Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Turning Corners

Just when I think that things can't get any weirder, oddly enough, they almost always do. So, I won't say the last six months has been any more challenging, funky, bizarre, stressful, cathartic, silly or fun than any other year before it. I will, however, say that no matter how accustomed I am to having strange things go down in my life, I'm not completely prepared for everything that comes down the pike. That's where I am today.

This time last year I was starting what would turn out to be the funnest temp job ever, and was falling in love with the absolute worst choice of partners (I didn't know he was the worst choice at the time, of course). I was still reeling from the most abominably painful issues with the EDD, having lost my home of seven years to their inadequacy, their apathy, and ultimately their bureaucratic bullshit; and I was just about to lose my Aunt Julia and my mother within two months of one another (I won't bother you by delving into the insurmountable disappointment, disgust and pain that I endured at the disastrous sham that was my mother's funeral). All of which would be punctuated by re-entering the job market (as well as the company I moved here to work for) at 10k less than I was making four years ago. Just recounting all of that makes me feel exhausted.

There was a time in my life when I would have considered it a genuine miracle that I would still be standing after all of that. But honestly, I don't feel that way now. I look at how I have dealt with some of the shittiest life has to offer, realize that I am still reasonably intact, and know that is cause for celebration.

Of course, there are plenty of times when I feel despair over where I am in my career, that I haven't found a suitable partner yet, that I am still dangerously overweight, that I haven't accomplished all the goals I set out for myself, etc. However, I feel unfathomably grateful that the most overwhelming feeling I have on most days now, is happiness. Even in the darkest hours, my biggest accomplishment to date continues to be a source of pride, entertainment, support, sanctuary and love; that is to say that my having chosen my friends well continues to be one of my greatest successes.

Now, with the advent of Facebook (certainly more so than MySpace ever was), I am reconnecting with people from all over the timeline of my life. I now have the opportunity to talk with some people I always wished I'd had a better rapport with, and some people I lost touch with that I'd always regretting having misplaced. Just as important, I have gotten a chance to heal old wounds with estranged friends and acquaintances I believed to have lostchances to heal long ago. I had one of those moments that I want to share here.

This past weekend, one of my most longstanding wounds from my 20s was finally treated with some tenderness and I can feel it healing nicely. Out of the blue, I was contacted by someone I had always wanted to be friends with, but for reasons that are now obvious (but not so at the time); it had never clicked between us. Like a lot of people one adds to internet social networking, this person isn't exactly someone I could call up and ask to a movie, but someone for whom I have respect, admiration, shared memories / experiences and care. Consequently, it wasn't so much the content of the conversation that was of interest (even though it was certainly very interesting), as my finally fulfilling a dusty old wish, and the added pleasure of being able to look back at the girl I had been the last time I attempted to connect and feel relieved that I had the good sense to grow from that version of myself. All of which reminded me of something one of my most beloved teachers (Lee Tecang –my drawing instructor) taught me in college and how profoundly that lesson changed the course of my life.

It was the end of my first quarter of drawing class, and I was looking over my portfolio of drawings in amazement of how "ugly" the first ones were compared to the end of the quarter, and was pulling out the early stuff to throw it out. He stopped me at the trash can and said, "What do you think you're doing?!" I explained that I didn't want reminders of how bad I was before. He laughed and said to me, "If you don't keep these, then the ones you keep now will be the ugly ones you want to toss next quarter." He went on to add, "You have to respect where you have been to truly appreciate where you are." While I applied that to a lot of aspects of my life, it's taken me until very recently to apply that philosophy where it would do the most good.

As I was truly communicating with this person, for the first time in 22 years of acquaintance, I got this mental picture of a night 19 years ago, where we were sitting together, talking and neither of us seeming to understand a word the other said. I remembered how frustrated and upset I was (with myself) at that time with vivid accuracy; how much I wanted this person to like me, to want to know me, to understand me, and feeling desperately inadequate in my ability to connect. Throughout the conversation this weekend, I must have had the most ridiculous grin on my face. Finally, I could talk with this person the way I'd always wanted and for once, doing so was a genuinely pleasurable experience. It is a thrilling relief to not be that insecure version of myself any more, but more than anything, I am ecstatic at not feeling compelled to resent myself for having been so in the first place. To be able to feel love for past versions of myself (that I'd blamed for everything I'd wanted and never got) is, to me, a miracle and a major turning of corners.

So there is a lot to rejoice, these days, in spite of all the things I could tick off that are well worth complaining about. These joys may not seen big, like winning the lotto or getting engaged or the usual stuff that everyone gets excited about. But for me, they are huge. And I hope that as I begin to settle into my 40s, that this kind of growth and healing continues to trend high. Now, if I could just get my work life and love life to follow suit.