please note: I was inspired to write this post by a fellow writer whose correspondence and words sparked these thoughts. These ideas are indebted to her inspiration.
I sat down tonight to work on my novel that I’ve been neglecting out of a combination of fear and the sensation that I’m lying in wait. But when I sat down all I could think about was the conversation I had with my friend Brandon. Recently I started undergoing EDMR therapy to process some things that happened when I was a child. EDMR is essentially bilateral stimulation of the brain to re-organize your memories. Each time we begin my therapist asks me to go to a memory. I have to feel it. I picture what it smells like, tastes like, what the world of that moment felt like to me. Then I must state out loud what that memory makes me believe to be true about myself. No matter the memory, no matter the moment, a singular feeling has arrived each time: the belief that I am not enough. Memory ravaged, disparate images falling forward in a colored flash, and yet this feeling is constant: the belief that, inherently, I am not enough.
All my life I believed self-love would appear on my doorstep—haggard and bedraggled but happy to be home—the moment I accomplished my goal. As a child I think they were fairly small goals. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be strong. I wanted to be my sister’s hero. But recently those dreams have expanded to: when I get published, when I win a writing award, when my first book can be purchased at Powell’s. And increasingly I’ve found myself exhausted and terrified to realize that what was once a fantastic dream, once realized, does not usher in the simultaneous belief that I am enough, that I am worthy.
What do you do when you believe your insides to be ugly? When all around you, your friends. your people, are moving towards bright beautiful things while you remain in your corner feeling like the cowering animal that you are? Small, mangy coat, desperately wishing you were worthy enough to warm yourself by their fire. How do you own your dark, little feelings?
I thought for so long this feeling of being not enough—being small and homely amongst the dreams of my people—was my own flightless secret. A poison of my own experience. But recently I’ve heard some of the people I admire most share this fear that they, too, do not measure up. How can it be possible that these bright beautiful souls can’t see their own tender bravery?
In high school I remember being terrified by the idea of solipsism. If nothing in life was certain but the self, what was the fucking point? Why do anything at all? It’s just you bashing your head against your own shit into eternity. But now I find security in this idea. If nothing can be verified as true save the self then that makes this self the ruler of perception. If I am the master of my own perception why not choose to believe myself full? To see myself as a match for this world? If the power of my worth lies only within my own belief why not choose to be good, to be enough? If, in this dying world, we are given a choice to see only good or only darkness—why would we spend the rest of this fleeting, inexplicable life, mired in small twisted feelings? If nothing matters doesn’t everything suddenly matter more?
I think perhaps this craven fight to be useful is implicit within our culture of winning. Winning at life. Who wins at life? It is structurally impossible. This is a game we are bound to lose. But what happens when you accept that loss? What would it mean to know you will lose and go on anyway? Does that make you brave or foolhardy? Does it matter?
Where did this desire to meet the demands of the world come from? These demands only escalate with the speed of media the deluge of ideas flooding forward. Where did this desire to prove ourselves useful, to prove ourselves worthwhile, come from? Why is it not enough just to live?
My dad used to tell this joke of a man sitting on the roof in the middle of a flood waiting for god to come and rescue him. First, a rowboat comes by and offers the man a ride to safety. The man says, “don’t worry, god is going to come and get me.” Then a helicopter comes by and sends down a rope. The man says, “No thank you, god is going to save me.” When God doesn’t come the dying man screams on the top of his roof, “Why have you abandoned me?” God splits through the heavens and her voice resounds: “I sent you a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want?” I feel like I want god to reach down from the heavens, put her slender, calloused fingers against my shoulders and say, “You are good. You are beautiful. You are worthy of life.” But perhaps, somewhere she is saying, I sent you everything you need—what more do you want? The real truth is that if I continue to feel this small, this insignificant, I will effectively reject all the magic that has found me. What a shame to ruin everything.
How do we begin to prove our own worth? When will I walk out the door and look upon this bright earth and believe myself to be enough? Believe that I could enter a room with anyone—no matter how great, no matter how beautiful—and say “I am your equal.” We are both human and we feel it in our bones.
I’m simply exhausted by my own insecurities. They bore me and yet they feel no less painful. Before I started seeing my therapist I never cried. Now I cry all the time. Today snot literally ran down my chin. He asks me: where do you feel that in your body? I feel the pain of believing myself to be not enough in the swell of my gut. It is a fat frenetic feeling—beating like an unborn child—recklessly trying to prove her own existence. I feel the pain of my insecurity is in the rippling of my flesh—the shiver that runs from my chest, past my shoulders, down to my wrists and flickers outward. And I feel the shame of having these insecurities in the place where my throat meets my lungs and all breath is stifled.
I am tired of waiting to accomplish a goal in order to feel released from this bondage. I see now that no matter what peak I crest I will still feel in my heart that I got there by accident and that I must do more in order to belong. This is a life I don’t want—a constant attempt to prove myself worthy of love. I want to look at my partner and feel that, exactly as I am, gangly, awkward human limbs at all, I am her match. I want to walk out my front door and breathe in the breadth of this wild world and say, yes, you are huge, yes you are unknowable, but I still deserve to be here. There’s no rhyme or reason to how I arrived or how I will leave and yet this is a choice I am making. I choose to belong.