“As I loosen up and begin to surrender in a sleepy dreaminess I am suddenly experiencing clarity; I perhaps want to exist in a place where there is no dimension of existence.” ~ Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals Of Sylvia Plath
Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 40 degrees.
The strange dreams continue unabated; granted, I tend to have strange dreams most of the time, but the latest crop is intensely strange. I need to ponder them before discussing them.
Anyway, I awoke this morning with a migraine, which has slowly eased. The past few days I have not felt quite right, unsettled and achy. Nothing specific, but puny is the best way to describe it. I hope that I’m not getting ready to have one of those weak periods, the kind that forces me to bed for days. I really hate that.
However, taking to bed does allow me more time for reading, that is when I can concentrate. I decided against writing yesterday and sat down with a book, but then I kept finding my concentration slipping, my mind racing, and I was unable to read more than a few chapters. I ended up watching television. I don’t pretend not to watch television, but I have kind of an unwritten rule that I don’t turn the television on until after 8 p.m. Part of my reason for doing so is that my mother has the television on from the moment she awakens until the moment she falls asleep. I always told myself that I would not allow the TV to serve as my primary means of getting through my days; although immediately after Caitlin died I did nothing but watch soap operas for a year, another reason that I do not allow myself to turn on the television during the day.
“And language, drowned somewhere
at the endless bottom of senses, dictates
an underground flow of images to the tongue” ~ Boris A. Novak, from “A Dream is Snowing”
So I’ve been thinking about the concept of false modesty. Let me explain:
We all know individuals who are self-deprecating, but only in the hopes that their assertions about their negativity will be rebuffed by the listener and replaced by a compliment. My mother used to call this fishing for compliments.
I am not in this category. When I say that I think that I am X, I truly mean that I am X. I am not trying to get anyone to say, “Oh no. That’s not you. You are so Y. How can you say that?”
Corey and I were talking yesterday about my poor self-image, and he said that he just doesn’t understand how someone can live in a state of constantly chipping away at themselves. It’s hard to explain to someone who does not suffer from this, hard to make someone who is relatively self-assured understand that feelings of inadequacy are very real and not some attempt to garner compliments. In fact, I have never known how to accept compliments gracefully, so adept am I at believing only the worst of myself that to hear anything else just doesn’t seem realistic.
But the truth is that I cannot lay all of the blame for this on my mother, as much as I would like to do so. Yes, my mother has spent most of my life pointing out my flaws, patting my belly, telling me that I need to do neck exercises, etcetera ad nauseam. But, and this is a big but, I have listened to her. I did not have to listen, did I? But I did listen, and I heard, and I believed.
“—Our words, like blown kisses, are swallowed by ghosts
Along the way,
their destinations bereft
In a rub of brightness unending:
How distant everything always is,
and yet how close” ~ Charles Wright, from “Night Journal”
True story: When Olivia was just a few months old, my mother was holding her, and she looked down at this new baby, this wonderful, happy baby, and commented on her double chin, saying something along the lines of “You’ll have to watch that.”
What happened to my mother to make her so completely obsessed with the physical? Is she a product of her times, the decades in which women were valued not by what they knew but how they looked? Okay, those decades have not disappeared completely, but you know what I mean here.
Or is my mother’s seeming obsession with the brutal cut a result of her unhappiness in her marriage, her way of coping with a man who had affair after affair, quite probably leaving her completely insecure and wondering what was wrong with her that he could never be happy?
I have no answers to these questions. I only know that as an educated adult woman who has seen a measure of success that I should not be so self-loathing, and truly, truly, I wish that I were not. There have been periods in my life in which I was riding high, feeling quite self-assured, quite happy with the way that I looked, happy with how I was being received by people, but those periods were fleeting, completely dependent upon how much I weighed, which clothes I could wear, how my hair looked.
“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.” ~ Albert Camus, from The Stranger
I fear that I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what it is exactly that is bothering me. Let me back up:
When it comes to my brains, I am probably more than arrogant. I know how smart I am, and I also know in which categories I am deficient. But when it comes to the physical . . . I am still that young girl on the playground in elementary school who looked around and didn’t see anyone who looked remotely similar. Surrounded by blond, blue-eyed girls named Kim and Brooke, I felt sorely out of place.
Some women would delight in their differences from the mainstream, and at times, I have been quite happy to have someone tell me that I am exotic looking, that they liked my looks precisely because I did not look like everyone else. But more often than not I have felt like the outsider.
Another true story: When I worked as a sales manager for that major retailer I was among a management staff that was, on the whole, quite attractive. There was the woman of Greek heritage who was gorgeous. There was the perky blond with the big chest. There was the brunette with the big beautiful eyes and ready smile. And then there was me.
“The heart, being full of blood, casts a shadow.” ~ Henry Gray, from Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body
Okay, what is it I’m saying here? Hell if I know. I only know that Corey is relentlessly frustrated by my self-denigration, that he wishes that I could like myself more. I wish that I could like myself more, too.
It’s no picnic being this wracked with insecurity, and in fact, I’m quite sure that this shroud of insecurity is one of the main reasons I do not do more with my writing, that I am terrified of being rejected for my words, having felt rejected for my difference for so long.
You are probably sitting there thinking to yourself, “Sheesh. Get a life already.” And you would be correct. I should be more grateful for what I have and less worried about what I feel I lack. I should focus more on the things at which I feel I excel and focus less on the skin around my neck or the flab on my upper arms.
I should do these things. I know this. But should and can are a world apart in the universe that is me, a seemingly unbreachable chasm. And I make myself tired all over when I do this.
More later. Peace.
(All images are taken from the Telegraph’s Big Picture series)
Music by Aidan Hawken and Carina Round, “Walking Blind”
I’m trying something new today: So that you can see the poem with the breaks and indents as the poet intended, I have snipped the original and inserted as two jpegs, still working out the kinks. HTML does not allow (or I don’t know how in HTML) to place indents within consecutive lines. Let me know what you think. The following poem is taken from The Poetry Foundation:
- ‘An insult to women everywhere’ – Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar gets a ‘chick lit’ makeover (independent.co.uk)