I am not a whole person; but, I am things. I’m a mother and a wife. I’m a daughter and a sister. I’m a variety of jobs or tasks; gardener, cook, housekeeper, storyteller. These little pieces of people have been fastened together to make some sort of mockup of an entire person.
But— I am not a “whole” person.
What is a whole person? There isn’t really a definition; though I wish there were. It would be so much easier.
To me, a whole person is someone who doesn’t need constant validation and acceptance from the people she loves. She can be content just existing, as is, imperfectly, without needing to define herself in any particular moment as a mother, wife, or otherwise. She wouldn’t be multiple pieces; hastily thrown together to protect what is underneath.
Realizing that I wasn’t a whole person was a painful moment. It wasn’t immediately liberating, either, although that came later. It happened one afternoon, when my husband looked at me contemplatively after I had been complaining about something mundane— socks discarded on the living room floor again, probably. After I goaded him to tell me why he was giving me his “disapproving face” he finally offered to me that, “It just seems like you don’t really have fun anymore. Do you?”
I was broken, immediately. Not having fun meant that I also wasn’t a fun person, in my mind. Next came a series of negatives: my husband was married to an un-fun lady. My daughter’s mom? Super un-fun. Other people were fun. Other people would be better wives, mothers; I wasn’t good enough. Suddenly every piece of my carefully assembled armour – which as it turns out, is rather frail – started to crumble into an un-fun, sad little pile. And the person underneath was pitiful.
That was all it took to break me, and that was the painful part— emotionally, I bruise like a peach.
It then occurred to me that the tiniest bit of criticism (was it, even?) could chip a fatal hole in the walls I had spent decades building and reinforcing.
A statement like “you don’t have fun” shouldn’t cause chips in my wall, anyway. A whole person would not allow chips – a whole person wouldn’t even need a wall. She would take such comments and filter them into neat little piles. She’d discard whatever was toxic, whatever was unnecessary. And you know what? She’d probably be fun, anyway, naturally, since she wouldn’t be such a worried mess. So, it would be a silly thing to say to a whole person.
I have a theory. I am not a whole person because, quite simply, I’ve never been forced to be. I’ve never really been alone. Honestly! I’ve always had an “other half”— a boyfriend, fiancé, husband. I’ve always been a part of another person. Never whole.
I’ve been in long term relationships my entire adult life.
While I have been with my husband for about 8 years and we’re in it for the long haul, I was in a series of long term, frustrating, damaging relationships before I was with him. I suppose that makes me a serial monogamist. I don’t think it did me any good.
How does this all apply to my whole person theory? Well: I have never really dated. You know, like, gone on a date and it didn’t progress into a relationship immediately. I have never learned to just “be.” To just sit and think and dream, and find a happiness that can only be found when you are looking for a lifelong partner. When you aren’t settling. When you are dreaming about what your future partner will be like.
Because, by doing that, by searching for Mr. Right and discarding all the Wrongs, you grow and develop as a person. With every horrible date, you discover what YOU like. You discover what you are looking for in a partner and what you aren’t, what makes you happy, what turns you on, what turns you off, what you need and, essentially, what makes you tick.
What makes me tick? Who the fuck knows, at this point.
Okay: I know a few things. I know I love my husband. I know he loves me, too, although I often sabotage our relationship because I’m not sure what there is to love about me— how do you love someone who is not whole? It’s a question I struggle with. It comes out in ugly, horrid ways. Somehow, he’s managed to stick it out.
I know my daughter thrills me, daily. She is amazing. I know that I worry that I’m not enough.
And that’s something, right there: she’s only 20 months old, so she isn’t really anything yet. I mean, she’s a toddler. But she hasn’t pasted together any armour. She’s not yet a wife, mother, dog walker, etc. But, she is happy without that armour. She feels things. She cries when she can’t open a Tupperware container by herself and laughs when the dog’s tail tickles her neck as she walks by. She hurls herself into hugs the same way she fearlessly hurls herself down the slide. She gives sloppy, wet kisses. She holds nothing back.
SHE is a whole person. I want to live exactly like her.
It’s not so simple though. Becoming a whole person is a long and frustrating journey— it was one I was supposed to do gradually and naturally over the last few decades. I’m in counselling for it now, and it’s hard. After all, it’s taken 20 years to piece together the roles and odd jobs and loose definitions that make up my suit of armour, so, how long will it take to disassemble? It’s too soon to tell. The person underneath hasn’t had enough exposure over to grow and branch out and taste the sunlight. To get big and strong, or at least to get big enough and strong enough to be vulnerable without breaking at the tiniest bit of pressure. To let people in even though they might see that in fact you are not perfect, and to realize that really, that’s okay.
To be whole, you have to strip down to nothing first. You have to build it from the inside out. It is brutal and awful and scary and intense.
And it’s the most glorious thing I’ve ever done.