"I was gradually getting used to feeling the range of available human emotions, their intensity, the rapidity with which they could change. Until now, anytime that emotions, feelings, had threatened to unsettle me, I'd drink them down fast, drown them. That had allowed me to exist, but I was starting to understand that I needed, wanted something more than that now."
For those who don’t see the point in reading fiction, here is an example of what fiction can do for you. In the book Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, toward the end of the book, which is the beginning of Eleanor Oliphant’s healing, Eleanor finally realizes that the negative, hateful, judgemental voice in her head that she always took for her own voice is actually the voice of her mother. Quirky, bizarre, broken, naive, and vulnerable as Eleanor Oliphant’s true voice is, she reminds me of who I might become if only I were brave enough. Her complete honesty and lack of facade are what I would like to strive for in my life.
As I mentioned a few months ago, I’ve been going back to therapy this summer, and one of the things I’ve been trying to learn is to see, recognize, and know myself. I realize this sounds elementary and like something that should have been handled decades ago, but if you grew up a woman, especially, I think, in a rural society, you will probably understand why self-knowledge and self-determination has escaped me. Like many other women I know, I have spent too much of my life worrying so much about pleasing and displeasing others that I never truly learned what I needed to make myself happy. As my therapist has pointed out on numerous occasions, this is both an impossible and an exhausting way to live.
As children most of us were taught to subject our wills and opinions to those of our parents, and sometimes we internalized the voices of our parents so much that we never developed our own voices. I’ve always been overly-sensitive to the moods of others and as a child and teenager wanted more than anything to please my parents. I learned the lesson of worrying about other people’s moods and needs so much that it became who I was without my even realizing it was happening. Even now, I am still working to understand and believe that I don’t have to be this way, that learning to recognize my own voice is not selfish. Most importantly, I am learning that the voice in my head sometimes isn’t my voice at all, and that my job now is to find my own voice and use it. Thanks to Eleanor Oliphant for helping me verbalize this realization. Read a novel once in a while. You’ll be amazed what you can learn about human nature and about yourself.