Adjusting to life and loneliness and love and all the sundry flavors of existence is an ongoing process. Just when you think you have it figured out, you learn something else, experience something else, even become a little bit of something else, and you have to adjust all over again. That’s part of the struggle of being human, I guess.
I read Kitten’s blog this morning, and then re-read it. I started to reply, and stopped myself. I needed a bit more time to think about it. So I walked away for a while, did some other things, then came back and read it again. While I’m still not sure I have anything all that important or helpful to say, at least I think I’m ready to say something.
One of the things Kitten talks about is a persistent feeling of being “unworthy.” This is something about which I can speak from experience. Over most of my life I’ve struggled with issues of self-worth. I can give you a laundry list of examples of how I’ve felt Not Good Enough – not good enough, not masculine enough, too small, too ugly, too smart (!), too poor, too introverted, too inexperienced, too afraid, too fucking bad. In general I’ve spent a significant portion of my life in which I might as well have pasted the “kick me” sign on my own back, because I so obviously felt myself unworthy of love and respect, why should anyone else grant it to me?
Everyone has heard at some point in time that in order to be truly emotionally healthy, we have to learn not to rely on anyone else’s definition of who we are or what our value is. Sage advice – and like most sage advice, it’s much easier to hear it than to follow it. I know I heard that advice early and often, but it has only been recently that I’ve been able to take a few steps down that path.
I haven’t really talked about this on the blog before, but a few years ago I almost literally came within a few cross words of a very ugly divorce, and in the process I hit bottom in just about every way that I could have short of an addiction. The backstory isn’t all that important here, except to say that when lying bleeding on the pavement, I made a firm decision to refuse to continue to live as I had been living. And, while it’s still a sometimes day-to-day struggle, it’s slowly been working. My resolution did help me to save myself. By first deciding that I was worth the effort of saving myself, I also eventually and almost accidentally helped save my marriage. (Notice the “helped.” Nobody can save a marriage by themselves.)
The first part of that transformation was deciding to crawl out of the hellish armor I’d carefully crafted for myself over the years. It was the hardest and the scariest part of the whole experience, but by opening up about how I was feeling – first to a counselor, then to some trusted friends, and then via my abortive first blog – I gradually came to see that people wouldn’t necessarily cut me to bits outside the armor. In fact, in some cases, they offered sympathy, understanding, help, and even respect: not for some false sense of strength that I projected through my armor, but for true strength, however small or sorely tested, in the face of personal trials.
Blogging was a big part of that, for me, and it’s part of the reason I keep it up. Aside from my sense of humor born from years of company clerking through the War Between the Sexes, and my occasional need to update everybody who cares and doesn’t care with the latest MotoGP testing times, blogging was a big part of how I found my honest voice, how I gradually got the courage to talk about things that really mattered to me. Through a blog, I could do that without censoring myself or being afraid that anybody would laugh. For all I knew, nobody would even read it (definitely the case with my first blog), but the fact that someone could have read it is what required courage, what made it different than scribbling in a private journal.
And, gradually, through the interest and the kindness of strangers, I’ve grown a bit. It’s still not always easy to remember that it doesn’t matter so much what others think of me as what I think of myself, and I’m not even talking about watching my page-hits numbers and thinking “They like me, they really like me!!” I’m a long way from anything resembling a destination in that regard, if one even exists. But I do know more now than I did before – I know which direction I want to walk, and I know that wherever I’m going, it’s better than where I was. As for what I am worth, well, I’m finding that out a little bit at a time. But I know now that whatever else I am, I’m not unworthy.
For anyone else struggling to find themselves, I recommend this short book: John Powell, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?
And for people trying to figure themselves out within their relationship, one book that helped me is: Harville Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want