I am writing a homework assignment. Not an essay on a famous person/place or thing. Not an in depth analysis of how light refracts through a prism. But a letter to me, as if I was a friend, seeing me in a moment of vulnerability. You see, we all have an inner blackjack dealer. One who shuffles cards towards us at an alarming rate of speed, expecting us to pick them up and decide what our next move will be…take or stay. But the cards…they are quick witted statements of shame. What kind of an idiot would do that? You’re not trying hard enough, everyone else is better than you. You are a failure.
Perfectionism is a lie. A lie I strive for in every breath I take. All to avoid facing the dealer and that deck of cards that make me doubt myself. If I am just good enough, I won’t feel bad about myself: I will be the ultimate in happiness. And it isn’t true. I am happy, in moments. In days, sometimes, when I feel fulfilled. It is not the kind of trippingly giddy happiness I think some aspire to. It is deep content with a warm glow beneath the surface that burns low and long. And it comes when I least expect it. I will be in a space where everything is clicking together, effortlessly, and utilizing all of who I am, all of my abilities with no struggle. I experience it a lot at work, which is why I imagine I am having such a hard time accepting the me that cancer has left.
I hope this finds you in a semblance of peace. I have noticed you are not your usual cheerful self. I see you are trying hard to find your way and having difficulty. I wanted you to know, I am here for you if you need to talk, or just to not be alone while you process whatever is in your head. You are never alone. I know you have a lot of changes coming up in your career that you are afraid of…afraid specifically of failing and not being up to the challenge. Give yourself time and compassion. You have been through a ton and you are still here. Look in the mirror, really look, and ask yourself, “What am I afraid of here?” Or you could do that trick we used to do: Worst case scenario:) See…you are smiling again, although it’s okay not to smile too. I am better for having you in my life.
I wrote that paragraph in one of my friend’s voices…she is a hoot, and I love her dearly. I think I am going to borrow that voice for the time being. It is much better than the one I have cultivated since childhood, and I could use a change in how my self-talk sounds. I am listening to a new book: How To Stop Feeling Like Shit by Andrea Owen. It is funny, right on target and really uncomfortable. It explains a lot and asks a lot of you. It is work, but it is work on the one really important thing in my life: me. So, I am making it a priority. 6 hours. That’s the time I need to devote to listening and an untold length of time applying it. Right now, that seems like too much time to devote to delving into what makes me tick. Stupid. See, I caught myself that time…already having an effect. Now, acknowledge the thought…where it lives…where it came from…the feeling surrounding it.
Marcus in second grade. That’s where I envision the word. It is spoken by my teacher, who is white. Marcus is slower than the other children, in his words and motions. He is kind to me, the new kid…the only white kid. And now, I hurt hearing him called stupid. He is sent to the corner to be stupid by himself. I don’t say anything. I shrink into myself hoping I am not stupid too. It is the first time I can really remember the sensation of shame.
a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.“she was hot with shame”
Well, that’s surprising to me…how deep that lives in my childhood and how much I have nurtured this feeling over the years. How hard I cling to the fear of being sent to the corner…to be stupid all by myself. I think I’ll take a break now.