Warning: This is not a travel blog, nor is it upbeat or bubbly or glib. I’m in a painful place these days and need to fumble my way through it, looking for hope.
One of the most confounding, painful, difficult things for me to deal with in my every-day life are human relationships. From as far back as I can remember, I have never been able to successfully navigate the “rules” or figure out the dynamics of social interactions. I vividly remember being mercilessly bullied at the ripe old age of 5 and it seems that ever since, I have been, still am (despite many years of expensive and extensive therapy) and fear that I will always be terrified and mistrusting of social situations. I believe myself to be so socially inept that I avoid most social interactions involving more than a few trusted family and friends who know me well enough to forgive my discomforting awkwardness.
To ask “why” is pointless. I’ve been asking my entire life why I don’t fit in and why I antagonize others so much, simply by being in the same space as they are. It has been excruciatingly painful for my entire life to feel so lost and awkward – and eventually unwelcome in group situations, because I can’t ever seem to find my footing or niche. I wriggle and squirm and bristle and prickle, until eventually I find it so excruciating that I find a way to leave, to escape, so as not to continuously be confronted by that same old agony of not fitting in, over and over and over again.
Make no mistake, I know and freely admit that it’s me. There is a deep-rooted belief at the core of my being that there is something intrinsically wrong with me. No amount of therapy has been able to get to the core or shake that belief out of me. It makes no sense any other way. Everyone else can’t be wrong. When the same thing keeps happening over and over again…we’re talking decades…it’s clear that it has to be something in me that others see but I still can’t figure it out enough to be able to fix it. Oh they’ve tried. I’ve heard every epithet and accusation out there. People have been quite brutally honest in their appraisals of what’s wrong. I’ve had the word “hypocrite” thrown at me more times than I care to count. And because I’m so hungry to fit in and belong, I listen to every word and take it in and mull it over and work at it, until it either cripples me into profound despair because I can’t see how to change that fundamental wrongness, or I wise up enough to realize that it doesn’t really fit or click.
Either way, it’s exhausting and utterly bewildering. Everyday I read and share memes that say “You’re enough”. I ache for it to be true – and I’ll keep posting those memes in the hopes that someday I will internalize it and it WILL be true – but so far, I’ve never yet seen any evidence that who I am is “enough” for anyone. The closest I’ve come is my husband who knows every shred of darkness and crumminess in me and still loves me. And Kate, who also has seen me at my very worst, and yet still finds enough in me to love and want me in her life, though God knows, I don’t know if I will ever figure out why.
And I’ve seen glimpses of it in God’s eyes…but too often I hide my eyes from His, unable to fathom that it could be true.
I post a lot of stuff on my Facebook about being light, being love, being kind and focusing on the good and the positive. I really want with all my heart and soul and might to be light, to be love, to be a good person and a faithful reliable friend. But the truth is that I’m fumbling through like everyone else, and right now, I’m drowning in a profound undercurrent of despair most of the time, despair that I’ll ever be any of that, despair that I’ll ever be anything more than confounded and inept at the very things I most yearn to be.
The only thing that I AM good at is being stubbornly tenacious at being stubbornly tenacious. To keep rolling out of bed every morning and trying to be better at all this stuff than I was yesterday. What else can I do? I only see three choices: to totally give up – which believe me, is an appealing option some days. But I vowed a long time ago that I would never go back there again, that giving up would never again be my choice. So my second choice is to choose to wallow in my despair and failures, allowing fear and the agony of failure to to close every door to me so as to stop me from even trying anymore, choosing to crumple myself up into a little ball and never venture outside my safe cocoon again. Been there, done that, and it was very dark and empty in there. The third choice is to choose life and to choose to keep trying. To choose to believe that every day that I wake up is another opportunity to try again, that each new day holds new lessons and new directions to get me to where I’m wanting to be.
I was struck by something in my morning prayer this morning. I won’t quote the Bible, because I’m mashing a few thoughts together here, but the theme was about being salt of the earth and being light. The scripture didn’t say “try to be light” or “try to be salt”, it said “YOU ARE salt, YOU ARE light”. It’s already a “fait accompli”. Apparently I already AM light and love and salt….I just need to accept and allow who I already AM to shine forth.
I find that hopeful. Because for me, because of my profession of faith and my relationship with God, it deeply grieves me when my insecurities and discomfort in social situations overwhelm me and turn into unkindness and end up hurting people. Unfortunately by now, I’m not the least bit surprised when I disappoint and hurt people. It’s what I believe I’ve been doing since the day I was born. Most days it feels like I will never be able to successfully navigate the social mores, to do or say or not do or not say enough to not disappoint someone somewhere. There’s no way I can get through an entire day without someone somewhere telling me how I’ve let them down in some way. I can’t remember the last time I got through an entire day without hearing that, because if someone else doesn’t say it to me, I say it to myself. Despite years of “rewiring the attic”, hurting people I love sends me back into that despair of wondering when I’ll ever learn how to be the light and love that I most yearn to be.
Sigh. The dilemma is that some days I honestly still don’t know what to do. If I can’t shine light or help others in some way or make a good difference in the little corner where I’m planted, life feels meaningless and empty and there’s no point in rolling out of that bed in the mornings. But then there’s the part of me that believes that people would be better off without me rolling out of that bed and into their lives, because my constant ineptitude causes too much damage and injury…either way is a painfully bleak prospect to face every morning.
There was a time many years ago when I wanted to find a hermitage somewhere and live out the rest of my life as a hermit. There are many days when I wonder if that would have been a better choice for me, given my love for prayer and solitude, and my inability to function well in the secular social world. I don’t know why that wasn’t my purpose in life, it seems like it ought to have been. It seems like a cruel joke that my purpose would be to face this perpetual angst of learning how to socialize and live in such a way as to be more blessing than curse. In looking back over my life, I feel sorry for all those people I’ve hurt all along the way…there have been far too many, and how deeply sorry I am for each one I’ve wounded. I can’t dwell in that sorrow for too long though, or the overwhelming sense of failure becomes a quicksand of futility that I know will be inescapable should I ever allow myself to slide back down into its dark grip. This is where my faith helps with its promise of mercy and understanding, compassion and forgiveness. I cling to mercy as if my very life depends on it.
I also want to cling to hope that things will improve, that I will improve. But this whole social thing is an utterly bewildering minefield for me. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Every step – every conversation – every attempt to communicate – a potential disaster with just one wrong word, one wrong inflection in my voice, one wrong twitch of the eye.
Yet something inside of me still wants to be tenacious in hope. I leave every morning’s prayer time with the best of intentions, hearing and believing that this is my purpose in life, learning how to love, and – what’s surprisingly very difficult – learning how to allow others to love me. After all these years, it’s still a struggle to believe that others could possibly love the real me, awkward ineptitude and all.
Sigh. Tomorrow’s a new day. I’ll roll out of bed and start all over again, praying for the strength and wherewithal to do the best I can to get through as best as I can with the least amount of damage to others along the way. I made a vow to never give up, and by God, I’m going to abide by it.