Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mirror Lessons

It occurred to me tonight while I sat in bed doing line edits of the last 50 pages or so of Black Desert that I've been struggling with a real blow to my self-esteem for some time now. It started when I fled Chicago, and got worse in December, despite a book contract, my own apartment, and a now manageable credit card debt.

I've spent the last few weeks corresponding with folks online, looking to setup more dates, but instead of feeling like it's a fun thing, it feels like a chore. Like I'm desperate for people to like me. And all the ones I really like don't like me back, and then I run around in a tizzy, running through all the bullshit stuff I was told during my last breakup, and I beat myself up. I tell myself that if I was just thinner, or hotter, or even more accomplished, at this point, that I would be loved and desired.

The funny thing is, it's not that I'm *not* loved and desired. I certainly am. Just not by the folks I desire. And that's a tough thing for anybody. That's life.

I've spent the last couple of years in a perpetual state of dating. I forgot what it was like to just be me, funny as that may sound. I got used to playing the part of me, of being strong, wise-cracking Kameron in the frumpy clothes, the one who made up for her bad haircut with her great personality. I got used to giving the appearance of being strong and self-reliant and gung-ho all the time.

And you know, it gets tiring sometimes, being me. Especially when I don't know who me is anymore.

I was talking to Stephanie about how I think I'm ready now to get a dog, and she quoted something from a movie about these recovering addicts who were asking their counselor when they could start dating again, and the guy said, "First, get a small plant. If you can take care of the plant for 6 months and it doesn't die, get a small animal. And if you can take good care of that small animal for 6 months, and you're plant's still alive and in good shape, then you're ready to date."

Provided, of course, that you don't live in Ohio.

And you know, I have a lot of living plants, many of which I brought from Chicago, and I'm taking care of myself again, and soon I'll start looking for just the right dog. But here's the thing, I think.

I was in a relationship when I got sick. Bounced into another one immediately after that, then stumbled into another immediately after that. No breaks. No "just me." It was a crazy, wild time after taking six years off from dating all together. Suddenly there was all this dating, and then craziness, sickness, all rolled into one.

There hasn't been a lot of "let's just think about the future that has just me and my chronic illness in it." I haven't spent a lot of time on that future, really. I don't know what it will look like. I still don't know what I can do. I'm still struggling to understand a lot of the secondary shit that comes with being a t1 diabetic. I have nightmares now about my eyes bleeding. I wake up some mornings terrified because there seems to be poor circulation in my leg, and does this mean it's going to be chopped off? And afternoon exercise often terrifies me to the point of inaction. I hate having low sugar. I hate that it makes me weepy and full of self-hatred.

When there's something rotten inside of you, you tend to bash at things on the exterior, things you can actually see. It didn't help that I dated somebody who bashed me about how I looked, too, and used it as one of the lame reasons we should break up, and when I'm weepy and full of self-hatred, it all comes rushing back, and I want to claw myself apart. I'm too fat, I'm too tall, I'm too ugly, I'm ill-shaped. I hate myself in all the ways I've taught myself not to hate myself. And then I hate myself for hating myself.

What I want, instead, are long, warm summer nights. Line edits. Book contracts. Projects. Leisurely bike rides. I want to just not think. I want to stop thinking all together. And for me, that generally involves socializing very little with strangers for a good long while, so I don't look for the measure of my worth in their eyes, thinking they're a mirror, making me up, reflecting me back.

I don't look strangers in the eye very often. People think it's rude. But I do it because I'm afraid of what I'll see. I'm afraid I'll see how they look at me, I'll see myself, reflected back, and I'm terrified I won't like what I see.

I don't know, sometimes, what's rotten inside of me, what it is that I hate so much. I try so hard to be good, to be better. And the default, it seems to me, is just so rotten. I want to tear it out.

8 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

terri said...

You are truly the most amazing, talented, incredible, imaginative,beautiful,strong,creative,heartful,OVERLY CRITICAL OF ONESELF, person I have met in my life !

Suzanne Perazzini said...

Wow!! Someone has certainly done a number on you. I saw a recent post of yours with heaps of photos of you and what I saw was an extremely attractive, vibrant, life-loving female. Where's the fat person you always talk about? I didn't see her. And that's just the outside. I have got to know you through your blog and you are one person I would love to meet for your intelligence, your inate understanding of the world, your depth of thought, your analytical abilities and for your powerful writing.
Give yourself a break and you will blossom into something magnificient.

Kameron Hurley said...

It's an old self-hate thing that I've worked very hard to correct. It wasn't done by any one person - heh - but over a lifetime ingesting crappy media, school room taughts, etc. etc. I've done really well at building myself back up; the problem is that it doesn't take much to disrupt the house of cards I've built, and when somebody starts in on you, it's incredibly easy to go back to your default.

It's one of the reasons I don't watch tv, don't socialize much, and get so angry at so many crappy media representations of fake women for real women, and the very narrow choice we're offered to be considered "acceptable."

stephanieburgis said...

If you haven't already, you should read the book Pack of Two, by Caroline Knapp - it's the best book about people & dogs I've ever read, and a lot of the stuff sounds so applicable to what you were writing in this entry...I know dogs aren't for everyone, but if you are a dog person, they can help SO MUCH! (My dog was absolutely the key reason I survived and thrived through my worst-ever breakup, many years ago.)

Kameron Hurley said...

I've always loved dogs. The struggle has always been finding a place where I could have one. One of the many big bonuses of this apartment complex was that they allowed dogs and had no weight restriction, so I don't have to wait until I have a house before I finally get one (I've had cats before, but I just... well, I've never been a cat person at all).

That was just sort of the icing on the cake.

r@d@r said...

thank you for articulating so concisely and accurately what it feels like to, well, feel this way. i found myself wanting to pound my desk and shout "YES! THAT'S IT!" just transpose "chronic illness" with "mental illness" and it could be the story of my life. well, that, and the other slight difference that i'm trying to get someone to love me again who used to but doesn't any more. the funny thing is i have this illusion that if i were as professionally successful as you it would solve all my problems. yeah...probably not.

Ismone said...

"It didn't help that I dated somebody who bashed me about how I looked, too, and used it as one of the lame reasons we should break up, and when I'm weepy and full of self-hatred, it all comes rushing back, and I want to claw myself apart."

What a jerk! I'm so sorry you ended up dating someone like that. The stealth asshole. They come in so many different stripes. I think the rules are pretty simple. Men like him, if they're not attracted to a certain woman, should just not date her. It is that simple. Trying to impose personal tastes on another human being like that human's failure to live up to his aesthetic is some kind of moral failure is, pardon my language, fucking fucked up in the head and ridiculously entitled.

I really DON'T understand why some men (maybe women do this too, I never dated any) feel like break-up talks are a perfectly valid forum to critique another person and explain how things about that person are or are not bonerkillers. Like, um, well you get a 5 in intellect, but your butt is square (my butt is square) which is a -1 in physical attraction---it's like, excuse me, who made you the judge? Why do you get to evaluate ME? What is so wrong with saying "this isn't working for me" or "I just don't think we fit together well" or any of a number of things that focuses on the relationship itself, instead of slamming the other person's personality traits/appearance, which may not get that individual guy off but which may be just the thing that someone else is seeking!

(Sorry for the rant. You just reminded me of everything that pissed me off about the bad guys I dated. Yes, there were good guys, too.)

Kameron Hurley said...

If somebody doesn't love you, well, yeah, they don't love you. It's a hard lesson to learn when you grow up on movies about ugly ducklings who take off their glasses and shake out their hair and BAM suddenly everybody's in love with them.

Real life doesn't work this way. But it's tough to remember that when you're feeling low. It can be a struggle to keep in mind, but it's worth it, to me. There's nothing more wasteful than time wasted on somebody who's just not worth it.