WARNING: This piece uses some rather stark and brutal language.
“The mistake ninety-nine percent of humanity made, as far as Fats could see, was being ashamed of what they were; lying about it, trying to be somebody else.”
~J. K. Rowling, The Casual Vacancy
I’m starting to like myself. Like, holy shit. If you only knew. If you’d spent any time at all with me inside my brain, you’d have not thought it possible. I mean, the things i’ve said to myself, about myself. I wouldn’t say those things even to the people that are largely responsible for me being this fucked up. But i’ve said them to me, about me. I don’t want to bring down the tone of this piece by being specific. I’m pretty sure i don’t need to anyway. You already know, because you’ve said terrible things to yourself, about yourself too.
I was asked what my greatest fear is. It was during one of those courses that seekers like me are wont to take. It was a deep, intellectual course that asked you questions like, “What are you pretending not to know?” (If you inferred a sarcastic tone in that last sentence, you’re correct. Feel free to carry it through to the end of the paragraph.) In the third level of the course you did a fire walk and went on a zip line (not at the same time, but hey, that would’ve been an improvement) and then you were declared an intellectual giant and given leave to talk down to all the unfortunate peons who hadn’t taken the course, henceforth.
My greatest fear was, and is, death. Thanks to how deeply and completely i was indoctrinated in my family’s religion, i still wrestle with that fear. I got some much-needed relief the day i realised that, if the god i was raised to worship is indeed real (for which i see no evidence), i wouldn’t worship him anyway. Still, the vein of acquiescing to religious authority without question, and acceptance of dogma without investigation, runs through me. If i were a tapestry and religion a thread, the pattern of my life would be shot through with it. If i started pulling out those threads, the fabric would be ruined.
To return to the occasion of me being asked to name my fears. We were partnered up and sat on chairs facing each other and were instructed to name everything we were afraid of, stream-of-consciousness style, with no editing. Well, all of this fear fell out of my face like projectile vomit, like hot acid. Those who ran the course were right to focus on our fears, but i was a long way from being able to do any serious work on its origins, costs, and consequences. Being terrified of death wasn’t news to me, but something else was. I birthed it like a premature foetus.
I suppose that’s enough build up. Heh.
My second greatest fear is the one where, if i let anyone in to really get to know me, they’ll find out that i’m an awful person and they’ll leave me.
I was raised with secrets. It started with the real reason i was born, and just continued. I was like one of those cartoon kids getting caught in a snowball rolling downhill, except it wasn’t snow, it was shit. And that shitball kept getting bigger and more destructive. I was taught that we were different than other people. They said we were so intelligent, so evolved, and part of a privileged circle of spiritual elites that had to practise what we believed in private, behind closed doors. Other people couldn’t understand, they said.
So i grew up inside this terrible dichotomy; being one thing during the day, and something else entirely at night. And i knew it was wrong, because it felt terrifically bad. I don’t mean physically, although that part hurt a great deal – i mean it was like carrying a cannonball around in my belly. But these people that i loved, that were entrusted with my care and upbringing, told me it was good. So i learned to subjugate and compartmentalise my thoughts and feelings from a very young age, and the worst thing of all is that i learned i couldn’t trust myself. My thoughts and feelings and perceptions were different than what they were supposed to be, so i did what most abused children do – i internalised the blame. I was the problem. I was wrong. I was bad.
I wondered how they tolerated me at all, and i was so grateful for their love.
I always knew there was something wrong with me, but i wasn’t born with it, it was put inside me without my consent. It was the psychological rape that impregnated me with that twisted, misshapen blob of cells that i spat out that day. I wasn’t ready to let it go then. That was over 30yrs ago and here i am finally putting her to rest. I buried my beautiful little hate-baby and i feel so much better. I’m slowly leaving my paranoia behind, like flowers at her graveside. I’m interrupting my inner dialogue that projects how i feel about myself onto the people around me, ascribing meaning to their eyes and putting whispered words into their mouths that are not theirs. And even if i’m right sometimes – do i really want to give a fuck about it?
I remind myself of the times in my life when i had a number of friends and was welcomed with many smiles and warm salutations. Inside i was dying. I felt like a fraud because i was one. I had no intimate relationships with anyone, save my husband and my children, and even that was difficult and strained for me. I was terrified that someone would get close enough to figure out how incredibly repulsive i was inside. Bad. Spoiled goods. Completely gone off.
Now i’m starting over and i’m not that close to anyone. I’m so fortunate to have a situation where i can make short forays into the world around me and practise being me. If i become drained and/or overwhelmed i can retreat to my Little Crooked House and hermit away for as long as i wish. I’m no longer trying to charm everyone i meet. I don’t need you to like me. The ones who genuinely haven’t liked me, haven’t done anything nearly as terrible to me as i’ve done to myself. Also, the ones that claimed to like and even love me, have historically done far worse to me than even i have done.
My goal is to like myself. To enjoy my own company. To admire and respect my deportment. To please myself.
I am a beautiful bag of mostly water, to riff on a Star Trek quote.
IMAGE: Tim B. Motivv