Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year's Resolution

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I used to. They were usually completely unattainable and tied to eating disorders and self-loathing. As with most resolutions, I ended up failing at them within a month, which resulted in more self-loathing. I don't need any help with that. The only resolution that I began to make was to not make resolutions. It's good to set attainable goals.

This year, I think I just might make a resolution. It's one that I've been thinking about for a while and I suppose it, too, is tied to self-loathing.

Being in analysis for the past year has been fantastic. When I went in, I had this image of myself. I saw myself as this machine with lots of cogs and wheels. Along the way -- that is, throughout my life -- many of those cogs and wheels got broken or out of alignment. They were put back together or fixed, but not quite correctly, or with the wrong pieces, or without any oil, or became gunked up, or they just remained broken. The machine could still function, but not very well. It could move forward, but not very efficiently and not in a straight line. Maybe you've had an old clunker of a bike or a car that worked that way.

I went into analysis with the intention of taking apart the machine, cleaning off all of the pieces, replacing some of the bad pieces, and putting it back together so that it would whirr and spin and move forward better and faster.

Would you believe that I'm starting to see some of that happen?

Not that it is always the greatest thing to go through; but sometimes it is quite funny. For instance, I realized that I have an inner whiny baby. When I become too wound up or upset about something that I can't control, when I keep making excuses as to why solutions won't work, when I start to hear myself whine, I have to let myself go to the source of that whine.

The source is usually something very childish and comes out as something like, "make them stoooop, mooommmmyyyy!!!" "Make the students stop complaining about their grades, mommy!" "Make my daddy and mommy love me unconditionally, mommy!!" "Make people stop being mean, mommy!" "Make jobs appear, mommy!" Where's the magic fairy and her happy wand!

When I find that irrational baby whine, then I can see it for the infantile wish that it is and find some way to solve my problem or, more likely, cope with the situation that makes me whine. The sooner I find that inner whiny baby, the better. I become a better teacher, I accept that I don't still need my damn parents' approval, I stop trying to make mean people nice, I become grateful for my pretty good job. I accept that there is no magic fairy.

Most of you are probably thinking, "duh! That's what grown-ups do!" Well, I never really learned how to be a grown-up, and I've been in a series of abusive relationships both personal and professional, that have made the road to becoming a grown-up very difficult. After all, part of the abuse is the infatilizing of the abused.

I'm getting away from my point here, which is my New Year's resolution.

Another part of abusive relationships is that the abuser convinces the abused that they are not worth much. If you think you aren't worth much, then you don't trust people who do value you and you do trust people who don't. So, you keep entering into familiar relationships, the types in which the other person tells you that you are worthless or that there is something inherently wrong with you that, if you fix it, you will be worthy of whatever it is that you want. Of course, you won't ever fix that thing that is supposed to be wrong with you because the rules are set by the abuser and the abuser keeps changing the rules.

Again, I'm talking about both personal and professional relationships; and the thing that I'm thinking about now is mostly professional. In realizing that most of my professional relationships have been abusive -- full of bullies and people who exploited me for no apparent reason but that they could and people who lied and manipulated because they needed me to feed some deep personal flaw -- in realizing this, I realized that I became complicit in the abuse. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is that I sold myself short.

Even when I realized that these professional relationships were abusive, I stayed because I didn't think that I could do better or because I didn't think that I could be successful anywhere else. I sold myself short because a life of quiet desperation with a steady paycheck seemed more comforting than a life with satisfying work but a boss with no boundaries and no accountability. I sold myself short because I expected everything to end in disaster no matter what, so I just didn't try too hard to make anything better. I sold myself short because a future of trying felt less bad than a past of failure. I sold myself short because I didn't know any better, because I was filled with self-loathing and fear.

That isn't a life.

So my New Year's Resolution is to not sell myself short. I will sell myself TALL. Very tall. Taller every year from now on.

That sounds so easy, but it is rather like falling off of a log, or going skydiving or bungee jumping. You are asking yourself to do something completely contrary to your sense of survival. Every day now, I observe myself. What little things do I do to keep myself down? What choices do I make that keep me from being TALL? This is the difficult part; but to do otherwise has become unbearable.


Digger said...

"If you think you aren't worth much, then you don't trust people who do value you and you do trust people who don't."

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

I'm working on much a similar project myself, this selling tall. Also started in '09, and gaining momentum into '10. It's a hella thing; like putting on glasses, suddenly everything is different. Here's to Tall... that's a resolution I can drink to!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Love it. Am stealing.

And I now have Liz Phair's song 6'1" playing in my head.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

OK, I'm joining the club. To being taller this year!

Oh, my: the captcha is huighth!

Belle said...

Not that any of you need it, but I'm darned proud of you! Can I join?

bitternsweet said...

Yea for Taller Clio! You must be at least 6 foot by now!

Susan said...

I love this. I'm working on a related project, being kind to myself. But not selling yourself short is very very good.

Bavardess said...

Yes to Taller in 2010!

I sometimes wonder where our idea of unconditional love comes from. Can anyone really expect unconditional love, even from parents? (or, usually, 'parents' is code for 'mother'). As a parent myself, I could theoretically see situations where my love for my kid would break down - if he deliberately and knowingly did something really heinous to another human being, for example. It seems that the myth of 'unconditional love' is yet another unrealistic expectation our society puts on women (especially, but probably not only, as mothers). Sorry - that was a bit of a tangent, but your reference to your inner whiny baby made me think of it.

Ubab said...

You can start by blocking people from Facebook. Two should come to mind right away.

RPS77 said...

Sell yourself taller, absolutely. That's advice that I should learn to follow as well!

Ann said...

Bavardess makes a great point about love. Perhaps it's healthier if it's conditional?

I love Notorious's reference to Liz Phair's "6'1"." A perfect suggestion for your "Taller" soundtrack. And good luck with that--I think it takes at least as many years to recover from abusive or bullying relationships as the number of years you spent in them. But it's worth it!

Ink said...

If you think you aren't worth much, then you don't trust people who do value you and you do trust people who don't." Wow. That rang a whole bunch of bells over here.

Am going to join the Taller revolution, too. Way to go, Clio! You're amazing and inspirational...

Clio Bluestocking said...

Welcome to TALLness!

The comments on unconditional love have me thinking -- I'm in a rush what with the Gentleman Caller calling -- but I too have wondered about carrying that to extremes. I mean, at some point, rationally you would stop loving a person if they did something heinous. In fact, no longer loving someone who beats you, for instance, would be a rational response and the condition, "I will love you unless you beat me," a reasonable condition.

I actually hadn't thought of it in terms of an unreasonable societal pressure on women -- but yeah, there it is, and, of course, the inner whiny baby is crying out for that impossible thing. So, perhaps there are always conditions, and the healthy relationships are ones in which the conditions are mutually agreed upon, like in a marriage or marriage-like relationship. In a parent/child relationship, the conditions are not -- and to some degree probably should not be -- mutually agreed upon, but there is such a power difference that the child is helpless to reject the conditions even when such conditions are harmful.


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