Sunday, March 11, 2012

Refiner's Fire

This Lenten season, I have given up self-loathing.

I'm doing okay so far. Not great, though I never expected to stop hating myself altogether – you don't lose the habit of a lifetime just by deciding to give it up for Lent – but I've at least managed to steer clear of wallowing.

In the week or so running up to Ash Wednesday, it was very, very bad. Curl-up-under-my-desk-and-sob bad. Sit-in-the-back-seat-and-cry-silently-to-myself bad. When I get mired in it like that, it's very difficult to extricate myself, because it's self-perpetuating: I hate myself, and then I hate myself more for being so self-absorbed as to be thinking about how much I hate myself... It feeds itself.

So on Ash Wednesday I said to myself sternly: This ends now. For the next forty days, there will be no wallowing.

I've kept to that resolution pretty well, I think. Usually it present itself as a very stark choice between paths – THIS WAY TO THE QUAGMIRE OF SELF-LOATHING – and I just have to force myself to pick the sunny one. (No, inner voices, you're the worthless pieces of shit.) Unfortunately, I have not yet found a way to shut off the constant lower-level white noise of self-hatred that accompanies my every waking moment.

It feels as though that low-level stuff has stepped up its game in the past couple of months, but I don't think this is actually the case. I think what's happened is an increase in my self-awareness, to the point that I am now fully cognizant of (a) just how much self-loathing I've been carrying around in my brain-holder and (b) the possibility that maybe I should be trying to change that. (I also blame heightened self-awareness for the amplified gender identity struggle, which is not an entirely separate issue from the self-loathing one.)

This is not easy. Externally, my life is as close to perfect as it's ever been, and maybe it's because I feel I don't deserve such happiness that I torture myself so.

Fiction used to be enough. For at least a dozen years now, I've had one particular ongoing fictional world in which I spend at least a little time every single day. It sufficed as a channel, a coping mechanism, for my self-loathing (and, actually, some of my gender issues too). But lately that's not enough. I can't funnel it all into a world of my imagining anymore. I can't pretend my brain is made of tiny boxes. The walls are coming down, and I don't know what to do.

But, in my moments of optimism and faith, I can believe that what I am facing right now is the refiner's fire, and that I will be purified.

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