Tag Archives: respect

I Am

When I think of adjectives to describe myself, confident, articulate, and skilled are not the first things that pop into my head.  That’s not my tape; that’s not the dialogue that plays.  So when I hear it, I don’t always know how to respond.  True or not, it isn’t the norm.  

I am ugly.

Inarticulate.

Today, I cried.  So many reasons.

I am stupid.

I was sitting in my literature class today taking a reading quiz.  I got done early, because I always do.  My mind was wandering, and as I looked around the classroom my eyes came to rest on the bulletin board three feet to my left.  There were several posters.  Two of them were out of date.  But one was new and had never been there before.  “If you’ve ever been the victim of sexual assault, family violence, or a violent crime, there is help.”  And then it listed all sort of hotlines.  

I understand the measure, I really do.  Some people need these things; some people would write this information down and even use it.  But I already have this information, because I have used it.  At the first opportunity, I snuck over to the bulletin board and turned the poster around before tacking it back up.  I stared at the blank side for the rest of class, because I remembered the words from the other side.  

Sexual assault.  Rape.  

Shit.

I am broken.

There is something wrong with me.  

I met with my advisor yesterday about the classes I was planning to take.  We discovered that I only need three classes to graduate.  Among the three classes I had put into my enrollment shopping cart was my advisor’s Shakespeare course.  I’ve been wanting to take this class since I was in my first year of undergrad.  I have always liked Shakespeare, and I’ve already read quite a bit of him.  This class has interested me not only for that element, but also because I have only been able to take my advisor for a lower level course.  I would love to have her as a professor for an upper level; she’s brilliant, I adore her, and I really want to get a solid A on a paper for her.”

“I need to be honest with you,” she said when I told her all these things, the reasons why I wanted to take her class.

“I’m going to shoot myself in the head taking this at the same time as Senior Seminar?”  

“No.”  She leaned back in her chair.  “There’s a lot of work that deals with sexual assault.  Graphic scenes of rape, and we will be discussing these things in class.”

I twitched at the mention of the word rape.  

“Spousal abuse.  Titus.  The Taming of the Shrew.  And I’m not sure this is the course for you.”

I looked out the window.  I had been excited minutes before and suddenly found myself sad in a way I didn’t know how to deal with.  Because it was still interfering.  Always interfering.  I wanted to cry.

“Why don’t you take Eco-crit instead?”

Because I wanted this.  Because I wanted Shakespeare.  Because I wanted to be normal, just once.  Just one time.

I am never going to be normal.

Never going to measure up.

Never going to be okay.

In psychology today, the professor greeted us before opening with “So, how many of you are parents?”  She followed this up with “How many of you aren’t parents?”  After this, she asked “Why have you chosen to not have children?”  And she called on me, of all people.  Me.  I walked out of class before I started to cry.  I leaned against the wall outside the classroom that led to the courtyard, debating going outside but recognizing the fact that it was much too cold.  I sat down on the floor in between the two sets of doors and I watched the trees blowing back and forth and the sun shining and I let tears fall.  

I am a failure.

Murderer.

It’s hard to lose someone you love.  It’s even harder to lose everything at the same time.  And that’s what happened to me.  I lost it all.  The hardest part for me has been the not knowing why my son died.  Why my marriage broke.  What I did to deserve the acid rain that made my entire life disintegrate for so long.  It is in my nature to blame myself.  That’s the tape; that’s what I have been told my entire life.  

I am not good enough.

I am always amazed to learn what other people actually think of me.  In that over the edge moment today, at just the right time, I read beautiful words that someone I deeply respect had written about me.  And my brain had a moment in which it clicked.

I am not broken.  I am not a failure.  I am not lost.  

I cried again.  But because for that moment, that awesomely wonderful, fantastic and beautiful moment, I could see what this person saw.  

I am strong and powerful and awesome, and not just on the days where I feel good.  Every day.  I am these things even when I don’t remember.  I am these things, because other people see them in me.  Other people see me.  

I am.

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Thin Ice

When I was in grade school, my friend Alanna and I went to the local park.  It was the middle of winter, and we were bundled up in down jackets and winter accessories.  One of us, I don’t remember who, came up with the bright idea that should walk across the ice to the other side of the lake.  It didn’t matter to us that winter that year had not been overly cold, or that the ice might be thin.  What mattered was that it was an adventure.  It didn’t occur to us when we set out that we might fall through the ice.  

*

At some point in life, I lost my willingness to take risks.  I don’t know if it was the fact that I got older, or the fact that life seemed to beat me down every time I stuck my neck out, but I stopped taking chances.  I stopped sharing secrets.  I think that in losing this piece of myself, I’ve caused myself to feel isolated in so many ways.  

Feeling alone in the world is the worst feeling ever.  You can be in the middle of a room full of people and feel like even if you screamed at the top of your lungs, they would not acknowledge you.  They would turn away.  I am always pleasantly surprised when a person I meet challenges this view.  I am always pleasantly surprised when I myself can take risks, when I can find that little girl again.

I had an experience that I didn’t know how to talk about.  And then there was someone else on my scope who had had that same experience.  I still didn’t know how to talk about it, but I could write.  

That’s exactly what I did.  When I was done, I had this thought.  What if I let somebody read it?  What if I let someone in?  What if I made a legitimate connection?  

*

When we first set foot on the ice, my feet almost slid out from under me.  Alanna did fall.  We laughed as if it was the most hilarious thing ever, and then I helped her up.  We linked elbows and started across the ice, one tiny step after another.  

*

Too much Red Bull had been dumped into my body; I was a ball of nerves.  I bounced up and down on the balls of my feet, Energizer bunny style.  “Have you read it yet?”  As she sat in the chair with her iPad in her lap, I towered over her.

“I started it, but really, time wise…”

“I know, but…”  I shifted from foot to foot and an idea occurred to me.  “Just skip to the end.  It’s the end of the story that’s the most important.  Like, the last two pages.”  There was a drive inside me, a push by some invisible force.  I needed her to read it.  I needed someone to read it, and I was certain she was the only one who would understand.

“I can’t just read the last two pages; how would I know came in the beginning?  How would it make any sense?”

It just would, I wanted to say.  You would understand.  But I didn’t.  

I needed someone to know, but I wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud.  Just in writing.  I didn’t know what this meant in terms of the person I was.  

*

There was a cluster of fishermen on the ice as Alanna and I moved away from the shoreline, crowded around a yellow sign on a tall pole.  Thin ice, it read.  As we shuffled forward, I remembered a Disney movie I had seen once where the main animal character plunged through the ice and thrashed about in search of rescue.  I pictured the ice cracking and splintering under our feet, and the pair of us plunging to our doom with the ice freezing back over on top of us.

We were walking on thin ice.  Dangerous.

*

My greatest concern with the most personal aspects of my life is losing the people that I most respect.  There are a lot of things that I keep very close to me, and here I was letting this cat out of the bag, even in the smallest of ways.  And waiting.  Waiting, and wondering if her opinion would change.  If she would think less of me.

So.  I read the piece.

I read the message she had sent several times, word by word.  I have never been one to take something at face value; I read into everything that is presented to me.  I could hear her voice in my head as I read the words, and it occurred to me that she was talking to me in the same way she always had.  She knew my darkest secret, but nothing had changed.  She still respected me.  She wasn’t treating me differently.  

I took a risk, and it turned out okay.  I learned something.  I’m not totally alone.

*

Alanna and I touched down safely on the other side of the lake, sans any accidents or falls through the ice.  Then we turned around and walked back across.  It was the most fun I’d had all Christmas break.  Of course, we got in quite a bit of trouble when our mothers found out what we did, but all the yelling did not negate that we had had a major victory.  We had taken a risk and succeeded.  

*

I’ve been stuck here for months.  I feel guilty; I feel like I’m wrong; I feel like a generally shitty person.  I’ve hated myself.  But the thing about respect is that it acts like a mirror.  I took a risk, I shared this secret, and she still respects me.  That’s important, because it means that perhaps I can still respect me too.

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