I spend a great deal of time thinking about what my mind looks like. Mostly I see a masquerade of dancing couples, acrobats, and gentlemen wearing coattails. To an outsider, it might look and feel like chaos but if you take a moment to be still, you’ll see that everything is working and moving together in an elaborate act of balance. An old song came on earlier, assaulting this party with nostalgia. All the dancers and performers stopped what they were doing and moved to the side like cooperative hostages.
Suddenly, it was August 2012 again and I hated myself. I was 6 months out of a year-long relationship that made me question whether there was anything good left inside of me. How many times was I going to make myself learn the same lessons over and over? My mind had a new guest of honor and it’s name was Shame— for how stupid I’d been, how long I’d stayed, and how little I’d done with my life.
Every memory of that time in my life is drenched with self-loathing and fear. I was constantly afraid that my ex was going to kill me, but the scariest thought was that I wasn’t sure that would be such a bad thing.
Thankfully, there was something else lurking in the shadows of my mind. It was small and wily and difficult to pinpoint but it whispered the tiniest suggestion that there might be another side to what I was experiencing. You might call it hope but what it felt like was a tiny bit of fight.
This fight did it’s best to walk into the center of my mind and tell those dancing thoughts that they were wrong—I wasn’t worthless, I didn’t deserve the things that happened to me, I wasn’t doomed to make the same mistakes over and over. It was too small to ever win but it refused to go away.
For some reason, the onslaught of these memories flooded me with an almost breathless sense of nostalgia. What’s wrong with me—do I miss feeling miserable? Is there some part of me that likes to walk around with a hole in my chest? Why would I feel a tinge of longing for a time of my life that was so dark and desperate?
But I don’t think that was it at all. I think the song rekindled that tiny bit of fight and all the triumph that eventually came with it. No, I don’t miss the darkness and I don’t miss the uncertainty but I can look back at my weakness and know that the underdog was right all along: I am worthy, I deserve to be happy, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be or do whatever the hell I want.
Even now, I can’t regret any of it. There are entire years of my life where I don’t even know why I bothered—but those years are mine. I own them and I can pull them out any time I need a reminder that I’ve found my way out of dark places. And if someday that shame finds a way to make it back into my mind, I will fight it. And I will win.
Do you feel nostalgic for a moment of your life you would never really go back to? What’s the greatest revelation that hindsight has granted? Do you have a song or banner cry when your self-worth is under attack?
Link to the song is here if you don’t know it already—it’s got a redhead throwing herself around a masquerade ball but it was my idea first and she stole it, for serious.
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