THE FRAGMENTED SOUL: WHY WOMEN NEED SELF-CONNECTION
When I first began writing You Are Here, I wasn’t intentionally setting myself the task of creating a book to share with the world. It began as nothing more than a little time carved out for myself back when my children were both quite small. I took to taking long, solitary evening walks in the beautifully wooded conservation areas in my city, working out my tangled emotions. Like most women in the modern world, I had been conditioned to gravitate toward people-pleasing. Like many of you, I learned how to be a soldier and continue giving well past the point of depletion. That’s what good women do. We show our love by caring and providing for everyone around us, even if it is to our own detriment. Sadly, by the time we realize that being everything to everyone results in being nothing to ourselves, we are only an empty shell of the person we once were. Unfortunately, we have learned to settle for this disconnection from ourselves a long time ago.
WHEN YOUR HEART IS FULL BUT YOUR SOUL IS EMPTY
I felt completely drained by my life and unable to cope with the demands that were required of me. I didn’t speak about my feelings to my family members or close friends because I was terrified of appearing ungrateful and perpetually dissatisfied.
I began to pay close attention to the women around me, seeing the small cracks in their own public veneers, recognizing the wounded tone underneath their sarcasm, sensing when a laugh was not truly genuine, and I realized that there was an entire clandestine community of women who were going through life wearing the façade of contentment, occupying as little space as possible within their lives to accommodate the needs and desires of their families, strung-out on busyness to the point of depletion. I observed how, despite our best efforts to the contrary, we all seemed to end up in the same place: a pinball in an arcade-style game, oscillating between love, resentment, and guilt.
I started gathering some of the observations I had made about my own feelings and worked them into essays. Trying to find a common theme, I pinned the titles up on a corkboard, eyeing them with the scrutiny of a detective peering at crime scene photos, searching for any clues that would lead to the perpetrator. It was then that I started to see it.
WHO AM I AGAIN?
Women, by the masses, are grappling with a disconnection from the self that is so toxic, it has pervaded every aspect of our lives, intruding into the far corners of our thoughts, making it impossible for us to feel the genuine contentment we crave. We show up for our spouses, our children, our jobs, our communities, essentially everyone or anything that is not us. Why? Because we cannot justify the time or expense if it is only ourselves that stand to benefit.
This process is so insidious that we don’t even realize we are actively participating in the creation of the unhappiness we find so damning. Many of us have family backgrounds where we watched our mothers and grandmothers work themselves to the bone. That is simply what “good women” did. Our earliest lessons about love and caregiving were live tutorials on martyrdom.
WE’VE BEEN WEARING MASKS WAY BEFORE COVID-19
Whatever the catalyst that has set us down this path, the result is the same: we inevitably join the secretive ranks of the Bend Over Backwards Society (BOB). Now, let’s get a few things straight. The first and most important rule of BOB is that we don’t talk about BOB. Instead, we smile and make others feel comfortable. We make dinner, pack lunches, volunteer, check on homework, stay up all night working on presentations, accommodate coworkers and employers, drive our kids all over place, and refuse to make time for things like nights out with friends, books with no pictures and rhyming text, trips to art museums, racetracks, join curling teams, or whatever else it is that holds our interests and makes us feel like we are leading fulfilling and interesting lives.
There may be times when we experience extreme frustration with the state of our lives, but we are unable to put our finger on where the discontent originates. Or perhaps we feel as if the blame for our disheveled emotions lies at the feet of our families. In these situations, it is helpful to pour yourself a glass of wine, crawl into the tub, cry softly into a washcloth, and call it “me time.” Under no circumstance should we ever indulge in the urge to discuss our genuine feelings with one another. That sort of behavior is frowned upon at BOB. What is acceptable, however, is to keep all of your feelings tucked deep down, host a book club, join the parents’ council at school, and stare silently at your husband, wondering how on earth you arrived at a place where neither of you have touched the other in the last eighteen months and why this seems to be a perfectly acceptable arrangement.
INTENTION IS A POWERFUL WEAPON AT YOUR DISPOSAL
If any of this resonates with you, let me be perfectly clear in communicating how overwhelmingly NOT alone you are. That is why I wrote this book. I have learned to cope with some mighty uncomfortable feelings and am just now, in this season of midlife, coming to terms with what love is and what it isn’t. I am learning how to give my entire heart to the people I love without handing over my entire self. In fact, I’ve wholeheartedly given myself permission to put my needs on the map.
That is the most essential characteristic required of anyone who wants to shift their life from a place of surviving to thriving. This attitude, coupled with a sense of wonder for life and the many facets of self-discovery, is what changed the trajectory of the path I was on, making me realize I had way more control over my circumstances than I originally thought. Through spreading my message about the value of self-care, I am able to teach what I desperately need to learn.
If there’s one theme I regularly return to in my writing, it’s that genuine happiness isn’t something that happens to us. It’s something that we create with intention.
The woman who stares back at you in the bathroom mirror is desperately waiting to be acknowledged by you. You have been trying to silence her with perpetual busyness, compulsive shopping, and that third nightly glass of wine, but she is stubborn. She isn’t going anywhere. She is demanding to be seen and given the space that is her birthright. Open yourself to her, just a little. She has something important to tell you if you will listen. She knows the path to your true well-being and desperately wants to take that journey with you. The real question is, will you accept her invitation?
Lucy Lemay Cellucci is the author of You Are Here: The Struggling Woman's Guide to Reclaiming Happiness.
Passionate about the well-being of women and all things related to food, wine, and gratuitous caffeine intake, you can visit Lucy at thestorytellerspage.com and grab a free sample chapter from her latest book aimed at helping women escape the vice-like grip of chronic discontent.
Follow her on Instagram @storytellerllc or tune in to her podcast, The Caffeine Chronicles, where she enthusiastically discusses lattes, longings, and leaning into life’s challenges.
Amazon page for book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0818FLL5B?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
Author Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/storytellerllc/?hl=en