Fabulous news. I have created a new category on my blog. It’s called Navel-Gazing. All things Jack, all things shrinkapy, all things inherently narcissistic and what-does-it-all-mean. From now on, if you see one of my posts has been categorized in the Navel-Gazing file and you don’t feel like dealing with that hot mess, you can skip it entirely. Yay for you!
Now. On to the navel-gazing.
My assignment from Ali Velshi on Friday (I got an assignment!) was two-fold:
1) stop thinking I belong on the Island of Misfit Toys (his words – Ali Velshi is kind of awesome);
B) change the image of myself being an old lady in a nightgown sitting in the dark in a horrible chair in front of a rabbit-eared television.
We all know B can’t possibly happen, because by the time I’m that old, no one will even know what a rabbit-eared television was. Also because I’m not the nightgown type. AV’s larger point was that the way we see ourselves becomes the vibe we give off and therefore becomes the way other people see us, thus turning us into that which we saw to begin with. Self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t want to be a sad old frizzy-haired lady alone in a chair in front of “Hee-Haw” reruns, then don’t picture yourself that way.
But why have I ever thought of myself that way?
Enter Misfit Toys.
The first time I felt “different,” I was six years old, kneeling backward in the avocado-green swivel rocking chair in the living room, staring out the window and thinking about how we were moving to a different town. I felt set-apart, sad, lonely and isolated. At six.
From there, the pattern of what seems like pretty regular kid stuff emerged: glasses by age 8, a move to another state, mocked for talking funny. A ridiculously large vocabulary, a tendency to think I was smarter than the teachers. Bad perms (there are no good perms) and social skills close to normal, but not quite. Nonexistent athletic abilities despite years of trying. They’re all things I’ve grown to own about my nerdy early years. I laugh about them and I know every kid goes through difficult growing pains.
But I’ve come to realize that maybe for me, the typical experiences had a dark effect. My mother remembers me at 10 throwing down my books, yelling that it was all “too much” and I couldn’t take on one more thing. I remember having stomach problems at that age. By 14, I was suicidal. At 16, I was clearly internalizing every bad message I got, but none of the good ones. I don’t even remember good ones, but the bad seemed to come from everyone – boys, girls, and especially my mother. My first real love, who was also my best friend, wound up finally confessing when we were 20 that he didn’t want me because I wasn’t pretty enough for him. (I kept him in my life until I was 27.) After years of feeling ugly and believing those who told me, I was primed for a very bad situation with a married coworker who said he was in love with me. He was the first person ever to tell me I was beautiful, and I needed to believe him. I didn’t have an affair with him. But I liked that he wanted to, and then hated myself for liking it.
At 24, I moved, for the eighth time, but by my own choice, to take a job. I grew into who I was – finally at an age, education and experience level where my persona made more sense to other people. I went from the midwest, where people are a bit less likely to compliment for fear of seeming skeevy, back to the east coast, where men have no problem telling you what they like about your looks. And I found one Midwest born-and-raised man in particular who was very good at making me see myself differently without being piggish.
He never knew how I saw myself, but he made me believe I was better. And I started acting better, feeling better, presenting myself better, and getting more compliments, leading to more confidence. Jack made me realize I’m not actually ugly at all. He made me realize how good it is that I’m smart and strong.
I fell in love with Jack, but Jack stopped short of loving me, and by my late 20s I was tired of telling myself that I wouldn’t be on my own my whole life. The men I’d loved most, who’d known me best, still couldn’t quite love me. Maybe there really was something wrong with me. Maybe I really was going to end up by myself. So I’d better be prepared for it so I could feel empowered, rather than sad and pathetic. And after a while, and some meds, I got to a place where I was much more comfortable with that idea.
Now, Ali Velshi says I have to change the idea.
I don’t wanna go back there. That was a bad place. I was sad a lot. I had maaaaassive anxiety attacks. It was awful. I’m much better now that I—
Oohhhhhh, wait a minute.
I’m much better now that I’m being treated for anxiety.
Was that the problem, then? Not the being alone thing, but the anxiety thing? Was that why I felt so especially awful?
Was that why the litany of normal stuff for kids had affected me so badly for so long?
Twenty-five years? Thirty?
The thing about having an anxiety disorder (which is a phrase covering a wide range of anxious reactions – mine has been severe at times, but not debilitating) is that you don’t always realize that your reactions to regular old things are colored by that anxiety. So I didn’t know – and still don’t – how much my anxiety issues may have colored the way I saw things, or reacted to things.
But the thing about fearing you’ll be by yourself, unloved, forever, is really about one thing: it’s about believing you’re not worth what you hope for. I’ve worked for years at knowing I’m worth it. But apparently, somewhere in me, I don’t believe it.
Jack told me once, years ago, that I deserved someone better than him. I told him, full of what seemed like confidence, that I knew what I deserved.
And I held on to him.
Last year I went on a rant about the claymation Rudolph special, and in particular about the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys. There is nothing wrong with that doll. But according to Rudolph’s producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., Dolly’s problem was psychological, caused by being abandoned, suffering depression from feeling unloved.
I’m the damned doll. There is nothing wrong with me. But I don’t know that.
Wonder if Santa has my new address.