I was standing in my kitchen looking out the window and I had the sudden realization that I was no longer trying to “make it.” What a relief. What a burden to lay down.
I’ve been driven for my whole life. I’ve always been trying to “make it,” always been trying to be more, better, thinner, liked, accepted, right, correct…something. There have been brief periods of rest when the striving took a break, but it was never gone for long and would always resume. And, in the background, there was always an engine running. This kind of efforting to be more, or to be perfect—whatever that means—drives a lot of us but, for me, it came out of my orphan beginnings.
I always knew I was adopted. My parents told me from the time I began to ask where I came from. They never wanted me to be surprised by it later in life. But, somehow it created a fear in me that they might send me back; that, if I wasn’t good enough, I might lose my family. If I wasn’t the perfect little girl I might not be loved. If I didn’t do what I was told, maybe they wouldn’t let me stay. If I was too loud, I might have to leave. These types of concerns have shadowed all my relationships, my performance at work, and the way I look at the world.
I was talking with my hairdresser in San Diego one day, while she was cutting my hair, about trying to make ends meet and finding work when one was older. I’d been retired for a couple of years by then and was working part-time and she was in the process of losing a job she’d had for a long time and liked. We were both struggling. And, she said to me, “Here we are at this age and still trying to make it.” Whoa… I’d never thought of my life like that, but the realization of what she said landed on me very heavily.
When one is constantly striving and struggling the way I did, it rather precludes presence or gratitude. I had moments of both presence and gratitude throughout my life, but they were always visited upon me by grace and short-lived. There was a constant dissatisfaction and depression driving me forward. I was never good enough. I never did enough. I never felt secure. I never really belonged.
But, now, almost four years after I retired, and four months after moving to France, I realize that the striving is done. The need to “make it” in any way is gone. My need to prove myself has left me. I’m fine the way I am. Life is good and all is well. I’m able to live my life one day at a time and enjoy each one. I no longer feel inadequate. Amazing.
I didn’t actively do anything to stop myself from striving. It is a gift of grace, an unexpected awareness, a surprising internal shift. I do think it has been facilitated by the quiet simplicity of my life, by the smallness of the village where I live, by my increased connection to nature, and by the kind acceptance of my neighbors and friends here. Something in me has settled by moving here and choosing this for myself. The voice of restless dissatisfaction has finally become silent.