice, CA? It’s pretty awesome. While I was genuinely stupid for putting myself in harms way so many times, my accommodations were more than satisfactory by anyone’s standards.
Within months of my arrival, I found myself without a boyfriend, a website I didn’t know what to do with now that morally things had shifted, and quickly fell into a deep depression. To say this four digit population kicked my @ss is an understatement.
Break ups really suck, but one thing I was determined to do was not give up. I knew in my heart I needed to stay where I was, (which I thought initially was insane, I’m not going to lie) and for the first time I had to figure out what was real and what wasn’t. I was presented with a freedom of no labels, and it scared the daylights out of me.
When I had first moved, I purposefully wouldn’t say my full name (knowing people would want to add you on Facebook). I always introduced myself as “so and so’s girlfriend” or “Jennifer.” I didn’t have anything to hide, but out of respect for him, it took away having his friends read about my past escapades. I was now without the label of girlfriend, and now without the persona I had built. I've consciously never felt so vulnerable in my entire life. I cried for days, weeks, (and I’m not ashamed to admit) a few months. My neighbor used to ask me if I was okay, and I would always take a moment to pause wondering if he had heard me listen to “Nobody wants to be lonely” on repeat. (I sincerely wish I was kidding.) Never trust someone you share a wall with - they know everything.
All that I knew in my heart from every other time I had been this depressed was that everything was one foot in front of the other, and that I needed to get out of my head as much as possible. My only friend at that time, volunteered at the local church once a week, so we quickly turned it into a routine.
I never told a soul what I did, or even my full name. Not that anyone anywhere would have even cared, but I just did whatever needed to get done and helped out however I could with two working arms and legs. I didn't need to tell stories, and I didn't need to be the loudest person in the room. I. Just. Shut. Up. and did what I was told, or saw needed to get done.
I then got back to the gym (for socialization and sanity), and within a few months I was stopped by a gentleman after class. I've been asking around town about you, he started, while mentally at that point I had cut him off wondering who even knew who I was? (And to get all philosophical, did I even know?!? I'm so confused?!!!) I was happy to hear he was very complimentary, but it all caught me by surprise. I'm not doing anything here, I thought. I don't understand how people can know so much. (That's the thing about small towns, you can't help but bump into people everywhere. Even if you don't see them, if you know someone's car - you're genuinely going to see them driving on the one road in and out of town. It's not rocket science.)
Somewhere between there and here, things have started to come into focus. I don't know exactly where the shift occurred, nor can I speak of my progress - but one thing I am filled with is gratitude (genuinely). I realized that while my experiences are there, I am not them, they are merely gifts.
Those gifts allowed empathy.
Through empathy came the beauty of compassion.
Through compassion, my heart has opened up even more to recognize my own worth and value - which in turn has become a valuable commodity to gentlemen. (Remember my point in this long winded story? Yeah, it was about women longing for a guy.)
I've wanted to be with someone for so long, but until I was able to (at least I think) experience a shift - I couldn't ever be in a sustainable, healthy relationship.
<tangent> I say all of this very humbly, btw, documenting anything in real time completely freaks me out now, but I know in my heart this is a message that I need to deliver. I am just the messenger. </tangent>
It is the quiet confidence that you don't need to speak of, and you might not even be aware that you have it - but people see it, and immediately respect you. Life becomes less of a "fighting battle" and more of a surrender. The irony is, in the surrendering process I couldn't feel less vulnerable.
There is never going to be a Mr. Big, Romeo, or Maverick to ride off with in the distance. There is only going to be a woman who has a choice to speak with grace, carry herself with dignity, and smile on the inside knowing that her greatest secrets are kept close to her heart until they are whispered with a side of monogamy.
I was seeking archetypes in media to create my own reality, which is a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I kept searching and searching, and while I had my share of pricks - it was more time and energy than it was worth. I am a woman, and I don't have to roar - just being is enough.