Monday, December 24, 2012

What About Me? Leaving My One-Horse Town

Abraham Lincoln said this of himself “[I was] a strange, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy” when he walked down the dusty road that led out of the one-horse town environment he grew up in.  Speaking metaphorically here.  So many people live in a one-horse town – whatever it represents and don’t believe they can leave. 

I know what that’s like. But every now and then I read about a person who got the hell out, and I know it wasn’t about luck. They often didn’t have money either. When I’m in a place I don’t want to be, without money to move, it’s easy to think I have to earn the money before I can go. Or, if I’m in a relationship where I have to over-adapt to get minimal strokes, to think I should be more tolerant, understanding, you name it. 

So long as I believe myself and stifle my desperation and inner rebellion I’ll never get out of my one-horse town. No matter what it means to me, or how the limitations of it are manifesting, the real chains are within, embedded in my psyche, and that’s much more difficult to face and acknowledge than outward circumstances. 

But if I go very still within myself and just listen, I can hear a part of me that says ‘this place feels safe’.  Still, I long for freedom from it. I dream of waking up one day to find the horse untethered, nuzzling me, get out of bed, it’s time to go. I visualize jumping on it – yes, in my pyjamas – and galloping out of town, hair flying. Eat my dust. 

My longing is so powerful that it seems only the big change, the big decision, can satisfy it. But if I can’t make the big decision to change, to leave, to follow my heart, chances are I can’t do it in small things either. Personally I’ve had big dreams all my life and I’ve made big and scary decisions to follow my heart. 

I travelled far geographically but I ended up facing the stark reality that I couldn’t put my boundaries down in the simplest of ways. I didn’t know I could and I didn’t know how to. So for all my adventuring I came to realize I’d never really left my one horse town.

So I wrestle with entitlement and self esteem from moment to moment. Learning that I have the right to say to somebody who’s overriding me, I don’t like what you’re doing, and I’m leaving now. Or to not suck up to the bank teller.  Or to walk across a pedestrian crossing and not apologise to the cars waiting for me.

Or to ask for a raise, take a break, let my rage out in my own private space when I’ve been rotely dismissed and my heart wants to burst with frustration and outrage, to yell out into the ether NO, NO NO.  Or to stand up to the voice in my head that tells me I’m not allowed to listen to what I need, express my emotions. 

When I can’t do these small things, the unknown is scary and it’s easier to stay where I’m familiar with the turf, even if it drives me crazy. Even if it’s a one-horse town. Because it’s what I know and it’s how I identify myself. Damn, life is a bitch.

If I live in that world of moment by moment self-negation and denial and tell myself those small things aren’t important, and the only decision that matters is the big one I’m going to make soon, and that’s when I’ll be free and things will work out for me, I’ll never get out of town, because I’m personally tethering that horse to a very secure post in my one-horse town. 

I probably won’t even realize the horse is there for me. So here's what I think. Setting my boundaries, respecting myself in small things is a pain, it’s not very inspiring, but if I keep doing it over and over momentum builds until one day the big decision actually is possible. I untie my beautiful horse and head on out, just like I've always dreamed of, hair flying, laughing into the wind.