I went out to dinner this week with a friend I love a lot. We talked and we laughed and we reminisced about many of the things I talked about in my last roommate entry. About how everything was so often very difficult and terrible, but that it was going through all of those things that allowed us to become who we are now. It’s like a country song with less guitar.
As I came home I found myself thinking about just how very much I not only love but enjoy this person. I was thinking about how much harder that used to be. Not specifically with her, but with everyone and everything. One of the greatest casualties of the peculiar combination of traits that was my brand of fucked up was the struggle to just enjoy people or things. A huge part of it was my perspective on faith, of course. How can you simply enjoy a person when you know they are doing something that will probably send them to hell? It’s a tricky question.
However, it’s important for me to be really honest when it comes to these things. After all, my faith had strange and often unexpected repercussions on my life but there were many places where it didn’t strike at all. The places it did, the things that really took hold; those were a reflection on who I was and what appealed to me, not necessarily on the teachings. I held tenaciously to the idea of wanting to save people because I desperately wanted to save people. I wanted to fix people. Even when it was laughably absurd, even when it was clear that I was drowning right along with them (or sometimes in a much worse spot), I still wanted to be a hero. Or maybe a martyr. It wasn’t really about God, he just added a holy dimension.
I can say all of that now without sting because I really believe that on some level that came from a good place. I believe some part of me really did want to do the right thing, really did care about people. Or would, once I had recovered enough sense of self to look up. I believe that because somehow or another I muddled my way to where I am now and it is not the worst place and hopefully I’ll keep getting better. I think had it all been completely selfish, I could easily have gone another way.
However, in many ways that’s a side tangent. What I was most focused on, most interested in, was the idea that I can enjoy who and what I have now. I don’t have to try to fix anyone. I know that the people I love have problems and so do I. I know that we all work towards solving those problems when we’re ready and not before. And in the meantime, we have so much else right here and now. I have such remarkable, funny, kind, loving, brilliant people in my life. I don’t quite know how to express what it means to know that we can enjoy each other without caveat or expectation. Every week I spend time with multiple of these people. They are all fucking amazing and sometimes I think about how lucky I am and I get all teary and dopey, because being in touch with your feelings HAS UNEXPECTED SIDE EFFECTS AS IT TURNS OUT. Why didn’t anyone put that on the box?
Which tangentially segues to at least one more major piece of the puzzle (probably there are many I am as yet unaware of) that I’ve been pondering and that is how much more comfortable I am with myself. It’s not just that I can be totally open with the people who are close to me – although I can and that is wonderful – it’s that I can be honest with myself. It’s such a clichéd phrase but it’s still true. I have been copying over journals from 2001. I was 17 years old. I was a mess and somehow even more melodramatic than in previous years (which was a feat). I make a very big deal about how I am “going on an inward journey to find out who I really am” and other such nonsense but it can never happen. It could never happen because I was lying to myself. I know I had to have been in there somewhere but honestly it’s hard to see.
It’s hard to imagine what that 17yo would have thought if I could have told her that someday everything would be okay. That she would be happy. That she wouldn’t believe in God anymore, that she would have sex joyfully with no guilt or shame, that she would go to school and love her life. What would she think if I told her that someday she wouldn’t speak to her parents anymore? Or that she would intentionally design classes and projects for herself specifically to undo everything she had been taught, to try to dig back through all of the indoctrination? I don’t know what she would think. It probably says everything you need to know that I would have been disappointed to hear that someday I would be okay (even if I would not have admitted it). In fact, if I had to hazard a guess, I would predict much more disappointment about that than about the idea I would have deserted my faith. Because to be told I would be okay someday would have felt like I was being minimized. Being fucked up was proof that I wasn’t okay. The cuts on my arms were just a visual representation. It was all there to prove that things were not all right. I needed that proof, in ways I was incapable of articulating or understanding. Since I couldn’t yet understand what was wrong, I needed some way to show that things weren’t right.
How can you enjoy things when that is your life? I spent all of that time not even understanding what I was trying to prove, diagnosing myself with various mental illnesses to show that I was really sick, that I had a right to be hurting. It’s hard to be present or aware of yourself in that state. I had miles to go before I would start getting down to the core that felt like me, that place where I could actually be still and calm, content. And at that point I figured out that it wasn’t actually my pain that made my life make sense. In fact, things were a lot better if I focused elsewhere. There are a million changes I could point to over the course of the last few years but this is probably the most profound.
This is the longest way ever of saying that as I sat there eating lemon meringue pie on Friday with one of the best people I know, I was incredibly grateful to be there and be present. And that I finally know those are not the same thing.