I just hung up the phone with someone I love who told me some wonderful news, and now I’m crying. Not with joy—although I’m honestly so deliriously happy for this person I could hug them through the phone and buy them a double ice cream sandwich— but with despair. Despair because their success is a stark reminder that my own life is a ball of confusion— and it’s no one’s fault but mine.
Through years of meditation, I’ve come to understand that my personal sadness in no way takes away from the happiness of the occasion—I can feel happy for them and sad for me at the same time; life is full of such dualities. I also read somewhere— it could have been the Dandy Dime for all I know— that if such wonderful opportunities arise for people in my life, it means that opportunity exists somewhere in the universe for me as well.
Then why do I feel like such self-loathing piece of shit lately? This is the second time this week I’ve heard wonderful news from people I love about their success— the cumulation of everything they’ve worked so hard for—and they’ve done it all by themselves.
And these are people who deserve good things, not some assholes who’ve screwed everyone they know, only to stand proudly on top of the heap of broken bodies they’ve left in their wake.
But lately, each time I hear stories of great personal success, it only makes me more lost and less sure of my own path than I’ve ever been before.
I’m happy for you, sad for me. I’ll only tell you the first part, because although you’re close to me, I don’t want to spoil the moment. Not now.
When I do tell you I will say, "It’s not you, it’s me."
I’ve heard that last line before—either coming out of my mouth when I broke up with someone because I wanted to sleep with a different person, or filling my ears when someone I was with wanted to do the same thing.
Somehow it sounds worse this time because the subject is my own lack of self-worth at such an advanced age, as opposed to just wanting to have the same body part of a different person inside of me.
All the stuff I thought I was over- my dad’s suicide when I was a kid, family violence, emotional and physical abuse— all the stuff I thought I covered in therapy decades ago and then left behind because I didn’t want my past to be an excuse for my present—are multiplying like negative integers in a countdown to one of the most painful periods of my life.
Why, you ask? How could such a seemingly strong and (sorta) funny woman feel so much pain?
Let me tell you a little story.
A student once asked the Buddha, “Who are you?”
“I am awake,” he said.
I bet that really fucked with the student’s mind for awhile, but I always wondered if the awake stage made the Buddha more bummed out until he was past all the crap.
I’m the Buddha in purgatory. The pain I feel is all the more palpable because I’m more awake than I’ve ever been before.
Yes, I know this inner insomnia is magnified by the result of a lifetime full of toxins sweating out with the help of multiple hot flashes. I know, too, my mirror in the sun is the double-diamond run, the vertical drop of bipolar genes—the gift that keeps on giving. I know that this too, shall pass. I will wake up tomorrow and the sun will be shining and it will be another cool, perfect desert day, and I’ll get out of bed and feel great— or not— but I will feel differently than I do right at this moment.
The only constant is change, and as trite as that saying has become due to overuse (thanks a fucking lot, Oprah!) it is the only truth I know, the only one I really believe, the only one I put my faith in.
Yes, I do dance with faith at special events, but not in the traditional sense. I tried that, but the only thing that improved was my faith-faking skills.
As I got older and less tolerant of self-deception, I decided I would come out as faithless, until a person much more accepting of life than I gave me the only definition that has ever made sense. "Faith is the belief that everything is workable."
It means that no matter what comes my way—be it wonderful or terrifying—I can deal with it in some way. I can look at it, I can make decisions about it, I can chose to be sad or happy about it. Like a lump of Play-doh, I can form into anything, then squash it back and begin again.
Depending on my hormones and heredity, I choose different color chips from the wheel of faith. Some days, only something bold will do. Other days I pick pastel, and still others, like today, nothing but a muddled grey will match my interior.
Where do I go from here?
What do I do?
How do I define myself?
Why don’t I feel rooted?
Why do I feel like I’m not doing enough?
Why can’t I make my mark?
Why do I feel like everyone but me has it together?
What is my raison d’être?
No wonder this existential breakdown seems like Deja Vu.The questions are similar to the ones I asked myself at 18, but 37 years on, the answers are just as elusive.
Now you know why I call menopause Puberty 2.0.
At least I’m not bleeding—externally, that is.