At one point, my mother read a book called Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Clarissa looks at all the archetypes of women in mythology, especially that of what she calls the “wild woman” archetype, and discusses what modern women can draw from these mythologies in their daily lives. One day, my mother and I were painting and listening to the audio book when Estes said: “There is a time in our lives, usually in mid-life, when a woman has to make a decision – possibly the most important psychic decision of her future life – and that is, whether to be bitter or not.”
At first I didn’t get it, so my mom explained that there’s a point in your life when you realize that more of your life is behind you than ahead of you. Did you fulfill your dreams exactly as you pictured them when you were 18? If not, are you gonna be bitter about it?
Since my grandmother is the least bitter person I know, I asked her why she isn’t bitter. Surely, tough life experiences have given her license to be bitter.
She’s thinking about it.
I’m just 18. More of my life lies ahead of me than behind me (I hope), and my dreams – learning to illustrate and publishing a graphic novel in poetry about my life, making it to compete in Brave New Voices, moving to New York City – can still be as big as my imagination wants them to be. Yes, I have depression and anxiety and I can be a tiny bit grumpy sometimes when things don’t go my way, but some days I wake up just happy to be here in a place where Nora McInerny exists, and I can get up and bicycle through town anytime I want, and I have access to a world-class podcast studio where I can say and publish whatever the heck I want, and I have friends who will go ice skating with me.
Maybe I’m looking at this from a place of privilege, but to wake up and realize that I live in a world where people like Nora McInerny and R exist and smile because of it, though, is a choice even at 18. Sometimes I wake up and put on my leather jacket and Batman hat in 70-degree weather. I convince myself that the world is against me, so I might as well give up now. My life becomes a Lifetime drama, opera music and all. I reach out to people without being specific about what I need, but hoping for some kind of reaction of pity and shock. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if I actually were the victim, rather than the person who chose to react in a certain way to life events?
In the next stage, I get a sign from God or my therapist and the epiphany hits me again: I am the master of this ship, and I’m the one leading it straight to hell.
“So, don’t,” says my therapist, or some variation of that.
From now on, this one Maya Marie shall be the most resilient and joyful of them all, writing poetry, fighting for social justice, drop-kicking bad guys, and living her life to the fullest.
I recently had to make a tough decision and I chose the one that I think is going to put me in the best zone for my overall mental health in the long run using all the information I had at the time (pro-con list and all), but I sacrificed a lot and it hurts like heck.
My therapist says it be like that sometimes. She says that every choice is a sacrifice, but at least there is comfort in knowing that I exercised my power in making it. She says to claim my power and joy by accepting that life is not perfect but frequently painful.
So that’s my wisdom for today, future daughter: Life is not perfect but frequently painful.
And don’t be bitter, dear.
Watch this space.