Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do I love having problems?

"Man is almost mad — mad because he is seeking something which he has already got; 
mad because he's not aware of who he is; 
mad because he hopes, desires and then ultimately,feels frustrated. 
Frustration is bound to be there because you cannot find yourself by seeking; 
you are already there. The seeking has to stop, the search has to drop..."

I'm addicted to a few specific problems that I can't seem to get over: bingeing as a response to certain emotional experiences or because of the power of habit; beating myself up; getting in my own way towards living the life of my dreams.

The usual culprits to the idea of attachment are a sense of familiarity, the fact that whatever you're doing/thinking/being/behaving is serving you in someway (however dysfunctional that might be), and a need for control. I would say yes, these elements exist in the problems I stated above.

Mostly, I think it's a way of my relating to the world that's outdated. When I was young, my mom used to berate me every morning before she dropped me off in high school. I'd show up at the base of the enormous front lawn that led to the main doors to campus, on the verge of tears with a fiery ball burning through my throat filled with things I could not say back to her, and make my way to my locker. Often, I'd run into a friend, and the moment I saw them, my entire demeanor would change as I created a facade of strength to belie the devastating vulnerability I felt within.

My parents were inept in their roles of caretaking, lost in their own battles within themselves and towards one another. This meant that a lot of my life was spent figuring things out on my own, be it how to study, having a crush on a boy, getting my first part-time job, putting on make-up, applications for college — there are levels to this list that border on primal, because I did not learn what affection was through them, the primacy of touch, how to go to bed at night without fearing the foundation of our home would shake with their warring.

As I aimed to navigate growing up on my own with three younger siblings in tow, I did a lot of asking of the people in my life as to whether something was "normal" or "okay." I just wanted to fit in. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to know that somewhere in the world, I was not so absolutely wrong for simply existing. Parts of me were able to figure out my truths while other segments of self played along with however I felt would enable me to gain entry into the elusive world of acceptance rather than authenticity.

Eventually, I found my way towards honesty. With myself. With others in my life. But that old habit of asking others what they thought still needs some shaking off, because what happened in the process of this questioning is that I received affirmations from outside sources. I got validation. I was reminded of why I'm a worthy being. And even if the effects of the compliment were temporary, I became addicted.

After years of therapy and self-study, I know that I have an addictive element to my personality, which is partially why I developed an eating disorder, why I bordered on having OCD, why binge eating behavior is still so hard to overcome as a default reaction to certain aspects of my life. It's no wonder why I became so attracted to asking external sources if what was happening on the inside was out of the ordinary. Those reassurances that often came in the form of compliments filled a void I had developed since childhood, but nothing anyone said could ever come close to any truth I discovered on my own. Even more so, there was no way anyone else in my life could replace the role of my parents and what I yearned to hear them say for years.

What was odd though, is that once my parents shifted their perceptions of self and aimed to make amends for falling short as our guardians, they actually would say — almost verbatim — the things I had longed for them to acknowledge. Yet, it wasn't enough. There was nothing they could do or say that would take back the impact of their actions. So, somehow, something got lost along the way. The root cause of the problem had shifted from my parents to me. I carried the legacy of their pain with me. I was the one who was asking the world to love me for my problems, rather than who I have become.

It's no wonder then, why sometimes, I find it extremely hard to let go of habits I know no longer serve the me I am now. They still do, indeed, serve the me I was then. A fight ensues, just like the ones I witnessed as a young adult, but this time, it's me versus me. In that argument, no one ever wins. Sometimes, the old me triumphs. Sometimes, the me-now throws up my arms in victory. But the truth is, I'm so exhausted from the rounds and rounds that it really doesn't matter in the end, because the casualties from such savage feuding are lasting and breaking.

What will change? The framework from which I believe love comes. The more I persevere towards higher pursuits, the more comfortable I become in my own skin as it is now rather than the elusive just-lose-15-pounds-from-now, the more I can see that people want to be around me because they believe to their core I am a good human being. They love me not only because of my problems, but also in spite of them. I am reminded of my worthiness by simply being in their presence without having to seek confirmation that my being is valued. And, the best part about it, is they constantly remind me that they are simply reflecting back what already exists within me.

That part is truly amazing, because the amount of love I have for them and the depths of affection they share with me must mean that I am more than my perceived flaws.

One day, I'll be able to detach from holding onto my imperfections with a vicelike grip around a suitcase that is becoming emptier each time I arrive at a new destination in my life.

And eventually, I'll even be able to air out my dirty laundry, wash my unmentionables, and put on a beautiful change of clothes.

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