The seed of love and rage is planted between a woman’s thighs. That night, the rage flooded down my legs and made its way out of my four inch heels – straight into the diaphanous flower-printed wallpaper. I thought, “holy shit” and did not stop shaking for a week. Do you ever think about your ancestry? The history of your becoming. I think of yours and how you came to me. Sifted in dreams like flour. The integral to my rising. The awakening and dissolution of unprecedented anger and affection, epitomized in that goddamn stupid hole.
It has always been a goal of mine to go to a concert alone. It may seem small and silly to some people, but as someone with anxiety, it is a huge deal. I love to do things alone – movies, dinners, hikes. But when it comes to big events, I have mini-heart attacks. I remember my first football game in Seattle. I walked in the arena and squeezed the shit out of B’s hand. I said, “please don’t let go.”
But tonight I’m growing a pair and doing it. I had an extra ticket and a few people offered to go, but in the end I decided I wanted to go by myself. MØ’s “No Mythologies to Follow” album got me through one of the hardest times of my life. It got me through dealing with a sexual assault with nobody to talk to. I remember flying five hours to Boston with the whole album on repeat. That trip got me to believe in myself again.
I want to feel her music the way I did back then. I want to be able to cry if I need to without feeling embarrassed about it because I have someone beside me. I want to feel how I do now and relish in that emotional growth.
I told my sister I was attending a concert alone and she said, “that’s so sad, don’t choose to be lonely!” This is where her and I are fundamentally different. I believe in solitude as a way of getting to know the self.
It is silly and I am scared, but going outside of your comfort zone and doing things you have always wanted to do is the only way to grow.
2018 is the year of being afraid and going for it anyways.
She sat on her bedroom floor and stared at the bookshelf. Skimming the rows to find one that she could find salvation in: Plath, Gaiman, Fitzgerald, Murakami, Foer…most of them half-read. She could never commit to anything. The titles were blurred through the droplets of water in her eyes. People say cruel things when they are hurt. She thought about the wine bottles in her room…1,2,3. How therapeutic it would be to smash them all. But then there was the clean-up. The rage didn’t justify the end. So she remained silent and refrained. She pushed it further down into her womb. Into the godly, powerful pit of her uterus, into the place where women hold their rage and their love, into the place strong enough to carry it. She wondered at what inopportune moment would she be crying and screaming and pushing until it all came out.
I wish that when someone told you they loved you, and it was honest and true, a switch would flip and you could allow yourself to accept it. You could allow yourself to love them back in the way that they needed and deserved. It would be like that tiny sliver of sunlight you have been waiting for to bloom. But the truth is, when it comes to love, we are all psychologically damaged in some way or another. In the words of Stephen Chbosky, “we accept the love we think we deserve.” Our ability to give and receive love are reflections of how we view ourselves. I remember this distinct moment from my childhood. I was four and my parents were fighting. My dad was making his way out the door and they had both agreed to take one kid. Except they both didn’t want me. They were fighting over my sister. My mom won and my dad was just sort of stuck with me. As a four year old kid, I remember thinking, what did I do wrong? How can I be more deserving of love?
Good people have loved me. People who are deserving of so much love. Love that I have tried so hard to give, but have fallen short. How many times have I said, “I just can’t give you what you need.” In the end, I always feel inadequate and guilty. I just don’t believe that I alone could be enough for anyone. I resort to pushing people away before I bloom, and before I can wilt. I push people away until they finally have had enough and start pulling away and look for that love elsewhere. And then I have the nerve to make them look like the assholes. I am tired of this self-pitying, selfish, fear-based pattern.
I need to figure out what that slutty word means to ME. The word that throws itself at everyone and fucks up their whole lives. The thing is, everyone is deserving of love, even if you fuck up. Even if you can be a narcissistic ice queen like me. Even if someone does not love you the way that you want them to (your parents, partner, friends..). That does not mean that you are not deserving.
Every single person is capable of watering themselves, but I believe that you cannot bloom without that tiny sliver of sunlight. Sunlight that you can only get when you allow yourself to accept love from another being.
Open up the blinds. Let some sunlight in.
The night we got lost on the subway and ended up in Brooklyn. It was pouring rain outside so we ran to the nearest Italian restaurant we could find. It was charming, warm, and delicious. “A toast to things not always working out the way we plan. A toast to the adventure that comes out of it.” 🥂 We must have had too many toasts because we got lost again on the way back. My dress was soaked, Chinatown was glowing, and trash bags lined every corner. When we found Little Italy almost everything was closed. I started to cry. We found a restaurant. A pitcher of sangria, angel hair pasta, and a smiling bartender who looked at me sympathetically. The truth is, I had been feeling insecure all day and I was projecting my feelings of self-pity onto him. He was so angry at me for pushing him away. When we got back to the hotel, I caught my bearings. We are both scared, but we fuck like we aren’t. It is going to be okay.
My sister and I have recently started a conversation about why people tend to pick on us, why we feel the need to be liked, and why we give too many fucks about it.
A few examples:
- She told me she was forced into getting a beer she did not like because she was too afraid to ask the obviously annoyed bartender if she could have some samples.
- Today, I over-tipped because I felt bad for asking the guy too many questions about vegan pizza options.
- Both of our long-term friend groups ended up using us for target practice (ouch).
We have equated this characteristic with how we were raised. Growing up, we were never praised for anything. It was more like a grunt from our dad (if any acknowledgment was given at all). Or a scream-fest from our mom for doing the dishes, but not doing them well enough. According to sfhelp.org, “People who endured early-childhood abuse and psychological neglect often develop a protective personality subself whose goal is to please other people at all costs.” We learn to love others more than we love ourselves, meaning we are willing to give to others even if they aren’t necessarily deserving of it. If we give all we got and the love still isn’t reciprocated, we tend to blame ourselves for not being “good enough.”
How do we change this long-developed protective personality? Behavior that is developed in childhood is not easy to change, but it helps to be cognizant.
Some tips I have made for myself that will hopefully help you too:
- Get rid of toxic people. Let’s face it, people pleasing is seen as a sign of weakness and there are always those that will prey on weakness. If someone in your life is only spending time with you when a need is being fulfilled, let them go. It’s not easy, trust me. But it is necessary for personal growth.
- Do not let fear and guilt persuade you into saying yes. If fear and guilt are your main motivations for doing something, say no. Do things because you want to, and because they make you feel good, not scared and reprehensible. It is stressful and less rewarding.
- If you really love someone and truly want to make them happy, the best thing you can do is take care of your personal needs. In my personal experience, the people with the most love to give are the ones who love themselves first. (Rant: I never trust someone who doesn’t have self-love because I know they seek constant external validation. I learned that the hard way.) Do things to develop self-love like hit the gym (hello, endorphins!), nourish your body, or spend time with loved ones.
- This one is so important for me. Take a break from social media. For people pleasers, social media can be a mental death trap. People pleasers need constant validation and what easier way to get it than through the social media platform. Studies show that receiving a “like” on social media can activate the nucleus accumbens (pleasure center) in our brains. This center is responsible for creating addictive behaviors. We start to view our self-worth based on how many likes we get. If you find yourself getting sucked into this virtual reality, take a break.
- Repeat after me: F**k being a people pleaser.
In bed, candles lit, jazz music, my dog cuddled up against me, and Tumblr. Alone, I am perfectly relaxed and content.
But I wonder if my constant need for solitude is sustainable. There is a woman who comes into my restaurant a few times a week. She is a successful pharmacist, drinks Pinot noir rose religiously, is always alone. She seems content. She is currently learning Spanish for her next solo vacation to Panama. I am very much like her. I love to go to the movies alone, travel alone, go to coffee shops alone. Deb is perfectly content, but is she happy? Does she ever feel lonely? Or has she grown accustomed to contentment?
I think of nights with him. Right now, I imagine a dimly lit Italian restaurant, a half empty bottle of red wine, slightly drunk, we are laughing and indulging. We should be more proper at a place like this, but we never are. I am in bed and I am content. But I could be with him and I could be happy.
Solitude is good, but it is not sustainable. My mom has always told me that if I am not careful, I will end up alone like my aunt or grandma. She says it is because I was born in the year of the Rooster. Maybe. Or maybe because she predestined it for me by putting the idea inside my head. Or maybe she is just a nut.
Either way, I am realizing that I don’t want to be content. I want to be happy.
I think about killing myself everyday.
He said, “At least give it a go. You have nothing to lose. If things don’t work out, then you can kill yourself.”