While I never intended for this blog to be a space for me to share and sort through difficult emotions, it’s funny how much I’ve come to rely on WG as that kind of outlet in a few short years. I’ve never been able to sustain a trusting relationship for more than a few months, yet here I am pouring out my soul to hundreds and thousands of readers whom I have never met–many of whom will never meet me. I have always loved writing, and writing about these issues offers relief and newfound clarity, more often and not in the form of the comments I receive, which offer new perspectives and insights that I would not otherwise have had the courage to solicit.
I know I’m not alone in this endeavor, either. In the web comic world, writing about depression is a major issue, like this deeply impactful post from Hyperbole & A Half that first introduced me to the complete story of what it’s like to be depressed. (She’s gone largely off the radar since publishing that post.) Closer to home, some of my blogger friends have revealed incredibly intimate, painful, and sometimes dark moments from their lives:
Courtney from Neighbor Foodie, who is one of the bravest people I know, wrote this post about the road to recovery and personal healing after her miscarriage
Dorothy from Crazy for Crust shared her all-too-real story about struggling with weight, body image, and self-love
Nancy from Gotta Get Baked is one of my favorite gals of all time, and we’ve had dozens of conversations since we met two years ago about the problems of self-loathing, being true to oneself, and life outlook. I love every single post she cranks out, but one of my favs was this eye-opening post about how we deal with cycles of internalized negativity.
There are hundreds of similar posts out there that I could point to for inspiration, but I definitely recommend reading these if you are currently or have ever felt alone. (Hint takeaway: you’re not!)
(Also, check out those cookies ^ and then skip below to get the recipe if you’re tired of my rambling v I don’t blame ya)
Personally, I’ve written more posts than I can count about subjects that I would only on the most exceptional occasions talk about with either family or friends. The first of these was posted on June 8, 2014. The title: Defining My Self-Worth. It was the story of a tough uphill struggle against self-hate; skewed self-image; the losing battle against fading hope during a particularly isolating period of my college years. I’ll never forget the courage it took to finally hit the Publish button on that post.
More importantly, however, I’ll never forget the outpouring of support, wisdom, and absolutely stunning stories of shared experience that resulted from that post. While the positive reaction wasn’t enough to eradicate my fears, they were enough to prove beyond a doubt that everyone–even the most seemingly put-together and wise individuals–faces some version of the same insecurities.
Since then, I’ve written about the difficulty of self-love when you’ve constructed a carefully manicured version of yourself to present to the world and self-doubt prevails. I’ve written on the crappiness of not feeling like you’re living up to the expectations of the people you admire most. I’ve written about how everyone else’s life will always seem cooler or funner or all-around more glamorous than yours, when in reality everyone else is busy looking around at everyone else thinking the same thing.
Obviously, I didn’t invent the wheel writing about these things. But I’m a firm believer in self-discovery through expression, which is why I continue to pick over the same issues again and again, changing my angle slightly or trying to imagine things from a completely different perspective. Was I really a happier person 5 years ago after having dropped to a scant 105 pounds? Was I less happy now after having reached my fullest weight ever? Would finishing a PhD into English really get me where I wanted to be? Where did I want to be, anyway? Did it matter?
These are the questions I continue to ask myself when the intrusive thoughts start creeping in. There’s one in particular that I want to focus on for a second here, and it’s this:
I am a fundamentally bad person.
I don’t mean in an objective sense. I don’t bomb cities or abandon puppies or cheat & lie & swindle giant corporations & stuff. And I don’t mean it in a Jonathan Edwards fire & brimstone way, like I’m an irredeemable sinner in the hands of an angry God because frankly living in 1740s America must have sucked, so you go Hester Prynne (thank you, junior AP English). Since the beginning of human civilization, there have been debates about human nature and the conflict of good vs. evil–one thinks of Machiavellism, religion, the recent Disney adaptation of Rapunzel and did Mother Gothel seriously deserve to be tripped out of a tower by a pet chameleon–and the verdict is a resounding NO, I would not consider myself a Darth Vader, tyvm.
But like the eating disordered girl or boy who looks into the mirror and sees nothing but an undesirable body, some days I stop to look inward. And often what I see, I like less than I care to admit.
Because a truly kind person doesn’t stuff her box of leftovers in her purse as she scurries past the homeless woman on the curb. And this is perfect for your wedding party.
Or “forget” to invite somebody to a get-together because she’s a bit tired of spending time with them.
Or find it difficult to let the people about whom she cares most into her life.
Or hurt them, inadvertently or not.
So says I, Davy Jones!
Lame attempt at humor. So say the little voices in my head. And the norms of civilized society. About whose opinions I apparently care way too much.
Will there ever be a satisfying resolution to any of these doubts? No, and I guess that’s one of the few things I do know for certain. As a writer as in life, we don’t start out with the answers. If you’re Virginia Woolf, you don’t end up with answers, either–and in that respect, Woolfian novels are a bit like life, too. How many people do you know who have all of the answers? For that matter, how many people do you know who know all the right questions to ask?
My prospects are looking like zilch to none, and I’m glad to say I’m not sorry. After all, life would be no “awfully big adventure” with all the pieces already in place, right?
Meditation helps. Though I rarely take the time for it anymore, this morning I woke up and realized that there was no way I was going to be productive or focus at all until I’d cleared my mind of its difficult emotions. I highly recommend this free guided meditation podcast if you’re looking for a place to get started, which has something like 50 different sessions (Working Wwith Difficult Emotions, Letting Go, and Willingness to Be With What Is are some of my favorites).
Recognizing that beating myself up about these thoughts without any intention of resolving them or improving myself is counterproductive, also helps. While this post may sound like the antithesis of such a strategy, I find that the more I clear my brain of the negative clutter, the more able I am to focus on what’s really important: self-improvement.
So those are the big questions that remain unanswered. I guess the only easy question I have for you at this point is about these Mexican wedding cookies, which I’ve virtually ignored for this entire post and which you should never, ever take for granted. Would you eat these if I put a plate in front of you right now?
If I had my way, I’d make us all a world-sized batch of these buttery crumbly bad boys, pull up some chairs, and ask everyone to enjoy as we ponder through life’s questions (asked and unasked) together.
As any wise person would say: butter, sugar, and a few shared laughs are the key to mutual self-discovery.
Adventure is out there!
(Caw! Caw! Rawr.)
What helps you cope with difficult issues or emotions?
- 1 cup butter (NOT margarine!), room temperature
- 6 tablespoons + 1/2 cup powdered sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheetnd set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, 6 tablespoons powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Gently stir in flour until completely incorporated. Fold in chopped nuts.
- Roll 1-inch balls of dough and place 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake cookies in preheated oven for 11-13 minutes, until very lightly golden. Remove and allow to cool completely before rolling in remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
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