To Hell with that Slapping on Rouge Business

I just wanna be okay, be okay, be okay. I just wanna be okay today… Ingrid Michaelson

So, my last few posts have been a little dismal, a little desperate, a little depressing even. I felt very awkward putting them out into the digital universe when who knows who might read them. Of course, and this is the case when you open up to others, I was met by messages and texts and phone calls from people who know me personally. I appreciate the check-ins, the compassion, and I suppose the advice, yet the outpouring of concern also left me feeling embarrassed and possibly a little ashamed. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest after all. Still, the truth is that lately, at times, I have been in a somewhat of a dark place. Don’t we all have to travel over that painful speedbump from time to time?

Yet, it is valued in our society to put your best foot forward. To present a pretty face to the world.

This idea that we should slap on some rouge and fake it til we make it seems both like sound advice and unsettling bull shit. Yes, we shouldn’t wallow in our own emotional filth for too long. Getting out of bed and brushing our teeth and facing the world is important. Of course it is. Still, must we always keep our darkness buried deep inside us only to fester and gangrene?

I am, in pondering this question, reminded of a night 15 years ago around this time of year. I was down and out and in the thick of it. I was drinking and feeling hopeless and self-harming and I didn’t think I’d make it through the night. I was so beat up and desperate that I called a suicide hotline. I don’t remember the voice on the other end of the line. I have no idea what words of wisdom she or he imparted. Yet, I am still here. I am still alive. I must have more to give.

But, the fact that one night I thought I might actually kill myself and reached out for help is not my story. My story is this: I had a job interview the following morning. The interview was early, and I had been up late. I got myself out of bed, brushed my teeth, slapped on some mascara (I don’t actually wear rouge), put on a skirt and blouse, and walked out to my car to face the daylight. With cuts running all up and down my thighs and a sense that I no longer belonged on this earth, I went to the interview, put on a smile, answered questions with a straight back and a load of confidence, and landed a job.

Some people may question if I was, then, actually depressed. “You reached out so you weren’t really serious,” they might say. “People who are truly depressed don’t get out of bed,” they might add. I was, at least in my mind, deadly serious and truly depressed. Yet, this was my modus operandi: to be tiptoeing on the ledge and pretending that everything was just hunky dory.

I imagine that I operated this way out of the necessity to self-preserve. Like I said, we can’t wallow in our emotional filth for too long. That’s some really frightening territory. But, it is additionally frightening to admit that we are going crazy. Even if for a short time. There is the stigma, sure, but there is also the fear that if we admit we are going crazy that solidifies that we actually are going crazy and no one wants to go crazy. At least that is the way that it is for me.

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You’re Gonna Have to Face It…

Your lights are on, but you’re not home/Your mind is not your own/Your heart sweats, your body shakes/Another kiss is what is takes… from Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”

Exactly two years ago to the day I wrote: But then there is this whole scary business of a partnership, of monogamy, or being swallowed up whole and losing myself. Why, when I think of commitment, do I suddenly think of being eaten alive and forfeiting my identity? I would say that obviously has something to do with my history, of course. And, because of the fact that I have seen—in my own life and in the lives of others—love go all sorts of awry. I’ve seen the flames of love start out so colorful, so beautiful, only to turn into a destructive wild fire. Ugh. How tremendously frightening!

Now, here I am, almost at the two year mark of my sobriety and at the year mark in a healthy romantic partnership. I have profoundly changed and my life has profoundly changed and I am filled with gratitude. I have been uber-joyful even in the face of the little “lessons” that the Universe has been sending me about boundary setting and relationships in general. Yet, lately, I have hit a wall. I have felt a little lost. Just last week I stated to my partner: “I don’t know. I feel like I am losing myself. I don’t know what I am asking for. I don’t know what I need.”

This truth that I am in a metaphorical hall of mirrors and that I don’t know which exit door will lead me back to my true self has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my partner. This wall that I am banging my head against is, perhaps, one of those distorted mirrors—the ones that make you look taller or fatter or completely discombobulated—and I have wondered repeatedly if I even have the capacity to be a good partner. “This can’t be who I really am,” I cry! “If it isn’t, then who am I?!? If it is, then God help me!”

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Perfectly Imperfect

Nothing in nature blooms all year. Be patient with yourself. ~ Anonymous (I think.)

Yesterday, I shared with a group of people that I struggled with being a perfectionist. That I was really damned hard on myself when I didn’t live up to my unreasonable expectations. That this second year of sobering up was so different from the first year—so less about white knuckling through cravings and so much more about the emotional muscle training needed to beef up coping skills that perhaps I never had in the first place. I shared that when someone tells me that “I am exactly where I need to be” I want to spit and cry. Dramatic as it may seem, I don’t want to die before becoming the person that I am meant to become.

Whoa, Nelly!

That is crazy thinking. If it is my time to go, today or many days from today, aren’t I already then the person that I am meant to become? Why this fear and loathing? Acceptance, young Jedi.

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