Tuesday, March 21, 2017

the knot

When I was younger, one of the hardest things about falling in and out of love was the repeated discovery that no one person was the solution to what I perceived as the giant knot of messiness inside of me. Early love--that point where you know just enough to know you want more--has a way of making you believe that if you can just turn this thing into a real relationship, everything will be okay. Surely, your new identity as partner to this wonderful person will wash away all of your fears about yourself. If you are proven lovable, then everything will be fine.

But then, even when you do actually fall into something real, you find that, despite all that love you're getting, you're still you, giant knot of messiness and all. In fact, not only can it not fix what's inside of you, you find it can be hard to receive love fully when you're distracted by your own inner chaos. You learn that the only way to free yourself of the knot is to attempt to untangle it--and that no one but you can do that. 

Work and success come with a version of this. When you're young, green, and struggling to discover your professional path, it's tempting to believe that one day, when you finally land the right job/raise your profile/acquire enough accolades, you will finally shut down the mercilessly berating voice that has been giving you shit since you accidentally scored a goal for the other team during kickball in second grade. But then success does come in various forms, and that voice still won't shut up; she just starts talking about how you don't have enough Twitter followers and your book sales could be better.

I wish this last paragraph was a recommendation that you try some brand new method I just discovered--some special new therapy that can help you, too, to take your demons to the mat, yank them from their comfortable home, and throw them into the river so they can never bother you again. But it's really just a reminder that nobody actually knows what they're doing. We're all just trying to keep our respective tangled knots from hurting the people we love while simultaneously doing our best to block out our inner critics. And sometimes just remembering that everyone else is trying to climb their own version of the same mountain is the thing that really helps.

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I keep thinking that older people who seem calm and confident have it all figured out. What I've learned recently is that they're just used to plot twists by now . . . harder to shock them. I've jokingly accused a few people lately of "pretending to be adults" and they've all confessed that that's exactly what they feel they're doing.

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