It happens in the first moment of recognizing my aloneness. It is triggered by silence. It is given flight by a feeling of emptiness; challenged by how much I love myself. It feeds on how little I feel I’m worth.
And yet it’s so mundane and innocuous in its poison:
“S/he didn’t answer my text message.”
“My glass of wine is nearly empty.”
“The person I was barely even talking to has left.”
…I am suddenly
The part of my brain that was busy, that was humming along a motorway of preoccupied self-indulgence, is now left high and dry. It is silent. And I realize that I am alone in a room full of people.
Suddenly my heart drops just a little in that recognition, and my arm flutters out for a brief, thoughtless moment. I find myself grasping for an invisible hand to hold onto because of how alone I feel in the midst of so many conversations. I realize that instead of holding onto a hand, I’m still holding onto my phone, or that glass of wine, or brushing my arm against a stranger’s just for a moment of connection, for the promise of possibility.
I look around like a person drowning without a lifeboat, choppy waters of disconnected souls. Mouths laughing in smiles that barely reach their eyes, and I’m also a harlequin puppet: finding a laugh that bubbles up from some inauthentic place that I learned about when I was a child, making it all okay for everyone around me while I gasp for a breath to connect me to something that feels real.
And then suddenly that lifeline comes so easily in what I learned as I became an adult. I feel both strong and connected to others in that simple, perfect, clean moment that clamps down hard and slick when I judge. These hard corners of judgment lock me in and I instantly feel safe. I know these boundaries. I understand what it is to find my place. And so…
I look at my clothes.
I suck in my stomach.
I clamp down my gaze
It takes just a moment until I compare. Until I find her ass and gauge it against my own. Until I comment nastily under my breath to the person next to me. Waiting desperately for someone else to pick up on the bait. Waiting for the snigger in affirmation that means I have connected again.
And it should fill me up, this hard, guilty tether; yet it makes me feel even more empty as I realize that all that I’ve found is another person that feels just as alone as I do…another person that feels just as disconnected from love…another woman that didn’t realize she had anything more to share than a meal of judgment, because these days that’s the only way we know how to feel more complete, more connected, more whole.
I may turn my cheek against the truth, but as I do I can feel its honesty brushing deftly against my skin. It whispers to me in a shout: “Hey you! Yes, you over there. Did you realize that we stopped teaching each other about everything else we had to offer? Did you know that we wasted our energy describing our worst qualities? Did you even understand that you were showing them exactly how we believed we were less than worthy?”
We did this so we could judge before they did, so we could dim our light and not eat from the plate of perfection that had been set out for us when we were born.
We complacently and eagerly consumed this rancid, overwhelming ration of lies. We disguised our brilliance in disgust, burping it up and then shoving down the amazingness we were always meant to share in unbridled joy.
We stopped eating from our own, unique, individual and curvy plate of truth. We couldn’t stand to hold it in, fill up, bust forward with our brilliance.
So instead, we quietly, judgmentally and complicity starved ourselves of the story of the love affair we were always meant to have with ourselves. We starved a collective “us” of the nourishment that was waiting, like a flood, to flow through the gateway of acceptance.