and were you being good to yourself?

Recently a group of people I was briefly with close with gathered together to celebrate a wedding. Others had a reunion in my city. Looking at the photos they shared, I was startled with a sudden realization:

For three years I was nearly impossible to love.

Looking back at graduate school is painful. Japan, even more so. The year before – worse. For three years I was not so much a woman as a bear trap of anxiety and need, simultaneously begging for love and violently warning it away.

When I look back, several moments stand out to me in painful clarity. Once on a patio in Costa Rica I was told that I talked too much, that I made my “friends” feel like I was uninterested in hearing about anyone else. This of course was the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish with all my talking – the chatter was a desperate attempt to accelerate bonding and find common ground.

I cried myself to sleep to that night feeling powerless and misunderstood. I would do this many more times with many more people in the years to come – especially in Japan, where my companions were kind but courageous enough to say we deserve better.

What a relief to have come so far.

—-

I do not begrudge the people who wisely avoided me when I was aboard the Hot Mess Express. However, I am hugely grateful for the friends who stuck by my side, and particularly glad for those who told me, “It doesn’t have to be like this. You can get help.” In my case, therapy and medication were the tools I needed to begin digging myself out, but everyone’s different. You never know when someone is a phone call away from finally being freed to become their best self.

Blessed are the clear-eyed.

Blessed are the kind.

I’ll end with an important poem from Warsan Shire.


 

“[love letter to self]

i don’t think so. but, i forgive you, girl, who tallied stretch marks into reasons why no one should get close. i forgive you, silly girl, sweet breath, decent by default. i forgive you for being afraid. did everything betray you? even the rain you love so much made rust out of your jewelery? i forgive you, soft spoken girl speaking with fake brash voice, fooling no one. i see you, tender even on your hardest days. i forgive you, waiting for him to call, i forgive you, the diets and the cruel friends. especially for that one time you said ‘i fucking give up on love, it’s not worth it, i’d rather be alone forever’. you were just pretending, weren’t you? i know you didn’t mean that. your body, your mouth, your heart, made specifically for loving. sometimes the things we love will kill us, but weren’t we dying anyway? i forgive you for being something that will eventually die. perishable goods, fading out slowly, little human, i wouldn’t want to be in a world where you don’t exist.”

Warsan Shire, “and were you being good to yourself?”

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