First off, I have to say, “Thank you,” to Cecily K for writing an amazing post today. I was reading it as pulled off the stupid plastic nails I’d put on last night after a nice hot bath. I was feeling clean, relaxed, and I just wanted to look pretty. This morning they felt weird, had started coming loose and looked ever-so-fake. I so rarely feel that there is anything nice to look at that is associated with me. Tears are welling up in my eyes right now. That reminds me, “I need to go take my stupid Sertraline and my Prevacid.”
There, I did. I took a short break and took the medications that I will have to take every effing day of the rest of my life, the ones that allow me to pretend I have a normal life. I hate the daily reminder that I spent so much of my life living in fight or flight mode, that I over- and self-medicated with stimulants and alcohol on a binge basis when I exhibited eating disorders and binge drinking in my twenties and early thirties to the point where that my already bad reflux got much, much worse.
Nails, my fingernails, are also a constant reminder that I have problems. I don’t write about them, my problems, all that much, at least not in-depth, or that often, but I know they show through in all I do. My fingernails certainly do though, they show how I still tear at myself, and rip myself apart. They show the fear that will always be a part of me.
Okay, stop with the pity. I know more about myself than most people will ever know about themselves. I am fine. I am amazing. I am also pragmatic. I accept all the selves that were me earlier along this time stream. All the therapy and personal writing I have engaged in throughout my life have helped me to accept and love, and in some cases integrate, the different parts of myself. The only part I sometimes have trouble with is with me being reward enough and strong enough to take away my own fear and loneliness. The family I grew up with, my biological family, never said, “Thank you,” not ever, not even for passing the salt. I don’t remember ever getting any positive feedback from them as I was growing up, or after that, as a matter of fact. I have to keep working on being enough.
This may sound a little bit trippy to some of you, but there is more than one distinct me. No, I’m not suffering from a split personality or multiple personalities. I’m just more analytical than most folks. I’ve gone back, as much as any non-time traveler can go back, and put the various thoughts and feelings that I’ve had at distinct traumatic times in my life into the rational me that I am now carrying forward with me as my life progresses. These thoughts and feeling no longer have the weight of validity to my 50+ years old mind. There are a few feelings that must reach back so far in my life, that I do not have a really rational thought attached to them or associated with them. Whatever triggers nail-biting must be one of these feelings.
But old habits die hard. I quit smoking more than 15 years ago, when my brother David died. He had lung cancer and heart problems. I’d quit, or so I thought, for two, 5 year, periods before that too. So I had smoked on and off for maybe 10 years of my adult life. 10 years of habit is hard to break, but not as hard to break as 50 years of habit. I cannot remember not biting my nails.
At BlogHer, or at the B(l)oomerer Party offsite from BlogHer, I got this little package that looked like nail polish, but in it was a package that opened and there were adhesive backed fake fingernails inside. I feel pretty when I have long nails, rather than the ravaged, paper-thin, raggedy stubs of nails that I do have. Messages and judgments about beauty and ugliness are everywhere in our culture. Even if you are fat, old, or have a long pointed chin, you can have nice nails in this culture, right? Not me. I’m fat, old, have a long, pointed chin, and I bite my nails. My nails are too thin and chalky to wear acrylics.
I’ve noticed the “I’m not pretty,” meme popping up in my head more since Zilla (that’s her on the left in the photo) moved to Minnesota. My daughter is the most beautiful person in the whole world. I believe that with all my heart and soul. I think she has internalized that message too, and I am ever so glad — because it is true. She’s brilliant and witty and all that stuff too. But because our culture sends out so many, “you are ugly if you don’t do this, or this, or this…” messages, it was a long hard journey to make sure my daughter knew how beautiful she is and to drown out those other hideous societal messages with which she was constantly bombarded.
Zilla is my beautiful reflection. She reflects a brightness that is everything good about the world. And if she can do that, then I must be beautiful and bright too. There is a part of me that received all sorts of positive reinforcement just from being around her. I miss her, and I miss the good feelings I had just from being around her. Texting, Facetime, and phone calls just aren’t the same.
I’m a binge biter. I have had two bouts of nail biting since Zilla moved away that were bad enough that I hurt from the impact on the cuticles. My hair and nails and skin grow and regenerate at a remarkably fast rate. Usually if I have nibbled on a nail I can muster up enough will power to wait a day and then clip the area. There usually isn’t pain. But sometimes there is and this past week was one of those times. In many ways it is similar to cutting behavior, I think.
So, I have to work on this and figure out a strategy to help me cope in the absence of “Zilla-shine.” Geesh, this would be so much easier if there was someone in my intimate circle of face-to-face contacts that was really good at giving me positive feedback. Not like a girlfriend, like a wonderful, positive, sincere genetic lab creation of a husband that crosses Gregory Peck, in his younger days, with Johnny Dep. But since there isn’t, I’m just going to have to do it myself. Don’t get me wrong, “I love my husband.” But he as all the emotional finesse of a Cassava melon. Maybe I should call him what Phyllis Diller called her husband, “Fang. ” Yes, maybe I should. Would that be copyright infringement? I think it would be tribute, real effing sincere tribute to an amazing, ground breaking, brilliant, and beautiful comedienne, before the word comic became gender neutral. Fang it is.
Thanks Cecily, thanks for reminding me, once again, that “I am fucking enough, dammit.”