What’s My Problem?

I have issues.

Who doesn’t, right? I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone whose days are spent skipping blissfully through life (and if I did, I’d probably hate them), but the fact remains: despite the fact that my own issues aren’t unique by a long stretch, my 20-something lens is entirely too focused on them, and it’s driving me insane.

Let’s try for a lousy segue: once upon a time, I met someone whose personality I found so abrasive that simply ignoring them wasn’t feasible. Fact is, it’s childish to humor someone who’s very, very transparently aiming to push (stab) your buttons in hopes of grinning at your (overwrought as all hell) reactions. But I gave in, repeatedly. I liked having an excuse to be furious, to let off steam, to be nasty and short-tempered with the convenient excuse of, “YOU were looking for this, and here it is.”

Partially true: they’d been looking for passion, but likely not THAT much of it. Black Woman Problems, probably. I truly do possess other emotions, but anger seems to be the one everyone fixates on.

Anyway. When button-pusher and I somehow forged a tempestuous friendship, which steadily evolved into an equally fiery and dramatic relationship, I rediscovered one of my most unflattering aspects: I’m ridiculously co-dependent.

Picture being with someone who’s very clearly devoted to you, willing to fight for the kind of future he sees himself potentially having with you, and you–YOU–becoming clammy and claustrophobic in response, breaking out in hives at the mention of the word “relationship”, at the idea of you being his “girlfriend”, his. Possessed. Claimed. Held hostage.

The idea is completely disagreeable, then, because your mind and heart are making it crystal clear to you that the passion in your fights doesn’t translate neatly, at all, to the kind of passion that sustains a healthy relationship. It isn’t that he makes you unhappy, but your unhappiness, and your frustration, can’t help but bubble over. You’re asking yourself why you can’t have, or return, the kinds of feelings he has for you. Because if you’re incapable of loving someone so intelligent, so spirited, so good-hearted, well. You’re some kind of screw-up.

This doesn’t sound at all like co-dependence, does it?  That’s the funny part.  DESPITE your conflicting feelings, the one thing you find yourself agreeing about is the fact that being without him sends you into a blind panic.  Not fighting makes you second-guess the intensity of the relationship, and you might not necessarily envision the kind of future he does, but you barely know what to do with yourself when texts go unanswered and his voicemail is the only thing talking back to you.

Basic, right? So easy to slip into the feeling of, “this-isn’t-what-I-want-but-it’s-all-I’ve-got-and-I-can’t-let-it-go”. Except for the fact that I HAVE. I’ve done it before, and after re-cobbling my self-esteem, stapling together enough of an emotional shield to block out the throbbing anxiety, I feel pretty good about myself.

There’s something about interacting with people from the past that causes a “reset” button to hit. This time, it isn’t the one goading me into anger, but the one that reminds me what I COULD have had, had circumstances been different. I’m second-guessing myself, and the rose-tinted glasses are effectively warping my already-crappy vision. Hindsight is unreliable.

“It wasn’t so bad that you couldn’t have made it work.”

But I felt so trapped.

“It isn’t like you have any other options.”

But I don’t want to be some guy’s story of what it was like to fuck a black girl.

“You clearly have some feelings for him.”

But not the ones I need to have.

I’m wondering if it’s because it feels like my time is running out. Because, deep down inside, my virginity doesn’t mean very much, and yet. Because if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t really want to date a guy in the church. Because my spiritual life isn’t even near where it should be, and I’m not even genuinely making the effort to strengthen it.

I can do better.

Right?

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Too Picky.

Found one.

What I’m engaged in requires purple prose to explain: This is the twisted triumph of eager fingers gliding across my face, desperate for a tiny knot of imperfection to purge with a well-aimed squeeze, followed by the satisfying ‘pop’ of deliverance as a white pellet is forcibly unearthed from its pore. The thoughts, feverish–I am doing this to help my skin.

But not really.

It’s an old story: the clogged millia is released, crescent nail prints against my skin marking evidence of the struggle. But I’m frantic, now. There have to be more. I need there to be. It’s disgusting. Necessary. My hands wander my face again, seeking an excuse to ravage my feeble attempts at Perfect Skin. That mythical, unattainable-unless-I-can-control-this, Flawless Complexion.

Squeeze. Nothing? Squeeze harder. Purge. Until my brown skin is riddled with raised, vengeful bumps that wouldn’t have been a problem, but “Just wait,” they promise, “Until tomorrow.”

This is my compulsion, and it renders me powerless.

I recall a former friend, wracked with similar (sk)insecurities, who informed me that my invasive hyperpigmentation wasn’t “as noticeable” as hers, lite-bright complexion to my dark brown. Was it intended as consolation? Heightened sensitivity registered it as a sincere, but ultimately backhanded compliment.

When my mom despairs at the state of my skin, suggesting a change in diet, more water, less cosmetics, I fashion my tight kinks into bangs to protect my forehead–dark marks and all–from sight. I buy extensions and wear them long enough to hide my marked cheeks, my shame. I invest in Ambi for dry skin. Then oily Skin. I purchase the entire damn line. Next is Palmer’s Fade Cream, followed, eventually, by a kojic acid soap that thins my skin into paper, bruising at the slightest touch.

But I cannot leave it alone. Twisting, prodding, kneading. Attacking. I am attacking myself despite knowing that this is not helping me.

A googled diagnosis reveals that this behavior is connected to anxiety and OCD, and weirdly enough? It makes sense: I want to control something I’m frustrated by, the root of (the lion’s share of) my appearance-related insecurities. I want this, at least, to be perfect.

And slowly, as I learn to reign in those destructive tendencies, I am at peace. My skin, for the time being, is undisturbed.

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Let’s Talk Consistency

…and why I’m awful at it. Notoriously.

Eleven days ago, over the course of several hours, I banged out over 700 words worth of emotional purging. It was intended to be a brief recap of a spontaneous outing with someone from the past, but it wasn’t long before I found myself crying too hard, bleary eyes obstructing my view of the screen like a torrential downpour against an ineffective windshield wiper.You stop, or you crash.

Writing has always been my equivalent of lying back on a therapist’s couch and tapping into revelations too uncomfortable to speak into reality. It’s my subconscious being vomited forth, for me to marvel at in a combination of bewilderment and disgust. “That was inside me?

Flush.

This has always been too intensely personal to be completely enjoyable. I think I’m going to type a light-hearted, happy-go-lucky blog post about — squirrels. Let’s go with that. Yet out pours the deepest, most overly-melodramatic angst from the depths of my being, and the squirrel barely gets a supporting role. Which is probably because, in all honesty, I’m dealing with some serious emotional constipation.

Should probably quit with the writing-as-bodily-functions metaphor (Too late).

The solution is to write frequently, then. Constantly. Instead of trying to convince myself that I don’t really have anything worth saying, because I do. Whether it’s substantial or not is another story, but hey. Baby steps. Until this becomes habitual.

The subject of that 700+ blog post once told me that I’m afraid of my own voice. I’d argue that it isn’t the voice itself, but the fact that that I can’t ever be completely certain that it isn’t going to betray my sureness of myself. I’m terrified that it’s going to make me examine my own feelings in a way that, to me, is shockingly unquestionable. If I’ve taken the time to keep something, and to showcase it, it’s real. And let’s say I owe it to myself not to keep hiding.

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This Train Goes Nowhere

New Year’s Day.

Location: Takoma Park Metro Station.

Enter me, Canon stuffed purposefully in shoulder bag, shivering despite what I consider to be an abundance of layered winter clothing–more than what I’d usually bother with, but the subarctic chill demands it. I’m jogging lightly in place, briefly pausing to check my reflection in my phone’s front facing camera, which assures me that yes–my yarn twists have been pinned into perfection, countless piercing bobby pins and all.

Vanity be damned, I look good.

Mere seconds before my train arrives, I’ve met someone who happens to share the same opinion.

“Excuse me, miss lady, you got a boyfriend?”

Oh no.

A vision of desperation materializes before me: my subway wooer is vertically-challenged, light-skint, and chapped-of-lips, which does nothing to halt his persistence.

I respond, stupidly, in the negative. “No, I don’t have a boyfriend. Not looking, either.”

His face lights up.

“I don’t mean no disrespect, but–” He fires off what I assume is a well-rehearsed compliment, the prelude to his thesis: “I’m just tryna get to know you.”

I’m smiling, I think. Too widely, too invitingly, because my amusement belies my uneasiness. I’m rejecting his attention, but it’s doing nothing to deter him from following me into an alarmingly vacant Metro car.

“I don’t really want to make new friends,” I say, still smiling, hoping–hoping, that the cheerfulness will be enough. That the “Hey beautiful,” won’t morph into an angry, “Fuck you then, bitch” if I’m too firm, the way it does when men’s egos are bruised. I’m playing it as safe as I know how to.

It isn’t working.

My destination is a 20 minute ride, and my new companion is relentlessly chatty in the face of my attempted distractions. “Do you ever ask random guys to be friends?” I have to ask. This provokes bewilderment. “No, that’s gay.” he nearly spits, chapped lips twisting. “You could get beat up for that.” I’m nodding, keeping him talking. Wondering at the latent homophobia.

He tells me that he’s a ‘good man’, that he’ll take me out to dinner, out driving, wherever I want. Am I on social media? Will I take down his number?

That’s nice, no thanks, it’s fine, really. No, I’m not on social media, and I don’t have a phone, either (all while praying for mine not to betray me with a ringtone).

He’s on to me, of course. Registers, verbally, that I’m dodging him, but failing to stop. I learn more about his life than I ever planned to, carefully sharing irrelevant pieces of mine in return. And to the pleas of, “I’m tryna get to know you, we may never see each other again after this,” I say, “I’m getting to know you NOW, and that’s enough.” It’s more than enough.

When my stop comes (and we depart for separate paths), he asks me, frustrated, “What the point was.” Lectures me on why I need to “relax”, and let “good men” in. Because what a stranger wants from me was–is–more important than my desire to travel unbothered.

NOPE.

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