Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Document Titled "Me"

In 2011, I struggled. I shared my struggle with no one--no one but MS Word. I had expectations to keep, people to make happy. I had to be strong. I had an image to keep. So I vented to my laptop (as I've done many times), vowing to never show a soul because of how hard on myself I was--and worse, how deeply I believed those cuts to be true, and that exposing them would only solidify that truth.

Well, this week, for the first time ever, I allowed other eyes to read what I wrote--one of the essays from a dark time I thought had to be endured alone. The essay, though, is realistically just a journal entry--to me, anyway. It was a venting out-pour of the pain in my heart, and a rather sad one at that. I was encouraged this week, by these dear writers with whom I can share my soul, to share it with the public; to let others read the words they can probably relate to. I promised them I would. It's nothing more than a blurb from when my life was so utterly different than it is now, yet I seem to still fight the same internal battle. 

The problem I faced then is that I was trying so hard to be what I thought I should be--what others wanted me to be. What I expected myself to be. I was trapped by those expectations. I have recently begun to conquer some of these mountains by finding who Jennie really is, and what Jennie really likes--and not being sorry for any of it.

But who am I kidding? No matter how much that changes, these other internal struggles and self-hatred will probably remain indefinitely. I guess my point to this is that when you are suffering, know you don't have to go it alone--that you are not alone. That's all.

Here it is:

~

So often I’m not good enough. So often I wish I was like everyone else. So often I’m living in the shadow of every imperfection. Disgusting, ugly, fat, tired, dingy, dirty, dorky. So often I daydream of being beautiful.

They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But what if the inside’s just as ugly as the outside? What if nothing you do is beautiful to anyone else but yourself? What if no one else can see that beauty and your talents go unnoticed, unappreciated? Are they just as meaningful, just as…beautiful?

There are transformation stories abroad, of ugly ducklings or talented, understated beings, turned beautiful from inside out. Beings who don’t see their potential until everyone else does. Beings that realize there is something to love in them.

Beings with happy endings.

This is not a transformation story. Just a woman hideous to herself on the outside, not beautiful enough to her husband, not patient enough for her children, and not good enough to the rest of the world.

An insecure teenager turned self-hating wife and mother.

A sickness, a madness—not cured by Godly love, by years of practice, or by beholding the beautiful things I’ve created. Godly love is out-shadowed by a mirror’s reflection or an unkind word. A constant comparison to others, a loved one’s condescending judgment and criticism: they all proclaim the ringing words that I. Am. Not. Good. Enough. In every way.

Can’t I be more confident? Can’t I be less awkward? Can’t I run better, socialize better, be funnier, be more…beautiful?

Can’t my children’s beauty and innocence and perfection, and the scars I wear from carrying them, be enough to testify I am good enough?

Can’t they?

Can’t they testify that maybe I’m even better than good enough?

I’m a mother. I breathe because of them, I live every moment for them. Perfect, in every sense of the word, they are everything I’m not.

Careless giggles, innocent thoughts, pleased by beautiful simplicities. Godly faces, with perfect smiles, corn silk hair, and clearest blue eyes.

Perfection.

They love me. I yell, I lose it, I cuss, I’m ugly. Yet, they love me. They forgive when I scream. They forgive when I lose it.

They love me.

And above all my imperfections, this is the greatest: to be this way with godlike children, children innocent and only deserving of the best things. They deserve better than an impatient parent.

And I don’t deserve the forgiveness. I don’t deserve such treasures.

With them I am nothing. 

And I cry to my God in gratitude, bruised knees and stained cheeks and a swelling heart. I cry in gratitude and beg to always have what I can’t live without: the best parts of me. I beg for their futures, that they will be better than me, that my imperfections will not rub off on them.

With them I am nothing.

And too often, I am not good enough.

(Me, 2011)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why People Are Too Hard On Bella

I know, I know. Just bear with me, okay?

We've probably all heard the flack Bella (or really, Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series and creator of Bella's annoying character) has gotten for being an enabler in an abusive and/or controlling relationship, or for not being strong enough. For being too dependent on her man-vampire. I love the empowerment women are finally getting in our culture and society--right now is the best time in history to be a woman, and hopefully that only continues. It is due to this wonderful influence (and the tuning out of negative influences) I have come to know my own strength as a woman, as well as my own worth. That my feminism is strength.

But is it really so pathetic for Bella to be completely crushed when Edward leaves her in New Moon (the second book in the Twilight series, for anyone living under a rock)?

I read the Twilight series as the books were first released--before it was cool. I was a Twilight hipster. They were enjoyable reads to me, and I was a fan. Thanks to media overdoing it, I am sick to death of all things Twilight and can't stand the movies or the actors they got to play the characters. The rest--the fact that Meyer isn't the best writer, the plot holes, the cliches, and the creepy way Bella is so okay with her stalking, controlling boyfriend--were things I was willing to overlook when reading the books originally (back when I had time to read for leisurely enjoyment).

But something has always bothered me about the criticism she's received. In New Moon, Edward tells Bella he is leaving forever, he doesn't love her, and then he leaves her alone in the middle of the forest. The readers all knew, of course, that it was only to protect her, but Bella believed him. The fact that she believed him so easily is beside the point (and rather ridiculous/unbelievable). The point is, her reaction to him leaving her--the way she curled up into the fetal position on the forest floor and was nearly incapacitated by heartbreak--is understandable.

Yes, I said it.



I'd like to think I'm a strong woman. I might be afraid to admit it sometimes, but I know I am. I've been through a lot. I'm not the same person I was as a teen. If I had the same experience in my teen years as Bella did, honestly, I would have had the same reaction.

Even now, 15 years later, I want to have the same reaction. I am an adult, and have proven, to myself and others, time and time again that I am independent and strong. Yet I completely empathize with Bella. And she was a teenager, for crying out loud.

At risk of exposing my vulnerability, I'm gonna just go ahead and admit that if it wasn't for my kids--the three small beings for whom I'm responsible, and the three small beings who depend on me for everything, look up to me, and live for me--I would have recently found myself in the exact same state as Bella. Down to zoning every person out, never speaking, and allowing time to get eaten up by the consuming heartbreak. The hole, as Bella calls it.

But I can't. I'm a mother. That's not to say mothers can't fall apart--I have. I'm just saying that for me, my kids are the only people I'm living for anymore, and I have to be strong for them because they're all I have. In my mind, I have no choice. So even when I'm dying on the inside, and literally chanting inside my head, over and over again, that I can make it to the next minute, my exterior is trying with all of me to keep it together. For my kids.

Bella didn't have kids. She was a teenager. Cut her a little slack.

What is wrong with a woman being both independent and strong (what is strong, anyway?), yet still vulnerable enough to be ripped apart inside at the loss of love? So often now, love is looked at as a weak emotion; yet it's the strongest emotion in existence. The strongest people can be in love, and it doesn't weaken them. It's healthy to have another half, to have shared your heart and soul with another person--and normal to feel completely at loss if/when losing that love.

Love may be angering and not make any logical sense, but it is beautiful, healthy, and needed. Especially the true kind. Edward was Bella's heart, and whether or not we agree with their relationship patterns, she had shared more with him than with any other soul; he was her soulmate. He was the only soul to ever connect to her that way.

Think about that.

So when he walked out of her life, taking her heart with her, naturally, she was a shell--someone who had to completely relearn who she could be without that person, someone who had to allow herself to mourn.

I will never feel weak in admitting I need the love of a man. No one should feel weak in admitting and recognizing that they need the love of anyone. It's human. So we should cut ourselves (and Bella) some slack when mourning whatever it is we are mourning. Embrace the grieving process, because it's the only way you'll make it through. Notice how in New Moon (and any other successful story) the story doesn't spend a lot of time while Bella is grieving. It jumps from month to month, season to season. Probably because that passing of time--the relentless waiting for things to feel better--is not only the slowest part, but the most difficult and grueling. We wish our lives could skip ahead in time like they do through those grueling parts in stories. No one wants to endure that hell in books and movies; we especially don't want to endure it in our own lives.

But unfortunately, there's no way around that (if there is, someone better call me). There's no way around the empty ache, the wondering what you did wrong, the hours and days of self-blame and regret, the millions of milliseconds wondering what in God's name happened, what you could have done to prevent it, and how you could have been so foolish and blind. There's no way around the anger, the hurt, the missing. When you grieve--whatever or whomever you're grieving--all this endless shit is necessary.

So let's just let Bella grieve without calling her weak, desperate, dependent, or pathetic. Grieving, whether we like to think so or not, is pathetic. Pathetically human. Though she does need to see a therapist for some of her other issues, the way she grieves and mourns for Edward isn't one of them.