I really did. Suck, I mean. And I'm not being all smarmy and whatnot, saying I absolutely don't anymore, that all suckiness has b...
On How I Used to Suck
I really did. Suck, I mean. And I'm not being all smarmy and whatnot, saying I absolutely don't anymore, that all suckiness has been left in my dust. I have bad moments. I'm human. One of the most flawed, human-ish humans you're ever likely to meet, actually. So perhaps I should phrase it thusly, "I suck a lot less than I used to." Or something really brilliant and articulate like that. I'm a writer, but today is not a rocking-my-vocab-skills kind of day, apparently.
When Neil and I first got married, I had no idea what I was doing, and my acting skills were pretty much nil. They still are actually. I giggle and squirm when I try to put on a show. It's pathetically hilarious. Seriously, I could sell tickets to my Kim-being-hysterical-because-she's-trying-to-act-show. So not only was I a very confused, lacking-in-confidence newlywed, I didn't have a clue how to hide the fact. So, I got defensive, and even more anti-social than before (and I was already bordering on agoraphobic at that point).
I didn't know how to cook or keep house. Simple things like arranging joint bank accounts and changing my name on stuff simply baffled me. Heck, I could barely get up the nerve to make an appointment to get my hair cut, never mind shout at the world, "Hey! I got married! I have a new name to put on stuff, and it's super long and difficult to spell!"
At that point in time, I was working fifty hours a week at a furniture store I'd just been transferred to. A store where I caught the manager stealing from the company to fund his gambling addiction and alcoholism, and where the male staff were mighty ticked when I was promoted to be their boss. They missed the drunken store manager who never sobered up until an hour before quitting time, and suddenly were expected to work full days by a little slip of a girl who may have been twenty-two but looked (and felt), like she was about fifteen.
So I hid every chance I got. I hid from life, from people, and from anything that might bring to light just how lost I felt. I'd spent most of my adolescence avoiding growing up, and based on my experiences that first year of marriage, I HAD BEEN RIGHT. The real world was a scary, hurting sort of place, where angry furniture store workers cursed my name behind my back, my in-laws lived RIGHT NEXT DOOR, and my new husband had no idea how to deal with his suddenly very emotional young wife who just couldn't seem to get it together in ANY aspect of life. The dishes and laundry piled up, bills were paid late, and basically, I hibernated every chance I got.
Things got better as the years trickled by, but I fell into some seriously bad habits. Like leaving most things for Neil to do because hey, I SUCKED, and it was easier to let him do stuff than face the fact that, yep, I sucked. My self-confidence was pretty much nil, and by the time we had our second child and post partum depression kicked in, I was a wreck, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And we had a bad year. The worst year. The year that Neil does not even remember, because it was THAT BAD. PTSD, block-out-of-the-memory bad.
I was broken, and I had no idea how to fix myself.
One aspect of the oh-so-bad year, was blame. I'd spent years feeling inadequate, unlovable, and worthless. And eventually, I just couldn't handle the weight of that anymore, and I tried to shift the weight to Neil. It was HIS fault that I sucked. If only he was more loving, I wouldn't feel so unlovable. If only he encouraged me in my worthy pursuits, I wouldn't feel so unworthy. And that's when the bad year when from bad to epically bad. Depression is a hard enough weight to bear. Weaving anger into it makes it downright unbearable.
And then, one day, when I was fuming over some imagined slight, blaming Neil for not being more loving with me, a little voice whispered in the back of my mind. "What have you done lately, to earn his love?"
I'm not sure why, in that moment, I reacted the way I did. Why I didn't lash out at the voice and just let the anger carry me further away from the peaceful shore I so desperately wanted but couldn't find my way to. But I actually listened. I felt the words keenly. They pricked at my soul in a way that I could describe if I tried hard enough, but I don't want to. I don't want to find the perfect words to explain how that felt, because I don't want to cry right now. But I'll tell you that I cried that day. The whispered words shattered me. They broke through the anger and the blame, to the despair on the other side, and I finally faced up to my own accountability, to the fact that I had not been a lovable person for a worryingly long time. I had weighed myself down with weights which were not worth carrying, and shifted the worthier burdens to Neil's shoulders.
And he was tired from doing so many good things which I had given him so little credit for. And I was tired from doing so many things which I deserved NO credit for. I had spent my time and energy stupidly, and our whole family had suffered for it.
I'd like to say all the negative weight dropped from my shoulders in an instant, and that suddenly, I was light and free and happy. I'd like to say things never suck anymore. But I can't act, remember? And lying makes my nose itch. But I can say that things are better, and lighter, and happier. I can say that I help more, and carry worthier burdens. Neil and I, we're not perfectly yoked yet, but we're struggling and we're striving to be. There was a time when I removed the yoke entirely, but now we share it. And sometimes he's the stronger one, and sometimes, it's actually, wondrously, miraculously, ME.
Accountability hurts. It's humbling and shaming and I can see why we avoid it as much as we do. But it's a pathway that leads to joy, a joy which I've found and which I cling to as much and as often as I can. Joy slips away from me sometimes. I weigh myself down with stupid stuff which DOES NOT MATTER. I fall back into my old selfish patterns and forget that loving is serving.
Sometimes that means putting down the laptop when I'm in the middle of writing something AMAZING, because I'm needed, and I choose to answer that need. Sometimes it means giving up something fun for something which is more than that. And always, it means loving the other person enough to want them not to be hurting, struggling, and carrying the weight on their own.
We share it now. I work harder now. And I am happier now.
VanderVision Tip of the Day: Awesomeness is a team sport.
About author: Kimberly VanderHorst
Kimberly Vanderhorst wrote her first book when she was seven (it was totally awesome, but the world isn't ready for it yet), and her next when she was twenty-seven. When asked to account for the intervening decades, she likes to suggest the possibility of alien abduction with as straight a face as possible.