It seems a lot of my friends out there in blog-land are having bad times lately. Actually, a couple of my real-life friends (yes, I have those, too – ;D) are having bad times, too. Maybe it’s the moon. Or maybe something I can’t remember the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter’s aligned with Mars. (Anyone? PLEASE tell me someone got that. Otherwise I will feel like SUCH a TOOL. WITH NO LIFE, EVEN.)
And I’ve noticed that my real-life friends tend to come to me with bad times. And I’ve noticed that the way I respond to them is pretty similar to the comments I leave on my bad-time-having blog friends’s posts.
It basically boils down to:
“Get UP! You can DO this! You can FIGHT BACK. Gut it out! Even if all you can do is wait it out, you can do it. You can survive through whatever this is. Even if you do it in bed with the covers pulled over your head! YOU CAN DO THIS.”
I talk to myself that way, too. And I’ve always been like that. I’ve always been determined to survive, to make it through. (I should point out here that I’ve had the relative luxury of “surviving” INTERNAL stuff, not EXTERNAL. It’s not like I’ve ever had to live in my car or go without food involuntarily, you know?) Even when I’ve been too broken to give myself that speech, some part of me knew that if I curled up in a ball, and just waited it out, it would eventually get better, simply by the passage of time. Even when I was contemplating suicide I had a daily conversation with myself –
In the morning: I’ll just get through today. I can always kill myself tonight.
In the evening: I got through today and it didn’t rate a death sentence. I’ll see how I feel in the morning.
Lather, rinse, repeat. A 12-hour cycle of survival, because 12 hours at a time was all I could handle.
I got through that. I got through the worst binge of my life and the days that followed it (which were almost as bad as that night). And behind all the getting through, no matter what it was, was the idea that I didn’t want to LOSE the fight. It wasn’t about feeling better or taking care of my health, or any of those things. I really felt like there was some outside force, like life itself was some malicious, pressing thing, bearing down on me like an opponent, and I WAS NOT WILLING TO LOSE. Not referring to losing the fight for life necessarily, but rather more of a “Fuck you, Life. You won’t beat me. I will be stronger, and meaner, and more determined than you, and I WILL LIVE IN SPITE OF YOU AND WHAT YOU THROW AT ME.” More like that.
In some ways I was born that way. But in other ways, it was something I learned growing up.
I started college early. I was 14, and wanted desperately to fit in, as I had been the biggest nerd in elementary school. I spent the first half of the year blending into the background and the last half paying close attention to the “popular” girls in the dance department. I learned how to talk like them, dress like them, laugh at the same things. I learned who had the power and who were the hangers-on. I was very cold and calculated about it. And I came back to school the next year a different person. I was accepted into that group, and spent the next two years in it.
Because I was so much younger, the leader of the group took me under her wing. We were genuine friends (my friends had always been several years older than me anyway), but she was definitely protective of me in certain ways. I say this because although I ran with a group that had a lot of sketchy experiences, I never had them myself.
But I watched while my girlfriends got hit. I listened while they talked about what I later came to understand was date rape. I listened while they spoke of it as something normal, something to be expected. I watched a friend finally date a guy who was nice, who treated her well. I later heard that he was managing a store one night and was shot in a robbery.
When I transferred to a university, I found friends who were more of the same. One of my friends, asked by a teacher if it was “really that bad at home,” could do nothing but laugh. When her boyfriend hit her hard enough to send her to the floor, she rose from a crouched position with a slightly crazed look on her face and whispered venomously, “Is that as hard as you can hit?”
I watched all those things and thought, “Not me. Never. I will kill someone who treats me like that. I will kill him.” And at the time, I meant it. (It’s probably a good thing I didn’t date anyone like that, because I’m not sure I WOULDN’T have killed him, or at least tried.) During that time, I developed a vibe that has been downgraded over the years from “scary” to “sort of intimidating.” I’ve never been assaulted. I’ve never been in a situation that got out of hand, though I’ve been in plenty where all the alarms were sounding, and I had to do some serious work to stay safe (if by “serious work” you mean “fight like hell,” which I do – on second thought, there are those who would argue THAT situation WAS out of hand).
I’ve been lucky. But I’ve also been scary. I’ve never been in a situation I couldn’t get control of, one way or another. But I also walk around with a “thou-shalt-not-fuck-with-me” look on my face (apparently). And the thing is, I really feel that way. God help the person who attacks me, because even if I don’t win, I will do everything in my power to hurt that person.
And that feeling – that seed of rage and will to WIN still survives in me. And oddly enough, it’s gotten me through a lot of hard times in my life. It’s gotten me through really dark nights of the soul, when just packing up and leaving life seemed like the best option. That part of me, that animalistic ferocity, that inner voice that screams, “Fuck you if you think you can do this to me” – when applied judiciously, it can save your life. Sometimes literally.
So when I see my friends on the ground, bleeding emotionally, mentally, whatever; when I see them sliding down that rabbit hole that turns in on itself, until the light at the top is gone; when I myself am sinking, tethered to a weight that seems unbearable, as though it will drag me under and I will finally drown, I get angry. I dig in my heels, pull back on that rope, swim for the surface as hard as I can (how’s THAT for a mixed metaphor?), and encourage my friends to do the same.
Because sometimes it’s not really possible to keep moving forward. But you can always dig in and keep from moving backward. Slap yourself in the face. “Get hold of yourself, man!” Tell Life to fuck off, that you will survive NO MATTER WHAT.
Sometimes it helps to just get angry.