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“The Neon Butterfly” by Michelle Buchheit-Schill

Ever since I was a young child I have been obsessed with freedom and independence. This was mostly due to the fact that I was raised in a very strict family. I lived my life under my mother’s thumb well into my forties. It took the worst tragedy of my life to finally break free.

I have always felt trapped, imprisoned and with no idea of who I was. I longed for the day when I could leave my parents’ home only to find that I was still not free. I found that my mother still did her best to keep close tabs on me. I never truly felt like an adult until I was about 50.

I had no idea that I had the power within me to break free all along. I had fell hook, line and sinker for the lies my family, school, church and society in general spewed out at me. It is definitely one of those cases of “I wish I knew then what I know now.” I sometimes feel that it was a waste because I did not realize this until much later in my life. I often think about how much different life would have been for me and my boys had I actually had a backbone. The important thing is that I know now and I am living my own truth now. Better late than never.

Although my mother’s side of the family was vocal, passionate and volatile, no one ever truly communicated. It was all a facade. You were expected to act, look, believe and think a certain way and if you should fall out of the “norm” you best not vocalize it. What would people think? If something were upsetting you, you were expected to hold it in and not say a word. Therefore, the obvious would happen. We held our feelings and hurts in so long that eventually someone would explode and the drama would ensue. Adults would loose their tempers and lash out, while children (mostly teens) would eventually exhibit depression and behavior problems. The younger generation was to “respect” the older at all times. “Respect” in my family is not limited to treating politely and speaking kindly. The true definition in my family is that the older generation is always right no matter how deplorable and you are to never contradict nor state your opinions nor feelings unless they are in total agreement with the older generation. Children were always wrong, had no credibility and were more of possessions than human beings. I think this is why I thought things would change when I reached adulthood. I found that the problem was that even though I was now an adult, I was still a member of the younger generation and, therefore, not entitled to my own thoughts, feelings and opinions. Even worse, I was not entitled to my own life. I tried to wait patiently until I was a member of the older generation. Now in my fifties, I am still NOT a member of the older generation and had to take the drastic action of claiming my freedom prematurely. As for my children, I granted them their individuality and freedom long before adulthood.

My father’s side of the family was different yet the same. On that side of the family you held your emotions in but they are much quieter than the maternal side of my family. I do recall an actual physical fight between my father and my youngest uncle but, as far as I know, volcanic eruptions were much less common on my dad’s side. I remember being on a quiet farm and everyone seemed to be, for the most part, quiet. I actually enjoyed this, not realizing that it is actually a similar scenario to the other side of my family but in reverse. My dad’s side of the family does not show much affection; whereas, on my mom’s side, affection is shown but much of it is forced.

Then there was school. The ultimate brainwashing and shove the child in the box system. I quickly found that I did not fit in there either. I was shy, reserved and quiet. I did not socialize well and spent too much time in “another world” or my nose in a book and I was artsy. I stuck up for the underdog, which back in the 1970’s was not a popular thing to do. The only mold I fit was that of the “female student”. I was terrible at math and science but great with grammar and literature. This made me feel like I had actually done something right but I felt bad for the girls who did not fit that mold. Back then a girl was expected to not excel in math and science. Even in the classroom, I was told who I should be.

Then there was church. Most of my life I tried to make myself fit the role of the “good Christian woman”. I tried to follow the rules and tried to convince myself of their moral standards. I tried very hard to pretend but I failed. I should have realized it was hopeless when, as a teenager, I was told that the very abilities I was born with would send me straight to hell.

Then there is society. Wow, how do I even list everything that society expects? We must be exactly the same and fit in or we are outcasts and/or crazy. Not only must we act the same, we must look the same. There is a certain weight one must weigh at times which will span an entire lifetime. There is a certain size clothes one must always wear and a certain style. Your car, home, family and job must fit the standard. You must feel and think as you are told. We actually do have thought police now but in order to prove George Orwell wrong, it is disguised as “politically correct”.

All of these factors had me feeling very trapped and confused. I did not know who I was and even if I should discover her, I did not have the freedom or feel safe enough to be her. I held all thoughts and feelings deep within me, hidden a cave that was so deep and dark that it was nearly impossible to find. I had myself so convinced that I had to be nice and polite to everyone, that I never stuck up for myself. I never told anyone that they hurt me. I took the blame for all failed relationships and for everything that went wrong around me. It was always Michelle’s fault. No matter how loving and caring I tried to be, Michelle was mean and selfish. I felt as if people would never be satisfied.

I used to believe that all of this was unique to me. Now, I know differently. I believe there are many of you out there who have lived this or are still living this. In fact, I would say everyone has lived this to one extent or another. But I am here to tell you that you do NOT have to live like this. You CAN be free.

As John said in his blog post earlier today, we can be free and happy if we begin to be honest with ourselves and others. We have the right to live our own truth and we do not have to live and be who others demand us to be. I will warn you that this takes a lot of work and is very difficult. You will have to face all of your demons, past hurts, hurts you caused others,, etc. During these times I feel as if I have gone backwards and I am a hypocrite. I will warn you that during these times you will probably suffer depression. When you come out of these times you are stronger and better than before and you realize that it was well worth it only to find there is another demon you must battle and you are back down again.

I have realized that this cycle is repetitive but every time I am even stronger and understand my Spiritual path more. I am now able to be honest with myself and I am currently working on being honest with others. I think this may be even more frightening. This cycle will probably keep repeating until I have battled every demon. Until I love myself for who I am. Until I love and accept others for they are. Until I can live my own life freely without guilt.

This is difficult and it is painful but it is worth it and you CAN do it. You deserve it and owe it to yourself. – Michelle