We needed to do some grocery shopping this morning so headed off to New Denver, stopping along the way at the hardware store and the coffee shop as well as the mailbox. The plan had been to hike the Awesome Trail and then shop – or so I thought. Simon preferred to shop and then do the Awesome Trail.
While I sat in the truck waiting for him at the hardware store, I became increasingly glum. What is this? I wanted to know. It didn’t take a great deal of thought to ferret it out.
I wanted to hike first and shop later. Now, on the surface, this is the most minor of deals – for me it loomed larger than perhaps it should have. When Simon came back I told him I would prefer to walk the Galena trail and head back. Why, he wanted to know – and what was up with me anyway?
I told him I simply had lost interest in the awesome trail – let’s just walk the dogs and be done with it.
I know what was going on with me – and what has been going on with me for a while. And I know I am not alone in being in a place where I am not meeting my basic needs. Doing the morning “my way”, which I would have if I wasn’t utterly terrified of driving in snow and ice, would have been very similar to how I used to do mornings in Cedar – take the dogs for a walk and get back home and get on with my day. Here – I can’t do that.
Today, I would have walked the dogs, picked up a few things at the market, checked for mail and come back. I love Simon and love doing things with him but there are also times I just want to get on with my own stuff.
Simon truly means it when he says he will drive me anywhere. He is crazy good to me. And what that means is that I still have my freedom. I am free to do what I want and go where I want – as long as I ask him to take me. And there’s the rub.
Freedom and autonomy are not identical. Autonomy is as essential to me as breathing. Freedom means I can ask Simon to take me to the store – and I go to the store – perfectly free to do so. Autonomy means I get up and go where I want when I want without consulting anyone or putting them out. It’s a very different concept. Autonomy has always been my greatest strength. I have never needed anyone else’s deadlines or encouragement when it comes to what I have set myself to do. I am utterly self-motivating and self-governing. This has its up side and down – depending on how I get this basic need met.
Right now, this need is not being met and I have to stay on alert to make sure I don’t start using destructive strategies to meet it.
My purpose in life (not my calling) is to be fully who I am. In order to do that, I must know who I am and, in particular, I must know what the forces are that drive me – have driven me all my life. I have done the work to know what they are. I have done even more work to evolve constructive strategies to meet those needs. There is a little list of those needs but it’s the top three that are the biggies. In my experience, people tend to have a top three that they will and must get met. And that’s great as long as you are conscious about what they are. Mine are autonomy, admiration and achievement.
For the past dozen and more years, I have been meeting these needs constructively and pretty much daily. As a result, my life has felt on purpose and I’ve felt good – about myself and my direction.
Clearly, entering into a relationship changes everything. For me, keeping my autonomy, feeding it and nurturing it – has been the biggest challenge – and continues to be so. It’s why I woke up this morning feeling trapped. More snow – no trails to walk out my front door and no driving to get there.
Still – what I know is that these needs can and must be met constructively no matter what circumstances I find myself in. It’s up to me to evolve the good strategies. Otherwise I bring discontent to myself and all around me. And that’s destructive.
When I lived in Cedar and was working I fed my needs through work (keeping in mind that recent retirement has also had an enormous effect on how I get my needs met). I was an autonomous journalist – everything I did fed my autonomy and in a good way. Every day I experienced achievement by completing the tasks I had set for myself – and I double fed my need for achievement through my hiking and hitting those mountain tops I set out for. As for admiration – I got it from the people I worked with and sometimes from people I hiked with. All was good.
Other, less major needs, like beauty and serenity – those got ticked off easily with hiking and in the way I chose to create my home.
Now I find that those same minor ones are doing fine – the home is becoming increasingly beautiful and serene and living with Simon feeds so many of my needs – connection, love, sharing – and so on.
I can still meet achievement fairly well: writing every day and ticking off those chapters. Even simple things like doing the laundry and keeping on top of household chores – need met. Tick! Admiration? Not so much. Simon admires me but he loves me too so I tend to discount that (isn’t that silly? – but likely typical). I can feed myself with that. I can admire my health and strength and all of that. I don’t feel starved there.
I do feel starved for autonomy – and that’s a biggie. I can get destructive around this if I don’t take care – like withdrawing, being pissy, contradictory or withdrawing (needed to be mentioned twice). And that would not only be destructive but just plain stupid as well. I would hope that I’m better than that. And I’m glad of this morning’s experience that showed me how petty I can be just to get that small kick of autonomy.
No – there is a better way. I will find it in small things. It also helps to address it, to watch for it and to be aware.
It is only when we are unaware that we self-sabotage. I’ve been there and done that. I destroyed my film career because of my destructive and unreasoned reaction to the CEO of a major corporation. I didn’t have to go down in flames – but I was not fully conscious of why I was doing what I was doing.
I don’t have that excuse today. I am a conscious human being. I’m not saying I am enlightened (goddess no!) or even hugely evolved. But I am aware – of who I am, of my needs, of my purpose and most especially of my foibles.