11 Oct I am Enough from Lindsey Garrett
The Fantastic Ms. Lindsey
For most of my life instead of trying to figure out who I was, I worried about how people perceived me. I got it in my head somewhere that if I looked the part I WAS the part. In school, I tried to do everything to ensure that I looked confident which meant layers upon layers of clothes and make up. When I turned 16 I got a part time job to support my clothing addiction. I never saved a penny unless I needed one for my loafers.
When it came to boys, I looked to them for validation that everything I was doing, clothing, hair, make-up, was worthy of their attention. I did not care that my parents or the school administrators found my look a bit over the top. I blame the 80s for that. By the time I was a Junior, the writing was on the wall no amount of make-up was going to hide the fact that I treated high school like it was one big fashion show. I settled for community college, living at home to support my clothes and vinyl habit. When that wasn’t enough I pursued men who treated me badly. In my defense, I was probably trying to find someone to pick up where dad had left off. Unable to impress him or gain adoration I began to look for someone else. I imagined there to be an invisible billboard that hung above my head that read “lost girl with Daddy issues looking to fill big shoes. “Losers need only to apply.”
I had my share of lousy lovers. Some cheated, some drank too much. Some served time, some crossed the line but most were never capable of true love. I was quickly learning that no one can love you if you don’t love yourself first; a Madonna song taught me that. The cycle of losing sight of myself in order gain the love of someone else continued for nearly a decade.
When I met my husband, I was 24 and he was 35. I had just left a relationship where the person rejected me because I wasn’t outwardly religious enough. I tried to change who I was fundamentally, but he was on to me. I retreated, I cried and then I realized that I was losing myself yet again in the shadows of what I thought others wanted to see. I was tired of pretending anyway. I started the process of self-acceptance, rejecting the idea that being different was a terrible thing. The next box of hair color wasn’t going to be mouse brown it was going to be Taco Sauce Red. I was sure to attract the attention of someone who appreciated me for me and I did. One week later I met the man who would love me despite my questionable choice of hair color.
In our first years of marriage we discovered the person below the surface. Married or not I was still searching for validation. I figured if I could add the title of wife and then mother to my resume, I would start to believe that I was credible and worthy of love. But it didn’t happen. Not only did it not happen I felt worse. I had was holding on to 25 post pregnancy pounds, uncontrollable hormones, a crying baby on my hip and a husband who was in his first year of residency. I was alone, tired and unhappy with the way I looked. The only way I knew how to make myself feel better was to shop my way out of it. I retained a few credit cards along with my suits and high heels from my former life. I decided to fill the hole with stuff and off to the mall I went. Designer diaper bags and expensive strollers gave way to 600 thread count sheets and eventually furniture. My husband’s stipend and my disability could not keep up with my spending habit. I continued to dig myself into a deep hole of debt.
At some point we were going to have to move into a bigger house because we were running out of room for all my stuff. I decided to go back to work when my son started preschool because I was unable to control spending. The job became my enabler. As long as I was working I justified the spending and so it began; my on again off again relationship with accumulating stuff. The stuff showed the world that I was OK and prevented everyone from being able to get a clear shot of the real me. The stuff was just another replacement for love. Some days it was enough.
Nine years later I was pregnant again and finally feeling ready to focus on the new chapter that involved this miraculous turn of events. I vowed to stop buying things so I could stay at home, for the first three years at least, but something happened. When my daughter was born the hole was still there. I thought she was going to be enough.
Facing forty after her birth was a shock to the ego. I had managed to boot camp off the baby weight but, the damage was done. Skin remained stretched, and gravity was pulling in all the wrong directions. Our marriage had also succumbed to the effects of aging. Again looking for the quick fix I decided a new well improved me could only enhance our marriage. I consulted with a plastic surgeon, signed on the dotted line for a lift and to have a couple of silicone implants sewn onto my chest wall and, by the way, they take American Express. A year following the scars healed, but I did not.
That surgery gave way to yet another post pregnancy surgery and then I moved on to Botox. Immediately after the injections I felt sick. It lasted for weeks. I knew that I had reached my limit. The hole was still there, I was still unhappy but now I was nauseous and unhappy. I decided to place myself back onto the therapy couch for a little self-analysis. I was given books to read and told to meditate daily. I needed to take a long hard look into the past in order to move forward. Nothing was working anymore. I was emotionally maxed out just like the cards in my wallet.
Then one night as I watched the movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox with my six year old I had a moment of self-realization. Mr. Fox was an expert hunter and a good father but he was also a liar and a thief. He thought in order for people to like him he had to be successful at everything especially stealing chickens. His wife exhausted by constant parade of charades was on the verge of leaving him.
“I think I have this thing where everybody has to think I’m the greatest, quote unquote “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” And if they aren’t completely knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated by me, I don’t feel good about myself.” – in the voice of George Clooney as The Fabulous Mr. Fox
I knew what Mr. Fox meant about leaving them dazzled.
I laughed to myself. After years of counseling, self-help books and countless Oprah articles here I was taking lessons on acceptance from a fox. The message was received loud and clear. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you surround yourself with as much as WHO you surround yourself with. People will still love you despite your shortcomings and there is something kind of fantastic about that.
Lindsey lives in Southern California with her husband, two kids and a bipolar cat named Weebee. She is a lifestyle and food photographer with a special love for film especially Polaroids. She talks candidly about her battle with clutter and being creative on her blog the modchik.