Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Auld Lang Syne

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I apologize for the utter lack in posts here in December. I've been working and inordinate amount, but when I've had time to post, I haven't felt up to it. The truth of the matter is that there's a lot going on, but nothing I can talk about publicly and has little to do with the content of this blog as well. Some of it involves silly little things that aren't worth the time to write about. Some of it involves stories that aren't mine to tell. Much of it are the sorts of things that some bloggers could write about and not worry about who reads it, but I can't do that. I adhere to a sort of public-private split here and know better now than I did before to not divulge too much into personal stories that could involve people who might be reading this blog. And some things I don't feel comfortable writing about, not at all. I can hardly admit them to myself, let alone write them down in words.

I can't say that December has been the kindest of months to me. It's incredible how very happy and very sad I've been, often at the same time. Often I put on a good face and tell people things are going fine, that I'm good, that everything is just great, even when I feel the opposite. Maybe it's because I don't want to clutter up people's times with my troubles or maybe it's because it's easier to pretend to be okay than to have people worry about me and how I'm doing. This of course causes other problems - when I am upset, it seems very out of character and I worry about people knowing that I conceal it, afraid that people will thinking I'm a fake or not honest. I've often felt as over-reactive and so I've learned to try and quell it down instead of showing how truly thin-skinned and reactive I can be.

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I came back to an empty apartment on December 26th after a long day at work and felt a mix of feelings. I lived by myself for an entire year and yet now I don't know how I could do that again. I like my solitude and privacy, sure, but not all the time. Having nothing but my own actions to fill a space is rather alarming now. The other night, I treated myself to dinner on my own in a restaurant, a reward for surviving the Christmas season in retail amid a credit/debit card hacking issue at Target. I'd never eaten in a restaurant on my own before and I couldn't help but think I was treated differently. Think about it - how often do you see a woman eating alone in a restaurant, especially a pub or bar? Not often, I feel. I watched The Muppets (the 2011 film, for clarification) for the first time the other night and greatly enjoyed the Amy Adams/ Miss Piggy song "Me Party." I like treating myself and embracing solitude, but I can see a stark difference between solitude and a solitary life. I enjoy the former, not the latter, and I worry more and more that I'm slipping into the latter.

I am also abundantly self-aware that every section in this post begins with "I" and I cringe at it. It all seems so me-focused and selfish. Who cares that I'm dragging along a gaggle of emotional baggage and feel a little more clouds and less sun? But denying my right to feel these emotions is partly what got me into this mess to begin with, this attempt to pretend that everything is okay when maybe it's not. I don't like to talk about my problems because there are people who have it much worse than me and they need their voices heard far more. Yet when I start to apply this to all aspects of my life, I feel I'm cutting myself off from other people or from truly understanding some aspect of myself. It then feeds into a vicious cycle of thinking that I only want to talk about my problems because I want to talk about myself and I'm selfish and love to victimize my life and am terrible, wretched creature. I demonize myself, which only feeds into the problems, which makes me simultaneously try and repress and yet yearn to discuss all the more. You see the issue.

Often I wonder what seed is planted in the subconscious to make some people so doubtful, so self-critical of themselves, so certain that there is something wrong with them. Are we born that way or is it thrust upon us? I don't know. It seems like I've always been this way. I remember writing in a journal for fourth grade, in an entry where we were supposed to talk to Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street about our faults and short-comings (or whatever the fourth grade equivalents to that are). I eventually divulged in this very long entry (which I still have, somewhere) about how this voice appeared in my head, telling me to do terrible things or saying terrible things about people. I made it out to be a very literal devil on the shoulder but it was less like that, more of me realizing that, no matter how much the little Catholic school girl I was yearned for it, I would never be a saint. I had terrible thoughts appearing in my head and there was nothing I could do about it. I was not a perfect person. I was angry at my teacher. I hated some of my classmates for their cruelty and their ease at attaining things I would never gain. I wanted to skip class and run away but was too afraid to do so and had no where to run. The only thing I'd ever seen as mattering - being a saint - was utterly unobtainable and the only other option left for me was to be a monster. But it didn't entirely start here. This is when it manifested itself more clearly, because I wrote about it, but I'd often felt like a problem. Ever since Jordan the blonde-headed boy I can perhaps label as my first crush ratted on me to my pre-school teacher for stealing clay did I begin to ruminate on my flaws and feel there was something wrong with me.

The point isn't how I began to feel this way, but that I do, and others don't. It's left me struggling to act confidently and to believe in myself for many, many years. This year though, for the first time in my life, I felt like things were changing. I graduated from college, I got a job (even if it wasn't the job I had imagined for myself), I had a career path, changed it, and found one more suitable for me. I felt stronger, better, happier. Sure, I had some mishaps, but I pulled myself through them.

Then there was a moment at Globe University when this woman, Carol, said something to me that has continued to echo through my mind. Carol was the most amazing person I met at Globe. She's animal rights activist who's in her sixties (should have just turned 64, I believe) and gone back to school so she can get a degree in activism. She went to the University of Minnesota during the protests of the 60s and majored in theater and Russian. She developed a drug habit and worked as a prostitute (not necessarily in that order, but she did seem to allude to link between the two) and dealt with arrests and prosecutions multiple times. And yet here she was, pulling herself through school despite health problems and a lot of emotional turmoil in her life. I really like Carol and she's one of a few people I truly miss from Globe. Sometimes she'd be a bit inappropriate or say something crass in class, but I admired her forthrightness and fortitude of opinion. Yet she thought so little of herself when speaking about her abilities. Before class one day, she was talking about how nervous she was for a mock interview (being the interviewer rather than the interviewee) we had to do in another class. She turned to me and asked how I felt about it. I shrugged and said it was okay. She couldn't believed I wasn't concerned and asked if I was nervous about it. I said no. She looked at me, aghast. "Where do you get your confidence from?" she cried. I blushed and shrugged, saying I didn't know, but that I'd done other job interviews recently and it was nice to be on the other side of the table for once.

That was the first time I can ever remember someone describing me as confident. A woman who has no problem expressing herself verbally, who can argue animal rights all day, thought I was confident because I wasn't nervous about a simulated interview. It occurred to me that confidence comes in different forms and it was a pity that she could see mine so strongly and not her own, while I'd been oblivious to mine.

I of course then made the fatal mistake - I became too over-confident. I started believing I could do anything. I walked with a certain bravado. I felt utterly self-certain and elated with myself. It didn't last. Cracks formed and my ground of certainty was shaken. It crumbled and I fell through. I'm still trying to regain my footing, trying to put on a brave face. But all that bravado felt like a masquerade, not the real thing. I can't see that confidence Carol thought I had.

I made the mistake of reading a few sections of my old high school diaries over Christmas. I found them embarrassing at the time, even more so now. I was so concerned with the most miniscule of things, but world was smaller then. However, that isn't what bothered me. What truly bothered me was how much I still sound like high school me, how my voice still sounds the same. I'd like to think I've left high school me behind - I didn't like her very much. I'd like to think I've left her behind precisely because I didn't like her at the time and I caused myself a lot of emo self-hating misery. Long have I tried to embrace the fact that I will always be high school me in some respects and that it's important to remember when I came from. But that's little help when your very mind and body feels monstrous.

What causes people to hate themselves when others feel far less negativity? Where does it come from? How is it born and/or bred? This time of year always makes me a bit nostalgic for childhood, especially here recently because I'm recalling my deep, deep love for Peter Pan and my long suffering empathy and appreciation for Captain Hook. I like to think of my childhood as a time before I felt all this darkness, all this personal dislike, but I'm not entirely sure that was the case. Sure, there was less of it, but I remember feeling particularly crummy about myself around six or seven. It starts young. How? Why?

And so it's the end of another year and I look back at all that's occurred. 2013 was a particularly wondrous year, full of excitement and new beginnings. But it was also a rough, full of mistakes and mishaps and ends. As much as I love change, I also fear it - whenever I gain something, I also lose something in the process. And I'm afraid to see what else I will lose. 

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But I made it through this year. I made it to this point and I am hopeful for 2014. I can withstand the losses and look forward to whatever gains my come my way. I won't wish for the impossible - that the confidence I seek will suddenly appear for good and attach itself permanently, instead of jerking itself loose like Peter Pan's shadow and tangling itself up elsewhere. It's a long process to gaining it but I know I'm much further along than I was just a year ago. I won't wish for love or wealth or glory or anything like that, but only what Carol wanted - to feel content with her life. I'd like to be content with myself, to feel that what I am is good enough. Because if I can't believe in myself, how am I going to continue to believe in the rest of the world?

This has been a post I've gone back and forth between writing but never actually have. I'm just going to publish it, in the hopes that getting it off my chest will allow me get back to regular blogging. To end, I'm sharing go-to song for the past few weeks. I have developed a love for Bastille and this song's lyrics really resound with me after some crazy things happened this December. While I've struggled to be an optimist about things, I believe that I can still be and that at least if I've been here before, I know the territory - and I know I can get through it.



So with this, a very happy New Year to you all. May 2014 be warm and bright and good.

5 comments:

  1. Hi Gina—I feel like a bit of a creeper, commenting here when I've been reading this blog since summer, but I felt this was worth saying. You're pondering why some people have such feelings of negativity/self-loathing and others are more easygoing. I wonder this myself. One thing I've realized is that there's a lot of sadness and quandaries in the world, and it's exhausting to mentally engage those, especially if you find yourself pondering more than doing. Some of us aren't thinkers and can—benignly—put things out of their minds and take life as it comes. Others of us—and based on the deeply thoughtful posts you gift us, I would guess you're one of these—can't help but think, and with that comes the exhaustion and distress of bearing those burdens and realizing that there's no easy answers and no clear idea of what to do. Which can in turn lead to self-loathing, because one feels so inadequate to do anything or do enough. I know I'm like this and that I have been since childhood. I wouldn't trade it for anything though. What keeps me going is the sense that there is good in the world and that I have a choice to be part of that good, and that I always have a chance to be better, to get up and try again, to be forgiven.
    Anyway, I don't know if that was helpful, but I thought it was better to share than not. If you don't care for it, then just cast it aside; I won't be offended. :) Keep thinking and sharing—it's always a good read. And happy 2014 to you!

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    1. Dear lovely anon - thank you for this. Truly. This is a great help to me and wonderful comment to receive on the last day of the year. It really means a lot to me that you posted this. Thank you so, so much and happy 2014 to you as well!

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  2. Wow, thank you, Gina, for posting this. I commenten on another post earlier in the year asking about how to make confident decisions. Like Carol, I see the confidence in you. Even though you are in an uncertain spot at the moment, and even though I really don't know you, I really look up to you. Like the Anon above said, though you might not think it,we all really do appreciate reading anything you share. Not only does it take a lot to share these things, but it gives us hope and courage, if not a little wistfulness too, to get through our insecurities, together. Thank you for sharing, for the lovely, witty blog, and happy 2014 to you!

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    1. Thank you, sweet anon, for your wonderful comments. Knowing that what I write has helped you amazes me and inspires me. Thank you so much for this and happy 2014 to you too!

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  3. hey found your blog and can relate; from living on my own, to eating out as a treat on my own, to feeling people looked at me strange eating on my own (the waiter went "just 1?" a little too quizzically, felt so awkward i didnt want to lift my head from my plate, i had a book and i wasnt sure whether i should look at it or not), to writing "I" too much, to wondering why some people lack confidence and ruminate, to the Catholic school guilt, especially to the Catholic school guilt. i was listening to a song recently that helped me, the lyrics went: "to heaven i'm a failure, to earth i'm as good as anyone else": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjrG4JjBS9Qanyway thanks for sharing, it's good to know we're not alone, and hope you learn to appreciate yourself and find balance.

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