The Showoff

I made an unwittingly insightful prediction when I was nine years old. One afternoon, I was sprawled across Aunt Nancy's double bed squinting at the shapes made by sunshine and shadows on her attic bedroom's pale yellow ceiling as I contemplated my future; it was 1978 and earlier that day I'd overheard a local newscaster mention something about space travel in the year 2020 - "50 years after the first moon landing in 1969" - and this concerned me. After all, I was born in 1969, which meant that I would be 50 in 2020; and though I was aware that this date was far away, the concept of time felt suddenly overwhelming and, being an anxious child, I worried:  Where will I live in the year 2020? Will I have my own car? Will I be a mom? I'll be 50 years old?! Holy crap, that's old! Which led to more future-tripping over aging and death, combined with anxiety about nuclear war because I was always worried about nuclear war (my parents really shouldn't have subscribed to Newsweek); but I also recall specifically wondering What will I be like when I'm 50? and, after much contemplation, realizing: I'll probably be the same girl I am now (only taller, of course).

This year I will turn 50 and I can honestly say that this prediction was not entirely inaccurate. In many ways I am the same girl I was in 1978, but it's taken quite some time to get back to her. In other words, she's a better example of my Authentic Self than the prototype of myself I've promoted to the world most of my life. Due to the conditioning that led to the conforming, which contributed to the facade, I lost track of that Self as I spent years trying to figure out who I was supposed to be in order to be loved.

Jen Sincero does an excellent job of explaining the process of conditioning and the effects of outdated beliefs in her book You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life:

[As a small child] while you explored and expanded into your new world, you also received messages from the people around you about the way things are. From the moment you could take it in, they started filling you up with a lifetime's worth of beliefs, many of which have nothing to do with who you actually are or what is necessarily true...The main source of the information was, of course, your parents, assisted by society at large.

Thanks to therapy and sobriety and doing the work, today I feel more like my True Self than ever before in my adulthood or adolescence. Even though there's always more work that can be done, I'm in a good place: after years of moving from coast to coast I'm back in my home state of Texas (the blue part); I achieved a longtime goal of changing careers and, long story short, built a private practice; and, after nearly 30 years of co-addicted relationships, I'm finally 50% of a healthy partnership. Things are stable. So much so that this recovering Love Addict occasionally wants to rock the boat or find a reason to run away from all this healthiness. But I don't. Because I've done that; and I've finally learned that nothing good comes from rocking and running. I feel confident in stating that I'm officially an adult after many years of inadvertently prioritizing the insatiable needs of my inner child.

Another reason I'm okay with getting older is that I have very few regrets. Trust me, I've definitely done some dumb shit; I've put myself in cringe-worthy situations that reflected a lack of self-love and…to put it compassionately, I haven't always been graceful. But even the messy stuff has led me right here and shaped me into the person I see in the mirror today. Among the aforementioned few regrets are:

1) I regret not listening to my mother when she told me never to tweeze my eyebrows (I'm not kidding - things haven't been the same since, thanks to Drew Barrymore, I fell victim to the pencil-thin brow trend of 1994);

2) I wish I'd spent less time in the sun with a bottle of baby oil during the 80s (those Coppertone ads were misleading: I don't recall any disclaimers or health warnings, only super tan people living their best lives because they were SUPER TAN); and...

3) I wish I hadn't cared so much about what others thought of me; to be more specific, I wish I hadn't played small.

Clearly the first two are simply examples of poor decision-making with little consideration of the consequences, but that last one is different; while it's easy to say Just stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, it's literally not that easy, especially for Codependents and Love Addicts. Plus, the screwed up thinking that leads to said worry about what others think starts waaaaay back when we're teeny-tiny humans with zero control over what messages get stored away in the file rooms of our subconscious minds.

From You are a Badass:

We're born knowing how to trust our instincts, how to breathe deeply, how to eat only when we're hungry, how to not care about what anyone else thinks...Then, as we grow and learn from the people around us, we replace many of these primal understandings with negative false beliefs, fear, shame, and self-doubt.

Negative false beliefs, fear, shame, and self-doubt. That's quite a lineup of ingredients that contributes to keeping us small by subconsciously telling us that it's not ok to take up space or to be the center of attention, that it's not ok to be BIG. And what exactly does it mean to be big? I'm sure each person has a unique vision of what being big looks like, but I equate it to flying - as in soaring - and I imagine that it feels weightless and unburdened, like FREEDOM. When I was little I often dreamt of flying like a bird and, while reading through 20+ years worth of journals kept as a love-addicted adult, I've discovered several entries regarding such dreams.

1/9/1999

I dreamed last night that I could fly. Not by flapping my arms, but by soaring. And I went up so high that the ground was in land sections and it was nighttime with lots of stars and it seemed like I could keep going and going. But I came back down and two people saw me and called me a showoff. And then I felt so ashamed.

I remember this dream very clearly. In it I was so confident; I felt carefree with no awareness of anyone's expectations of me, including my own. But the most important part of the dream was that in it I realized everyone had the ability to fly, which meant that everyone could feel this way! I couldn't wait to share this news; but when I landed and encountered the two people who judged me, I was overcome with shame, even though I knew they too could fly. I woke up feeling shameful instead of powerful, even though in my dream I'd experienced both. Isn't it interesting that the negative message of Who do you think you are? and its coexisting shame attack eclipsed the euphoria? That's because the subconscious mind is very powerful.

Of course, this dream came at a time when I was involved in a co-addicted relationship in which I was playing very, very small; a relationship that would ultimately end with a Valentine’s Day breakup after eight months of chronic self-doubt, sending me into a love-addicted ditch. After it ended, I tormented myself for ruining such a "good thing" and did comprehensive mental gymnastics to figure out how to put it back together while giving up little pieces of my worth every time I had an encounter with my ex. So. Much. Smallness.

5/9/1999:

It's as if the sadness is comfortable for me. Familiar. But there's inner conflict now because I actually want to feel better. I've lived my whole life outside of myself and must begin looking to me - inside of me. What do I want? What do I have? Focus on ME. Be BIG. Be magnanimous. I still look to [the ex] to define Jodi...I forget who I am when I'm with him.

I'm not a dream analyst, but when I Googled "meaning of dreams about flying" I found results such as: the dreamer is moving on from something that's stagnated in life; or going through a transitional stage in life; OR, if the you have trouble flying in the dream, someone or something may be preventing you from moving on to the next step in your life.

2/9/2004:

I dreamt that I could fly...I flew and soared and felt so proud, but then I had to go back and knew that once I flew against the wind it would be harder - and it was so hard that I couldn't do it and I felt ashamed. Means? That I've proven I can soar and to go back now, I'm afraid people will think less of me? Or, I can soar but haven't realized that yet?

This entry was made on a Monday. I had decided to ask my husband for a divorce the following weekend; but before I could have that conversation, I was fired from my job at Rolling Stone Magazine on Friday the 13th (which, fun fact, also happened to be a day I'd accidentally walked under a ladder and paid $6.66 at the bodega for coffee and a bagel that morning on the way to work). I was blindsided. Being fired from this particular job was a very big deal to me; not only did it immediately affect my livelihood, it triggered a core belief that I wasn't good enough, a belief that I'd sorta-successfully covered up with a bunch of sparkly stuff so that I wouldn't have to acknowledge it's existence My wound had been triggered and those weekend plans made by my previously empowered Self would have to wait.

4/20/2004

I don't have an 'off' button - I'm always ON, trying to be someone other than me, worried that I'm not enough - not smart enough, not pretty enough, not dressed right. I think my mom is the same way - I don't think I've ever seen her totally relaxed...I don't know if she feels good about herself either...I think I acted like someone else so often as a child that I stopped being okay with me - did I forget how to act like me too?

Here's the theory: You are born as your Authentic Self who, before conditioning takes place, has the ability to soar confidently, unworried and unburdened by the opinions of others; untethered, powerful, BIG. Getting reacquainted with that Self is the key to recovery from codependency and love addiction, as well as other disorders, and crucial to overall wellbeing. In reality, we may never not care what others think of us because we are emotional beings; but it's possible to acknowledge the fact of Yes, I care without prioritizing it over the needs of the Self. We can consciously choose not to allow those external opinions to hold us back and prevent us from flying, but first we must get in touch with, and embrace, our inner showoff.

Thank you for reading~ Jodi

Well, some say life will beat you down,
break your heart, steal your crown.
So I've started out for God-knows-where,
I guess I'll know when I get there.

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds,
but what goes up, must come down.

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings,
coming down is the hardest thing.

From “Learning to Fly” by Tom Petty