“The Little Things”
Describe a little thing–One of the things you love that defines your world but is often overlooked.
I was writing ealier, working on Chapter One of, “Whore” cuz I’m supposed to. I have no idea where I’m actually gonna begin, I’ll probably throw most of the first drafts away, but I had to start, so I began with what I thought I was gonna be when I grew up. I had to think back to who I was and what I was feeling, and I noticed a distinct lack of personal identity. I had absolutely no idea who I was, and did not even begin to feel like a self until eleventh grade.
Identity is complicated, but everything I’ve read on it’s construction suggests that it is as much the “me” inside your head as the “you” that others see. I guess we’re supposed to derive much of our self-knowledge from what the people around us say about us. Usually, this is a good thing, people are pro-social, millenia of evolution have made us to be caring and cooperative, lest we undermine group cohesion and compromise our own safety. “Megan likes me and thinks I’m a great friend. Kevin laughs at all my jokes.” Good things.
But what happens when the only feedback you hear is negative? You believe it? You can’t without becoming suicidal, and I’ve done my time concerning that. You hungrily seek validation from wherever it may come? Done that, too. Still do, at least in that I hold people to very low standards and am prone to “toxic forgiveness,” because it’s better to be loved by someone who hurts me than to be loved by no one at all. This isn’t limited to romantic relationships. One friend stole my rent money and was hanging out in my bedroom again the following month. I gave another $100 to break on cigarettes and cashews and he instead blew the entire amount on lottery tickets. Didn’t even win. Came back with an apology and no cashews. Then I had a $7,000 check mailed to his apartment.
What you do, though, is worse than all that. You float, always somehow slightly removed from yourself, like you’re keeping a stranger at arm’s length. You become the people you’re hanging out with, and you’ll hang out with anyone. You let them walk all over you, take advantage, afraid to lose the source of positive feedback. And then, if you’re really lucky, you get to suffer tremendous pain that forces you to decide your own identity.
For me, this happened when my husband left. I was devastated, six years down the drain because of another woman. Humiliated, jealous, alone. But worse, he took absolutely everything and left me with no resources to survive. I had no job, no car, not a penny to my name, and he had the support of my would be support system. I could barely eat, at one point sustained for an entire month on four boxes of macaroni and cheese and a jar of chunky Jiffy. It was down to the wire, all that I had at my disposal was myself, mind and body, and me and I made it. That’s when I knew I deserved my respect, fuck what everyone else said.
People get to take identity for granted. It’s a life giving thing, it is direction, it affords protection, and disruption is the crux of many debilitating mental health disorders. We need it. Now that I have me, I’m sure I can handle anything, except maybe growing my friendship skills. I took it for granted too, not giving it full credit for how it has transformed the way I live my life. Here’s my self apology, glad this time that I’m so forgiving.