I mentioned in my last post, the one about the RITAs, that I’ve been wrestling more and more with the idea of both/and. Not just accepting that life is full of contradictions, but working to make space in my psyche, heart, etc. to hold those contradictory things. And, of course, the idea that being able to hold both is the source of both wisdom and joy.
To that end, I’ve settled into being a RITA finalist. I’m celebrating some good reviews for my newest book, Recipe for Love, and not letting myself get bogged down by the bad ones. I’m even feeling okay about my job—sort of wishing I didn’t need to have it and knowing that I do good work and am a better person (and writer) for having the structure (and the income).
If you know much about me, these things probably don’t surprise you. I can be very reasonable. But if you know anything about me at all, you also know this stuff is child’s play. Just wait until we get to the feelings. Cue hand flailing, groaning, and other modes of deflection. Just ask my therapist.
Speaking of therapists, I have a great one. I had a session with him yesterday (yes, right before flying to Scotland) and that’s what has inspired this post. Warning: I’m going to talk about feelings now.
I was telling him about burlesque, about my (mis?)adventures in dating. About feeling like I was finally settling into the idea that some folks are going to find me attractive. And he says to me, I kid you not, “Do you know anyone who is trying to do this expansive, open thing with their life right now who is rocking it better than you?”
I thought about all the people who’ve called me brave, or crazy, or any number of things they mean in a complimentary way. Of the things I’ve done in the last year that seemed, not that long ago, unimaginable. And in a moment of sassy diva (or brazen ego) I said, “No, I’m rocking it pretty hard.”
We sat with that, celebrated it. For about thirty seconds.
“Why do I feel like such a hot mess, then?” I asked.
He asked me to elaborate, as he is wont to do. And I realized that my particular perception of being a hot mess is a certain unease, laced with guilt. “Say more,” he says. He always says this. And then he helps me make sense of it.
My guilt comes in two flavors. The first is the rational response to a situation that inspires me to act. I.e., I wrestle with my privilege and know I’m not giving as much time or energy to social justice causes as I would like. This is useful and healthy and motivating, and also rather boring.
The second is far more, er, interesting. It’s guilt of the who-do-you-think-you-are variety. It’s the hope-you’re-having-fun-because-you’re-going-to-end-up-alone little voice. The you’re-wasting-your-life tsk of disapproval. It’s the sad little girl who doesn’t believe she deserves all the love/sex/adventure/bliss. The one who makes me hide my face behind a pillow because I so don’t want to go there when my therapist brings her up and wants to be tender with her.
Yeah. I didn’t want to go there. But my therapist is good, so we did. And here I sit. Rocking it. Feeling like a hot mess. Both/and. Easy peasy. I hear this is the path to enlightenment.