Saturday, December 20, 2008

One of Those Nights

I wrote this recently: One thing I do well is embody and express the struggle of being a human; this is my “action.”

I was lying in my bed tonight not able to sleep; thinking about how it would be better if I was dead. Sad right? Sort of scary to know about me if you know me, I guess. I am not actively suicidal but I do succumb sometimes to feelings of not wanting to be here. These feelings are deeper than my very grateful attachments to my daughters and husband, and my work as a teacher, of which I am embarrassingly proud.

I often don't get the point of me. What is the fucking point of seeing and feeling so much? So rereading that recent paper where I arrived at the sort of circular but also meaningful conclusion that "my struggle is me, that's who I am, that's why I'm here" has helped me a bit. It's just that I live in a world where struggle is supposed to be private and/or fixed. If you can't fix it, something must be wrong with you, right?

I am not mentally ill. I do not find that to be an adequate or useful label. My problem is not brain chemistry. My problem is sensitivity. Not only am I sensitive to chemicals. Not only do I have fragile physical health. I am not always emotionally well. How do I fucking discuss this without a label to hang it on? How do I fucking discuss this when I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I haven't fixed it? How do I discuss it when I reject the medical model for "helping" me?

Also, how do I discuss this when I actually think that my "problem" is a kind of solution? If more people were sensitive, one of my theories goes, we'd be moving forward a lot quicker. But no one (or almost no one) is interested in this solution. I am useless and invisible.

I started this project to do what I could do to move humanity forward but I feel like I have barely moved myself forward. I struggle. Sometimes I write about it. I rarely talk about it, even to my husband, even as a teacher of public speaking. I feel like I should have more skill but I have almost no skill at bridging this private/public gap, especially in spoken language.

There is a glaring illustration of this in the form of my family of origin. I feel like the person they think they know bears little relation to the person I am and probably vice versa. I am the only one who appears to be bothered by this.

Recently I found out something interesting about someone I know that has really been floating in my brain. She went to Queen's to do her undergrad around the same time I did. To me, her experience sounds like it was incredibly nurturing; she said it was "like a family" for her. In contrast, my experience bordered on traumatic. I felt severe culture shock amongst the scions of Eastern entitlement; and I was completely taken off guard by the culture of intense drunkenness and cult like Queen's-superiority devotion. I flailed academically, had no idea why I was there, and changed my major 5 times. Eventually I did meet people who became lifelong friends. But Queen's turned me off academia in a way that I have still not overcome.

My husband and I met there, as well, but didn't get together for more than 20 years. So I wouldn't have Sophia if not for Queen's. And I wouldn't have Claire if I'd had my friend's smoother-seeming experience. So I'm good with it. I believe our two experiences are interesting in a karmic sense. My friend is a well known artist and a respected professor with all the benefits those positions in life provide. And, look at me, I am basically a nobody. I feel envious in some ways and also, in a way like how I am with my health, I don't know how to fix it. So I'm envious, don't know what I could have done differently, feel stupid for not being more skillful. (Holy contradictory paragraph, hey?! Let me rephrase: I am good with the Sophia and Claire parts of the karma, not so much the stupid nobody part.)

I am not a patient person. But good things have come to me. It took me 39 years for the deep love I yearned for to start entering my life (beginning with my beloved dog, Swampy). I had Claire at 40. I found a life partner in Dave at 43. I had Sophia at 45. Maybe my use and visibility and skill will someday also become more apparent. In the meantime, sometimes I really struggle. And I struggle with the struggle because it feels to me that there's nowhere to be in it.

A few weeks ago I went to some 12-step meetings. I liked the Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Those are some intense people. I went because it felt like an okay place to show up as a fucked-up human. It was. But I'm not an addict and the addiction model is another limiting one.

We need new models.


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