In which I think about what an asshole I’ve always been, even to myself.
I’ve turned into very nearly everything for which I have ever felt contempt.
Here are some examples:
Pampered and lazy, with a litany of psychosomatic, social, and political complaints anyway? Check.
Reaches a certain age and, unoriginally, watches English period pieces, and paints, unironically, with watercolors? Check. Unhip, and occasionally even boring-seeming, life partner? Check. Tomato plants in the yard, even after a lifetime of not gardening? Check. Houseplants in tacky plastic pots I would not have been caught dead with in my 20’s or 30’s? Check.
Just walked through the building, to and from the laundry room, with my old, fat, unshaven, mottled legs exposed, braless and gross? Check!
Even as few as five years ago, at gigs, I’d eyeball women the age and shape I am now, and think, “Why on earth are you dressed like that? Don’t you know how your bra straps leave furrows in your shoulder fat, how your spare tire looks so square from the back?” I was offended that people could be out, in public, having fun while unbeautiful, even as I believed myself unbeautiful.
I felt discomfort seeing older women with thinning hair only slightly less intense than I used to feel seeing amputees or victims of fire. Now my own hair is well on its way to being fuzz by the time I’m 60, like my father’s mother’s was (although she was ill by then, so maybe it’s not genetic).
I have always, always, always judged the fat, the unbeautiful, and the unwell, even without intending. I couldn’t even conceive of any condition that could truly affect a life without being visible or serious. It took ten years of a panic disorder for me to develop real compassion for invisible suffering, like depression or chronic pain or even the anguish of an unhappy, unfulfilled life. I had to get fat myself before my heart could understand how truly fucking hard obese people have it, from the sheer strain of hauling bulk around to all the little discomforts of joints and edema and rashes.
I never meant to inwardly recoil from everything not ideal. It was never intentional, but I was born without a compassionate bone in my body, it seems. And it’s taken me forty years to quit caring about what shit looks like on the surface and really understand what lies within, the souls themselves.
Because, as it turns out, most of the beautiful people are assholes, and most of the “ugly” people are wonderful.
Today, day three of acute anxiety, I had a bit of a revelation. I had just come up from the laundry room and caught sight of myself in the hall mirror and again in my monitor as I sat down at my desk and really noticed my passing thoughts: “God, you’re fat. Look at you, you’re hideous. So ugly.”
The anxiety I’d been trying so hard to turn upward, into excitement — we are, after all, leaving in the morning for a weekend with Amma, and I should be happy, not in the misery of fear and anxiety — suddenly seemed deserving of compassion. Is anyone truly compassionate who is so mean to herself? So instead of trying to change my anxiety into happiness, I just looked at myself and thought, “You poor baby, you’re okay, you can be loved.”
And the attack stopped.
I mean, my leg’s still bouncing, but that’s okay; I’m not fucking suffering. I’m so ashamed of my disorder; I am one of the world’s most fortunate and lucky people. I’m never hungry, never cold, never afraid of real things. I’m not sick, I’m not in pain, I have free time and I get to sleep until I wake up every day, but I suffer. A made-up, not real suffering I judge myself for.
Okay, turns out that was a lie. It didn’t stop, it just eased off. It’s trying to come back now, the “Oh! I feel dizzy! Weak! My fingers are numb! There must be something wrong with me. Oh, I’ll never be able to travel like this.” The fear, fear, fear.
I so don’t want to develop fucking agoraphobia. I’m at the point now where just standing waiting for the light to change on Lyndale makes me twitch and bounce and tap.
But it’s okay that I’m afraid. It’s okay to have sensations. It’s okay to be fat, 48, frequently idle, and nervous. It’s okay, Michelle, you’re okay. Not everybody is the judgemental asshole you are; lots of people can look at you without disgust, even. You have a disorder lots of people have. You hardly do it on purpose. And, before you object, you do try to mitigate it! You do walk, bike, stretch, meditate. You have maybe a cup of coffee per day; you rarely eat sugar; your vape juice is only 6mg.
Remember hormones, too: it was only a 26-day cycle. Very short. Who knows what’s going on with those hormones, eh?
…I wish I didn’t have to work tonight; I should have taken it off. Oh, well, it’s only four hours, and right here at my own desk. But it would be better if, after Scott gets home, we could eat, pack, and nap until the unreasonably early taxi pick-up.
Oh, I want a cuddle so much just now, but I’ll soldier on and put the laundry in the dryer instead.