Monday, May 25, 2009

It is not what "I" is who "I" was...

As a child I did not know whether it was the act itself or the knowledge that I was the receptacle for malevolence and cruelty that made me so vulnerable. At first I thought it was God's punishment for something I had done. I took an inventory, desperately seeking the deed that triggered the retribution. But I could not identify a single act. Even my accumulated errors, transgressions and unkindness’s did not exact the cost. Then I understood: if I could not isolate a deed, or pattern of deeds, commanding the punishment, it must be me. It is not what I did. It is who I was...a fundamentally, intrinsically and irredeemably bad little girl. I negotiated my adolescence and early adulthood with the mathematical symbol for "less than" (<) attached.

I would like to be able to write that I am no longer negotiating my adulthood with the same mathematical symbol attached. But that would be a lie. It is pervasive. It is formidable. And if I do not keep it contained, I am so afraid it will be debilitating….I've been down that road a time or two. At times it has enveloped me, penetrating my pores and drowning everything essential and vital inside.

Undisturbed, it is docile, sated. But aroused by even the slightest hint of beauty or strength or grace it is a painful reminder that I am...somehow...contemptible...that I am still fundamentally, intrinsically and incorrigibly...what? Flawed, imperfect & bad? You may say, "But we are all flawed and imperfect. And our flaws and imperfections make us more interesting...more truly beautiful...more human." And perhaps you are right, but this inexorable deprivation makes me somehow subhuman... less than human...permanently broken. I am a receptacle for malice.

I skillfully deflect praise directed my way, an effort to soothe the inescapable conflict inside. Moderate praise induces a subtle tinge of embarrassment; more effusive praise incites the consuming and agonizing feeling that I am irreparably damaged, hopelessly broken. It has contaminated, compromised and diminished every accomplishment, soiled every success. People sometimes tell me that I am humble and that it is an admirable trait. But the modesty and humility they identify helps me to mask the mortification stirring inside. I have gotten so good at hiding it from others that I have nearly learned to conceal it even from myself.

At least that is what it feels like...right now.

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