Fix you first. The first time I got that message wasn’t in any of the dozen-plus marriage books I’d read back when I was starting to fear we wouldn’t survive the seven-year itch. Book after book told me to accept my partner, surrender, bargain, split the work by schedule, split the work by ability, have more sex, pray together, love harder, speak the right love language, have more dates. The list goes on and on and on, and on a little more.
I read a LOT of books about marriage. I just knew that if I fixed my marriage, my life would be perfect. That frozen void inside me would thaw and fill, and life would be roses again. After all, he was my other half, right? My soulmate? So, getting us back on one accord was surely going to be the ticket to making me feel whole again.
The petty part of me wants to travel back in time so I can stop myself from wasting all that time and money. The time I spent reading, taking notes, plotting ways to implement the lessons (with and without his knowledge), and being scared and frustrated would have been better spent doing literally anything else. Except that’s not true. I would not have learned the lesson.
The first time I was told to fix me first was in a free online tarot reading. It was a computerized reading where you type and meditate on the question, shuffle the deck, and pick a bunch of cards. I was appalled by the conviction. Well, it was a silly computerized card reading and I wasn’t even sure I believed in tarot. So, I ignored it. Then the same message popped up in novels, online sermons, and a tarot reading in New Orleans that nearly brought me to tears. You see, each time I prayed, asked tarot, or meditated I would ask, “How do I fix my marriage?” and during the angry days I’d ask, “How do I fix my husband?” Each time I’d get an answer like get in balance, rest more, or get back your spirituality. O r I’d get something specific to work on. The first order was to get help for my depression and grief.
We’ve all been there, and it isn’t always about a significant other. It can be a job, friend, or relative. We want to fix the relationship, ease the strain, make them stop being a pain in the ass. We want the pain to go away in the quickest way possible. Move the obstacle. Make it vanish so you can be happy again.
It sucks to hear, and trust me it sucks to write, but discomfort is not the enemy. It feels like it, I know, but often it’s a signal. We love Cut ‘Em Off season, and memes that say if it doesn’t make you happy, then leave. We love them because they are validation that life would be grand if we could just control everyone and everything, and get rid of all the unpleasant bullshit. Except, that isn’t real life, is it? It’s just not possible.
So, here we are. You can’t control the world around you. You can’t cut off everyone because you actually need people. What is the solution?
I’ll tell you, but I’ll warn you that won’t like it any more than I did, and it will not be easy. However, let me also point out that it is easier and much more plausible than world domination.
The solution is to fix you first. Stop looking outside of yourself for comfort and the answers. Dig deeper. Figure out what makes you tick and work to unravel it.
One of my favorite scenes/songs is from the Frog Princess when Mama Odie is singing Dig a Little Deeper. God bless poor, oblivious Tiana. She’s singing and dancing and feeling the song like it’s touched her soul. After the song, Mama Odie asked if she understood the lesson and Tiana enthusiastically said she needs to work harder, longer, and basically damn near kill herself to reach her dreams, namely open her restaurant. The collective sigh from the forest should have been another sign, but my girl missed it. So, Tiana had to endure a bunch of crazy to finally understand what Mama Odie meant by dig a little deeper to find out what’s important.
Most of us are Tiana. We don’t see that we are creating, or at least active participants, in the problem. We don’t see that using the old ways is no longer the right way. We do not see the transition looming until it becomes the brick wall we’ve run into.
If you were looking for a sign, this is it. If you wanted to know why things aren’t changing, this is the answer. Dig a little deeper and fix yourself first.
To be clear, you are not broken. You are light and love and all the good things the universe holds. But like all of us, you are ever-evolving, always being and becoming. And it is impossible to thrive in your becoming if you are using all the methods and ways of living from the old version of you. You have to trust, let go, and try something new.
Would you turn in the first draft as the final draft? No. You would submit the first draft if was requested but work through the kinks and edits to submit a polished final product. Well, think of yourself right now as an unedited final draft. You just need to move some commas, rewrite some sentences, and fix some grammatical errors before you can submit the new you to your new phase.
It is easy to blame (insert noun here). But why? It is because we know that doing the work is hard as hell, and life would be much easier if the onus was on THEM to do the work. Why climb the mountain when you can knock that shit down or get a helicopter ride to the top? Right? Nope. Not at all. You won’t knock down the mountain, and you can’t move it. You may or may not be able to rent a helicopter, but that’s beside the point. All you can do is change your approach. And since you can’t change the mountain (or other people), I’m going to amend my statement to make it more true to life. Fix you
first. Fix YOU. The only way you can “change” another person is if you inspire them to change. Don’t believe me. Do you have delusions of grandeur and believe you are the special, magical superpower that can change another person? Cool. Have you ever seen parents and children interact? Mothers bring LIFE, food, shelter, nurturing, and love and STILL can’t fully control their children. Not even when they are tiny and impressionable. Not even with threats and a death stare. If a parent can’t change a two-year-old, what makes you think you can change a grown adult, a company, or an entire group of people?
Listen, I believe we can all be the change we want to see. But again, that involves being an inspiration, not a cattle prod. Fixing you is like washing the windows of your car. You will not only feel better, but you can see better. Things are no longer distorted by your own biased perspective. And the bonus is you call back your own power. You no longer feel beholden to other people’s BS. You will realize you aren’t tied down or stuck which immediately allows you to make better-informed decisions.
So, whenever you find yourself fixating on a particular flaw or trait, ask yourself if there is more to it. I worked with someone who was more focused on their side business than their job, leaving others to pick up the slack. I judged them as deplorable and useless. Eventually, I had to check myself and my own beliefs about usefulness and worth. It’s still super shitty to not pull your weight at work, but it was equally shitty of me to judge the person’s entire being based on their behavior in one setting. Everyone has value. The epiphany helped me release some of the frustration I felt about the person, the office, and previous work experiences. It also allowed me to learn to set and honor my own boundaries at work and home.
Now that you understand the importance of working on yourself, the next logical question is how. I cannot tell you that. My suggestion is to get quiet and meditate, really look inside yourself, feel all the feels, and listen. Once you tune into yourself, you’ll know what you need. Or at least you’ll get a sense of either your end goal or your first steps. I’m an advocate for therapy and doing things that feed your soul. My only warning is to put blinders on. Do not look around and start comparing yourself to others who are in similar phases of renewal. That’s not your lane. Stay in your lane. Focus on yourself. It’s tempting to want to be like someone else, or like in my case, a past version of yourself. No. I’m sorry, but neither of those is going to work. Focus forward, always. And one day, you’ll be happy you did.