Letter to Self: Your Place at the Table

The thing about now is that it instantly slips into the past the second you register it in your cornea and your brain. Now barely exists and yet it’s the most important fraction of time in our lives. What you feel now is going to change. Change is one of the few constants in life. Yeah, you want to shout out for change to fuck itself. You seem determined to undermine yourself just as soon as you understand on a cellular level how desperately you need to change. I understand. It’s really important that you know I’ve been there where you are now. I’m offering no judgement against you.

Your value isn’t contingent on being perfect, being wise, being healthy, or being happy. So push all that crap off the table and start over. Your value is contingent only on evolving into the best self you can be. Not as you’re tempted to compare yourself to others. Others don’t matter here. Here is where you build your own damn yardstick. You did this a long time ago. You did this when you first felt yourself slipping out of your own skin in shame and degradation. You sat up, you realized that the yardstick you’d been measuring yourself against was a fucking joke, a horsehair whip to make you bleed. A horsehair whip you took from trusted hands that told you you deserved it and you had no reason not to believe it.

You sat up and broke that horsehair whip in half and threw all the empty yardsticks in the trash and began to build your own. Remember how long it took you to do that? Years. It wasn’t overnight. It was like remaking yourself in a new image. In a new frame. You had to hammer yourself into it every day, remind yourself that you weren’t the worthless piece of shit you heard others say of you. You sat up and demanded your place at the table of life, with your own silverware, your own place card. And it took so much strength to make demands instead of accepting life as an invisible spirit.

Things feel as bad as they did back then but you got through that. You need to remember that you got through it stronger than you started off. It wasn’t because of anyone else. You wanted to die almost every day but you hung on because you had a wildflower’s roots clinging to the cosmos through the poorest soil. All of this is to say that you’re there again and the only way you’re going to move forward is if you sit up and demand your place at the table.

Following the Water

This is ornamentation in my friend Angela’s garden.

According to some lunatics tomorrow is the end of the world.  Sometime after noon.  Ish.  So today is your last day to repent and have a private talk with Jesus.  I suspect Jesus is going to need some serious coffee because, generally speaking, the day before the end of the world is the busiest one for Lords and Deities.  I was reading a Christian lady’s blog the other day and was struck by how often she dropped the word “Lord” and “King” and “Ruler” and “Liege”*.  It struck me how human, how mortal and un-deity-like the words “King” and “Ruler” are.  Like she was just talking about any other despot with a crown.  People really like to throw themselves at the feet of power.  Apparently, even though we live in a world where modern people are less and less enchanted with the idea of absolute rulers who are generally viewed as being exploitative, there are millions of people who really do want an absolute ruler.  They just don’t want to have to give their money to one.  But their soul?  Now there’s real coin.

Won’t I look ridiculous tomorrow when the great Armageddon really does happen and I’m left here in the jaws of earthly hell to die like a mortal human being?  I can live (or die) with that.  I’ve never expected anything else.  I wonder if the ascension will look at all like the northern lights.  I can’t wait to see what will happen with all the different factions of Christianity – will they all be swept up together or will some get first glimpse of heaven and first shot at a place in Jesus’ impossibly huge arms?  Will only the Christians who believed that Armageddon was scheduled for Saturday be taken up?  What about the Mormons who believe in Jesus but have a whole separate plan to rule their own planets when they die?  Will all Christians get exactly what they believe?  Surely there can be no disillusionment in heaven.

My dad always slammed me for being irritatingly literal.  I’m only literal-minded when it suites me or amuses me.  He never did get that subtlety.  I actually think being too literal with faith is seriously problematic but I do love to imagine people’s religions being just as literal as they take it.  In reality I believe that religion makes a lot more sense if it’s mostly metaphoric.  It becomes much more respectable and reasonable and believable (to me) when the bible is taken as a general guide, like Aesop’s Fables, where the stories aren’t literally true (mice and lions hanging out together?) but illustrate important concepts of moral and ethical conduct.

I am only just now realizing how switching between the literal and the metaphorical in my everyday language has caused others to misread my actual beliefs and observations.  I don’t do it on purpose.  I am scarcely aware that I do it at all.  My humor is sometimes lost on people who take me too seriously.  Because I’m such a heavy and serious person so much of the time.  I have said it before, it bears repeating, I am a person built of contradictions.

For years now I’ve been fighting hard for change in myself, forcing my own hand with such horrible self recrimination that it’s no wonder it’s proved so ineffective.  I’ve been fighting against the current and have paid with exhaustion and diminished self esteem.  In spite of that one accusation that I am narcissistic**, I am only as self obsessed as a writer has to be in order to see into the hearts and minds of other people.  If you can’t see into your own self you can’t see into anyone else.  I’ve spent so much time hating what calamity made of me.  That’s putting distance between me and my responsibility for myself.  I’m the one who’s made me what I’ve become, not calamity.

It’s so easy to shine a spotlight on the things I hate about myself that have been revealed in the past six years.  It’s easy to see how much I fell apart.  How I’ve become physically disgusting to myself.  How my self discipline in all things has become a ghost I try constantly to put my hands around and curse as it slips away again, melting into the shadows of the past.  How I’ve come so close to crossing the line into alcoholism in order to cope with all the uncopable stresses out of my control or that could be in my control if  I could only put my hands on my old strength, the same strength it took to crawl out of teen-hood into adulthood.   It’s so easy to count all those crimes against myself and punish and punish and punish.

Self flagellation is not attractive.  I have to give myself credit for having continually tried to make change in myself.  For never giving up on finding my strength again.  I haven’t been sitting idle for six years.  I’ve continually and exhaustively asked myself to step up to the plate and take control again.  All of this has helped me to grow as a person.  I have grown philosophically and mentally.  I have evolved.  These years have not been static or stagnant.  They’ve been fertile in ways I hadn’t let myself count.  Because I’m a shit.  I’m counting them now.  If I hadn’t gone through everything I’ve been through I may never have found the key that let me open up my own path to the fiction I always meant to be writing and previously repeatedly failed at.

Max is doing much better and that’s made a big difference, so that’s a huge stress that’s been lightened.  My mom has brought energy to our life and to our garden that we’ve been missing.  So that’s changed.  It doesn’t look like much on the outside, there’s still a lot of chaos here in our tangled up yard.  Quitting Kung Fu classes that require me to use up absolutely all my energy for maintaining my own madness in public has allowed me to relax a little more.  To be kinder to myself because I’m not subjecting myself to a big group of people every week who have, without meaning to, made me feel so awful for being so huge.  So I am exposed to less reason to feel shame.  I guess there’s been a lot of change.

I have not been sleeping so well lately but it seems indicative of other change.  Instead of being tortured by it I am just allowing it to be what it is.  If I don’t get any real sleep until 6am and have to sleep in until 10:30 am like a slob, it’s okay.  I have a job with the kind of flexibility that allows me to make my daily schedule how I need to make it.  So why curse and fight the strange sleeping patterns I’ve been experiencing?  I’ve been getting more exercise lately but I’m not letting myself agonize over it or hold myself to a specific goal.  “More exercise” is as specific as I’m letting it get.  I’ve been eating better.  Less cheese snacking late at night.  Less cheese in general.  Lighter breakfasts.  Less food.  Not starving or dieting by any means.  Just less.  Because it feels good to eat less.  I have no specific food goals except to not over-indulge.  I have been drinking less beer and changing up my routine, which for an OCD person like myself, is pretty difficult.

Except that when you let go of the fight and simply float down the river it’s amazing how far you’ll get and how close to what you’re looking for you’ll come without tearing yourself open.  Anyone who has known me a long time, or who has been reading my blog for a long time, will recognize this as part of my continuing cycle.  I forgive you if you don’t see anything new in these crumbs of change.  It’s not important that you see what’s changed.  It’s not important for you to be impressed.  Because it isn’t about you at all.  Except for how we all tend to mirror each other without meaning to and you may find that you’ve been following your own cycles and rivers and if you’ve been fighting against yourself, against the tide, against inevitability and against the suffocation of perceived helplessness, then this is about you too and you’ll see the small change I’m enjoying if you look in yourself.

What’s important is that I have been reclaiming self discipline during a time of stress, of change, of uncertainty, of Armageddon leering down at me.  What’s important is that I’ve been recognizing the small triumphs.  The inner victories.  The ones you can’t really see from the outside.  I have been drawing my boundaries in the sand and not crying when the water washes them away.  I draw them in the clouds instead.  Until the winds blow them away.  Instead of feeling futile I draw them in my spirit because no one can wipe those lines away without me letting them.  What’s important is that I’m not pounding my head with the same damn two by four every day.

If tomorrow is the end of the world I’m at peace with it.   How about you?

*Okay, not liege.  But with all the talk of Lords and Kings it’s what jumped next into my head.

**I only pulled that old insult up because it still amuses and confounds me.  It has long since lost its sting.  It’s just that it’s got a permanent place in my head now and though it no longer hurts it has become part of my story.