I’m not going to go into it much here, but suffice it to say – I have issues. More than issues, I have entire magazine subscriptions. Conde Nast would look at me and say, “Damn!” In short, I have problems- as we all do.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been working on my “problems,” whether they were in quotes or otherwise. It took me many years to realize my “problems” I thought were mine were actually someone else’s. Once I ascertained what my actual problems were, I set out to fix myself with the kind of enthusiasm reserved for patching up the holes on a sinking ship or wrestling a mud-covered pig, so it doesn’t run into the house or fix a hole in a stocking right before a big interview.
I was determined to get to the root of what was wrong with me, to cut it out from the stem, bury it, and salt the Earth. I was determined to be a good person, a worthwhile person, and that couldn’t happen until I was whole, healed, and perfectly imperfect. To that end, I meditated, read books, listened to books, watched YouTube videos, signed up for courses, and did anything I could do to be the person I wanted to be. To be the person who can be loved, cherished, and successful. It wasn’t until recently, very recently, as in the last week that I realized I’ve been going about things the wrong way.
What do holes in the bottom of boats, muddy pigs in houses, and tears in stockings all have in common? They are bad things. I equated myself with things that were wrong. I wanted to fix myself, but you only fix things that are broken. The word “fix” and “heal” were interchangeable in my mind, but they’re not in reality. I saw a kintsugi bowl and saw myself as broken and using gold to fix the cracks, rather than seeing kintsugi for what it is – cracking something on purpose to creating golden cracks. One is fixing that is broken, and one is creating something new. One thing is a byproduct of an accident, and the other has purpose and agency. With me, the “fixing what is broken” narrative invoked the intimately familiar feeling of not being good enough. The other has the more alien yet comforting feeling of good.
My issues stem from long-standing trauma experienced both as a child, as a teen, and well into my adulthood. My life has been a never-ending tilt-a-whirl of stress where the ride might slowdown, but it never stops. And I need to heal myself from that, not fix myself. Healing suggests that I’m fine as I am – that is the case. It’s seeing what’s good about me, not what’s wrong with me. And I need to build on that good and treat myself with care and respect. If I see myself as good, then I just need to heal. I only need to uncover the layer of bullshit I’ve been under, rather than making something good out of the bullshit that I am. The new way of thinking invokes self-compassion. Self-compassion gives grace and patience.
I no longer need to ask myself what’s wrong with me, why can’t I “get over it,” why can’t I do what (insert name here) does? Because the answers are nothing is wrong with me, I need to adjust my approach to healing, and (insert name here) may not have the same baggage as me and/or that person goes about it differently. And maybe, because of my scars, I need to go about things a different way to accomplish the things I want to do.
I wouldn’t think badly of myself if I had a broken leg. I wouldn’t think anything was wrong with me. I wouldn’t be fundamentally flawed just because I tripped, and now my leg is in a cast. I wouldn’t snap at myself if I had to use crutches to get from Point A to Point B, and I wouldn’t think my walking sucked in comparison to a person whose leg is uninjured. And now, I realize those same principles apply to my mental health.