Monday, October 1

Putting the "Rock" in Rock Bottom

So, this week’s blog was inspired by this bug that seems to be going around, and by “bug” I mean that feeling of “Oh-em-gee, I’m twenty-five years old and have no idea what I’m doing!”

Whether it’s manifesting in your relationships, 

“Why do I keep dating different versions of the same douchebag . . . ?”

your friendships,

“When did we stop having anything in common . . . ?”

your career (or non-career),

“Thank you, recession!”

let me tell you why it’s actually good thing:

Remember the guy who simultaneously dumped me and bought me a puppy so I “had a reason to live” . . . ?

Well, while I now consider him a bullet dodged, at the time, he was the first guy who ever broke my heart – the one that made me realize we weren’t in high school anymore, practice was over and we’d upgraded to live ammunition.

If only it had been as through and through as a bullet hole, though . . .

While he was never the most mature guy in the room, I was completely unprepared for how immature he could be. Once, at a mutual friend’s graduation party, he drunkenly grabbed my a$$ and suggested/slurred that we should “get back together for the night.”

(Can I pick ‘em or can I pick ‘em . . . ?)

More than once I found myself torn between finding a dark place to curl-up in and die or using my powers as a 3rd degree black belt for evil just once, by rearranging his face so his outsides would match his insides . . .

But what hurt the most was how our friends, my friends, stood by and watched, only two of them ever stepping in to shame him, to defend me. And me, being a child of divorce who knew all too well what it was like to be put in the middle of these things, didn’t feel I could stand up for myself believing that I would be doing them a disservice, that I would be “creating drama” somehow by demanding a little respect – for myself and for what (I thought) we had . . .

Winter break was a blur of loaded questions and generously spiked eggnog, and yet the new semester came too soon.

Having been dumped the first day of finals the semester before, my professors had been understanding and given me as much leeway as they fairly could; still, my GPA had taken a hit.

Furthermore, having just won my first award for creative writing, there was new, unwanted pressure. I couldn’t get away with half-assing it anymore, now that everyone knew I was good, but I couldn’t seem to summon up the will to care, either . . .

I wanted to be left alone, and I made sure everybody knew it. I didn’t bother with peer editing, handing back drafts without so much as a single correction. I kept my head down during workshops, puffy red eyes obscured by the anime-style bangs I used to think were cool.

People were beginning to get the feeling that I thought I was too good to be there, when the truth was I didn’t feel I deserved to be there at all.

I didn’t feel like writing.

I didn’t feel like breathing, but it was habit.

Basically, I spent a lot of long nights wrapped around my new puppy, sobbing into her fur until my stomach hurt and wondering what I had done to deserve my situation . . .

But you can only cry so much.

(I personally begin to resemble Yoda if I’ve cried enough.)

And you can only hate someone so much before you realize it’s not going to change them, it’s going to change you.

SO . . .

The United States, I decided, wasn’t big enough for both my ex and I.

A friend of mine – who was going through almost the exact same thing at almost the exact same time – and I put our heads together and six months’ worth of 70-hour school/work weeks later had ourselves a pair of tickets to Europe.

I puked my guts out all the way to the airport.

How symbolic, I remember thinking, and then, Get it out. Get it out now . . . ‘cuz this is where you’re leaving it.

Of course “it” (not the puke) was right there waiting for me when I got back 3 weeks later – baggage like that doesn’t just go away – but it didn’t seem as heavy.

Or maybe it had never been that heavy to begin with; what I’d seen and done in Europe had simply put it into perspective for me.

The Blue Mosque
Strikes in the streets of Athens, the 9 domes of the Blue Mosque humming with a thousand tiny echoes, the sun rise over Lake Zurich, a silver nazar necklace bought in Rhodes, riding donkeys down the twisty stone pathways of Santorini, drinking warm Guinness at the Gravity Bar in Dublin . . .

It had taken a hundred plus such experiences to remind me that the world was big, I was small, and that what I had suffered was neither – it was somewhere uncomfortably in the middle.

Getting dumped wasn’t the end of the world, but it also wasn’t something I could just stuff in with the rest of my baggage thinking I would never have to unpack it.

So instead of baggage, I began to think of it as “but a flesh wound.”

And, as sometimes the best thing for a wound is your own blood, to let it bleed a little, as sometimes the best thing for other kinds of wounds can also be messy and counterintuitive.

When we hit rock bottom, our first instinct is usually to “fix” it – to “pull it together” and not “dwell" on the situation – but it's that kneejerk reaction that robs us of the process of being able to look said situation square in the face, to assess what happened and how it happened, to own up to our mistakes, to let go of that which was beyond our control, from admitting to ourselves that we’re not “fine” and from grieving where grief is due.

Only when we let such feelings run their course can we honestly move on and be truly done with them (creative fodder aside).

And I while I know rock bottom can feel like the most vulnerable of places that way, it can also be the best place in the world to just STOP and THINK.

What went wrong . . . ?

What went right . . . ?

What did I learn . . . ?

What do I want . . . ?

Now is the time to be asking ourselves these questions – now, while we’re young and hungry with stamina and time still on our side – but without the whiplash of hitting rock bottom, too few of us will ever pause long enough to edit and readjust.

Too many of us will be kicking ourselves in twenty-five years for riding out the momentum of a job or a relationship just because it was going somewhere, only to get there and realize that it’s not somewhere we want to be.

(I mean, what if I had married that guy . . . ? Bleck!)

Or, because we can’t remember when and why we stopped wanting it.

The truth is, people change.

Dreams change.

So will you and yours, and it will be the time you’ve spent at hit rock bottom that will allow you to see yourself for who you are and the things that you want and need the most clearly.

Less sentimentally, our twenties are supposed to be an existential gladiator pit!

That’s what makes them so much fun :)

XO, Mal


For your daily dose of Mal Adjusted, like me here on Facebook!

No comments:

Post a Comment