November 30, 2009

Maybe It's Me: Validation, or, The Actual Forces of Encouragement

From our endeavors to our existence, we need the occasional affirmation that what we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, and we’re the person we were meant to be. And while the idea of some gargantuanly cosmic recognition – a chorus of angels, a swarm of locusts – is ideal (who doesn’t love a good in-your-face sign from above?), I tend to find that it’s in the day-to-day commonness where we find the validation we need for the things we seem to be questioning the most.

Maybe it’s me, but perhaps instead of focusing our time and energy on some big picture confirmation, perhaps it’s time we redirect our attention to those much smaller, seemingly normal things that are the actual forces of encouragement we need to keep on keeping on.

Without realizing it, I slipped once again from being a self-assured, independent minded, strong woman to a self-doubting, consciences brooder. And then, as life as the wonderful habit of doing, I suddenly found the reassurance I needed to bounce back from the state of skepticism and rejection, and out of the weird funk I had found myself in.

And they all came from really normal, really normal, situations.

I had been doubting my writing ability. I think I’m a pretty fantastic writer, but I’m completely biased. I really wanted my first novel to do something more than nothing (which is what most self-published pieces of art do, unfortunately). Knowing the odds were against me, but still keeping faith in the fact that historically “indie” projects have gone on to wow the masses, I entered a few book contests, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst, all the while trying to keep a positive attitude and, more importantly, keep on writing.

And then, I found out that my little project had actually won its category at the first of the book contests I had entered it into.

That was all the validation I needed to know that this passion that drives me, this love I have of writing, might actually not be so absurd after all.

I had been doubting my looks. I know, how vain! But I think it’s healthy and normal for people to go through cycles of liking and disliking their physical selves. I mostly like myself – I know that this body, this shell, is with me until I die, so why not embrace it instead of battling with it? But, lately, I’ve just felt swollen and awkward with my parts. I don’t know how to stand, or where to put my arms, or how to move my eyebrows – it’s too much over thinking and too little natural, instinctive movements.

Anyway, after a long weekend with little sleep and after a massive bout of sobbing in my car (I heard a sad song which led to a solitary sad thought which tore me down and left me in a massive pity part for one . . . I’m too sensitive for my own good) I knew I looked like a train wreck. But errands called, so in my baggy jeans that I’ve had since high school and my green knit cap in which I tuck all my hair under, I went out into the world, dark-circles under my eyes revealing my lack of rest, bloodshot eyes and tear stained cheeks broadcasting my grief.

And in every single line that I stood in – the post office, the grocery store, the bank – there were attractive young men checking me out. Perhaps I mistook their double-takes, flirtatious smiles, and twinkling eyes for indigestion, but looking my absolute worst was getting the best attention I had had in a while.

That was all the validation I needed to know that this swollen, awkward body works for me. I don’t know how or why, but it always has and it always will, and I need to stop letting the media or some inner demon tell me otherwise.

I had been doubting my ability to forgive. A boy broke my heart, shattered my very being, and I decided to shut off from the world around me. I refused to date again after him – no flirting, no exchanging my number, nothing. When boys asked what my deal was, I told them simply, “I don’t date.” I couldn’t see the point. I had given my everything to this person only for them to blindside me with an “I love you, but I don’t want to be with you.”

Boys were the enemy. They only wanted to hurt you.

I accepted this, and comfortably settled into my new bitter and coldhearted view on relationships and the opposite gender for months. Nearly a year. I would let none of them get remotely close to knowing me; the walls around my heart were very high and no longer suffered fools lightly.

And then one night, randomly, a boy started talking to me at a bar. He worked at the same laboratory that my ex had – making him only the second person I had ever met to be employed there. “I knew someone who worked there,” I commented, “but . . . he did me wrong.” This new boy looked shocked, “Everyone I’ve ever met who works there has a heart of gold! I couldn’t imagine one of them breaking something so thoughtlessly. Tell me all about this boy who hurt you.” And he really was genuinely was interested in knowing the details of this significant-to-me-only moment.

In that frozen moment in time (it was a five minute bar conversation), where some stranger who knew nothing about me but made a random connection based on simply working at the same place that an ex of mine had once worked, validated my need to forgive. To forgive myself, to forgive the boy who broke my heart, but more importantly, to forgive all the boys I had given a cold shoulder too. They weren’t all criminals; not everyone one of them was going to play “The Bad Guy” in my life’s plot. Not every one of them was out to hurt specifically me.

And then, just tonight, as I was waiting in line at the sandwich store, there were these two guys in their twenty’s, obviously thinking they were God’s gift to women. I was in no mood to deal with them, so I turned the “I’m Crazy and Mean” Vibe up to ten, and sulked in the corner, eyes locked on the floor. As they got their order they walked past me, one of them slammed his shoulder into the door to open it, only to find that it was locked. He lost his balance, stumbled backwards, and his friend had to catch him before he hit the ground.

I could not stop laughing. And, neither could they.

It was a good moment for all of us to meet on the familiar grounds that we all innately have in common – being a completely flawed human being.

And that’s when I realized: we’re all geeks.

Innately, we are all big geeks just trying to make it. No one is cool, no one is perfect, everyone is a mucked up version of the Original Creation and it’s wonderful! It was all the validation I needed, seeing those boys go from Super Awesome and Untouchable, to Super Lame and Completely Relatable in two seconds to embrace being me, being geeky, and remembering to just laugh.

All of these things, these really normal things, were exactly what I needed to shake off the skepticism and rejection I had been feeling, to climb out of the self-inflicted funk I had allowed myself to buried in, and revel in the affirmation that things that I’m doing are the right things for right now; and the person I am is the person I’m supposed to enjoy being at this junction of my life.

There is beauty and wonder, and serious entertainment, in the seemingly common moments of day-to-day life. A contest, a double-take, a stranger at a bar, or a totally geeky mishap – whatever it takes – I encourage you to find the validation you need to reassure yourself that you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and you really are the person you were meant to be.

Without waiting for that confirmation from a chorus of angels or a plague of locusts, that is.