(First of all, I’ve already written a version of this post. Second of all, this is one of those annoying navel-gazey posts that no one in the world is interested in but me. Sorry in advance.)
I’ve always loved and defended the fact that I’m a very judgmental person. “It’s one of my best qualities!” I’m forever annoyingly arguing to people.
I am continually giving annoying New Agey people who think you should only pump good vibes out in the world or something an annoying speech about how when people say you’re judgmental, what they really mean is you have values you refuse to shy away from. This is something we used to talk about a lot at when I worked at Bloodroot—how threatened most people get when they come into contact with those of us who have passions, values, and beliefs. If having ideals and goals and being disgusted when others don’t is wrong, I don’t want to be right, I say.
There’s something to be said for that, but I think it’s also time to admit something else: this mentality has put me in such a small, ever-tightening box that by 2010 I had almost no room to breathe. My political and personal values were so black and white: Obama is Just as Bad as Bush/Liberals Are All Idiots/Radicals are All Awesome being the key political one, and You Must Work Harder Than Anyone Else In The Universe And Otherwise Generally Be Perfect In Every Way being the paramount personal one.
Judgmental people are, typically, at their best when they have an enemy. I know I am. My blood starts pumping, my brain starts whirring. A fight! Let’s go! I’ll win!
My enemy has typically been pretty much the entire world. It started in my own family when I was about twelve or so, and never stopped: the distancing, the separating myself out. I don’t belong to you, you don’t know me. I am different from you: it’s what got me out of a horrible childhood. When everyone in your household is hellbent on destroying themselves, staying at the library every night until it closes is a great strategy.
But after all this time, is it time to put this philosophy to rest?
The weird thing about judgmental people is that we are often most judgmental toward ourselves. If you’re reading this blog, I have a feeling you know the feeling. It’s insanely painful. Self-flagellation is the order of the day. Judging yourself for not living up to a ludicrous standard of impossible perfection means constant low-grade yelling at yourself. It means making yourself your enemy a lot of the time. Not fun.
And so, as 2010, the Great Year of Sliding Down Inside Myself wore on, I noticed myself lashing out in all kinds of ways. I started a mini-revolution inside my body, breaking all my rules and becoming a hypocrite on a million levels. If my brain wouldn’t give me a break, something deep in my soul was going to steal one. I cleaved in half, working hard on a mind-body disconnection. On the surface, everything was running fairly smoothly, but underneath I was churning, lashing, writhing with anger and annoyance at this life that left me so exhausted at the end of the day.
I felt this hard, violent wildness inside me, gnawing at me all the time. The wildness had a raw power to it that terrified me—I knew I could lose myself to it if I let go even a little bit. I did, more than a few times. I felt so constrained in the life I’d made for myself, this job that certainly had its virtues but that had taken over so completely that there was no “me” left outside of it, that in order to survive I felt I had to tap into some secret, wild self.
One day I was crying on the phone with my best girlfriend (typical 2010 activity) and I said “I’m just too good at too many other things for this to be my life forever.” It was a sort of horrible thing to say, but it’s how I felt most of the year. This is it? This is my one wild life? The kitchen floor is filthy, I have 70 emails to answer tonight? I’m done. No, thank you. NO.
So what, I’m 32 and I had a mid-life crisis. And now I’m standing on the other edge of it, shaken by all the tumult and not sure I’m any wiser for it, but happy that it forced me to make changes (discussed in disgusting detail below). I’m thinking of ways to keep growing, to break out of the boxes I’ve decided I have to fit in, no matter what. I want to find a way to use the wildness I’ve felt this year in less painful and destructive ways—to let myself be myself without hating myself for it, does that make sense? Does anyone rambling about their silly inner worlds ever make any sense?
Anyway. My mission right now is so cheesey that pop singers make songs about it: being kind to myself. And maybe a little bit of that kindness will rub off on the world, too. I’m a black and white girl who has to let a little nuance in if she’s going to survive. I’m fighting against it, even as I write it. I want to be right, even if it means being mean. I want what I want, like everyone else. But I also want to survive.