Let me give a shot at what I was talking about in the C&C 5 post.
Like so many realizations I’ve had about the cogworks of my head, this one was precipitated by a Jordan Peterson video, long lost among his amazing library of content, where he talks about honesty. But I’ll get back to that.
For decades I had a remarkably low self-appraisal. But as I’ve been emerging from that particular nightmare I’ve started to put together the whys of it all. Now, digging around in my childhood is an ancillary concern to fixing my damned head. It’s got to be.
If you try to spend your life tracing your motivations for every attitude you have and every action you take and word you speak, either to yourself or out loud, you’re DOOMED to madness.
You only remember what your brain filters about what you remember through the weird subjective lens of the kind of thought patterns you’re trying to get to the bottom of.
But SOMEtimes someone says something and it reframes a piece of the past and you get a glimpse from a different direction.
Without going THERE, it’s like when I learned about “Survivor Guilt” a few months after 9/11. All of a sudden my brain reindexed what I was going through and I was able to say “Oh, THAT’S what that is. Okay I can put that in that box and just ride it out.” and while it wasn’t overnight, it eventually worked its way out of my system.
Well what Peterson said, and I’m going to fuck this up beyond all recognition was “There are people who grow up in a home where no one ever tells the truth. Everything is a lie.” A lie to knit the fabric of the family environment into a facade.
Now…mine wasn’t THAT bad…I don’t think. I mean how the fuck would I know? We (my sisters and I) knew something was truly fucked up. But we thought we had a bead on it.
But that line, about that even being a possibility, unlocked some puzzle pieces in my head. Of course I don’t ever believe anybody when they say something nice. History has taught me that people who are saying something nice are either doing it because they feel they have a familial obligation to do so or because they want something.
The worst job I ever had was at Credit Suisse First Boston, back before the fucking ’08 madness (I think it was 03-06 or so. I’m fuzzy on 15 year old job details.)
One thing about bad jobs is that they inevitably have the greatest esprit de corps.
We hung out together. Hell we were there so damned many hours in a week that it was inevitable.
I don’t remember what precipitated it. But a girl I should’ve married once dressed me down for dressing myself down. She talked for a few minutes and frankly I don’t remember much of what she said. But one line shines through 15 years:
“Mike you don’t get it, YOU’RE the guy everybody wants to hang out with. YOU’RE the one people are hoping will be going out when they decide to get together after work.”
It was a few months later that one of my five favorite people on the planet, “my bartender” at the time went outside for a smoke break and called me to come out and sit with her.
Not knowing what Meghan had said, she opened with “You’re not allowed to say a word until I’m done.” I started to make a snide comment and she held up a finger “not a word!” She proceeded to (admittedly a bit more forcefully) rip me a new asshole about much the same thing. Having been tired of listening to me run myself down she just wasn’t fucking having it anymore.
I’m sad to say I don’t remember much about what she said. But the why of her doing it. The gesture of putting herself out there, dragging me outside (away from my blergh Original Sin cider) because someone needed to hammer this shit into this idiot’s head was far more important.
The gesture itself was the communication because it necessarily spoke to her fundamental honesty.
So, technically speaking, EVEN if she was wrong about my actual value (I really don’t remember what I thought about it at the time, other than a kind of social shock) the DOING of it meant something that I didn’t have room for in my head. It gave me something to contend with that I simply had to make room for.
I was wrong about something.
It took years to internalize what they both told me, as far as I have.
Like Amy Alkon says in her spectacularly underrated book “Unfuckology”:
“You have the right to take up space.”
Since then I’ve been collecting data about the way people react to me and, while I think I’ve gotten severely lazy and backslid a bit, the conclusion is an inevitable one: I’m FAR better than I give myself credit for.
Still, friends of mind chuckle and shake their head about how hard I am on myself. I play it off with “Yeah SOMEone has to be” or “If I’m not, I’m not going to get any better.”
And now, rather than trying to come up to a level of acceptability, I think I’m really embracing that kind of Neurosis as a tool for self improvement and advancement. Sure it’s misguided as fuck now and again. But it’s working.
And yes, I have a lot of areas of my life where I need to employ that kind of ruthlessness. It’d be a bit too embarrassing to say where, aside from things like weight loss and such.
The trick, I think, is to figure out how to balance these things. How to take a deep breath and let go of the anxiety and just fucking run with…whatever and when to aim that fucking lens on myself.
Dammit…this follow-up was supposed to be about the value of honesty. Hell, maybe it still is.
In reference to my previous post: Is it too much to ask of my family, who’s never really expressed ANY positive emotion, to express some gratitude? It may be.
This might be an indication that I’ve moved beyond those familial role-playing modes.
Huh. That’s an interesting, if self-congratulatory notion. But to paraphrase the immortal words of Ronaldus Maximus “There I go again.”
Yeah, that’s okay.
I’m gonna post these, close up and go across the street to Johnathans and sit at the bar, maybe just for one. Maybe…not.
But this is going to end up being a series wherein I work this shit out.