Bill and I recently attended a funeral for the daughter of one of his co-workers. During the service, the minister invited everyone in the audience to let go of the dark things they think and feel inside, and to give them up to God. He asked this in the memory of the girl who had died – she’d suffered from mental illness her whole life and succumbed to the hopelessness she experienced every day. She decided to end her life.
It was heartbreaking.
We were given pieces of paper that dissolve in water. Write one or two or three things, the minister said, that you’d like to give up to God. Then walk up to the front, place them in the water-filled vase, and watch them disappear.
I’m not an overly religious person. I have faith, I believe in God, I think we go somewhere when we die, and I try to be a good person. I don’t ask God for things and I don’t lean. But I was touched by this little ceremony, and as I watched more and more people file up front, I grabbed a pen.
Thoughts came out that I didn’t really realize were pieces of darkness inside me, until I wrote them down. Well, more like I knew they were there, but didn’t acknowledge them for fear of giving them teeth and roots and claws. Don’t look them in the eye, and they don’t exist. You can’t see me you can’t see me you can’t see me…
I’m not worthy of love.
I will be alone.
I’m not genuine.
I sat there and blinked at the paper for a moment, then walked up front and dropped it in the vase. I stirred and watched it dissolve and wondered where the hell that came from.
That experience has been on my mind ever since. I think the exercise itself was worthwhile – it caused me to pause and reflect and look inward. We tend to acknowledge what irritates us more than what we fear. We tend to “improve” ourselves by giving up a bad habit or getting into a good one, rather than address fundamental, foundational stuff. Stuff that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than what is inside of us. Stuff that nobody else can affect. Stuff that nobody else causes.
The whole “not worthy of love” and “alone” thing I kind of get. I mean, I get where those feelings came from. It doesn’t take a PhD to connect the dots between those feelings and my childhood, the deaths I’ve experienced among family members and friends, the religious claptrap that lead to the awfulness of my first marriage, and all that jazz.
But why am I afraid that I’m not genuine? What does that even mean? Wouldn’t I know? I’m honest, I’m loyal, I care, I have great friends. I’m not fake by any means.
I’m just spitballing here, but I wonder if it’s connected to one of my mantras: “Fake it ’til you make it.” I’m not confident in my abilities, so I try hard and I fake confidence and LOOKEE THERE, I’m successful and the confidence becomes real. I’m depressed, but I engage and I smile and un-hermit myself and WELL NOW, I feel better. I try not to impact other peoples’ moods with my own, so I coast along pretending to be whatever the situation calls for, until I’m no longer pretending.
I don’t think any of these things are bad. I don’t think they make me dishonest.
I want to absorb more ripples than I cause, and I kind of like that about myself. I think other people have come to expect that trait from me. I don’t think I resent it.
I would know, wouldn’t I?
What a strange thing, to find a corner of my mind I didn’t know I had.