i’ve struggled with the concept of goodness since i was a child.
i remember sitting in a gray airport, with gray seats, gray carpet, gray lights, my little feet swinging several inches above the floor waiting for the smiling stewardess to escort me into the plane.
my Dad told me that i had to be good and do exactly what she said and i would see my Mom when the plan landed. this was my first lesson in goodness. to be good meant to listen and accept what other people with some kind of authority told me. i learned that lesson well, so well that even today i question my intelligence in the presence of those with more degrees, more years, more experience.
when that plane landed i learned more lessons about being good. i was around seven years old at the time and my Mom worked late at night and my sister was a temperamental baby and if i couldn’t keep her quiet, my mom would wake up and yell at met. so to be good, i also had to be a substitute caregiver, while my mother was busy providing for us. this is also a lesson i have learned well, so well, that when my siblings need money i give what i have, or have to move into their college dorm a four hour drive from where i live, in the middle of my semester, i do it. i can no longer see a line between responsibility, obligation, and love, they all blur together.
the guilt that i carry on a daily basis that pushes me to be smarter than i was yesterday, more creative than i was last year, and in better shape that a decade before is the same guilt that kills my characters before they can tell their stories, suffocates the brilliant thoughts that roam free at night, and dampens my heart’s thirst for true connection.
i learned that to be worthy of love i had to deserve it, i had to work hard for it to be given. even now, i worry that one wrong word, phrase, or move will have me thrown aside. my mother’s favorite line was that if i messed up she still four other children, so i never failed, i kept my rebellion in check and my desire for unconditional love nestled between the pages of my journal, page after page, year after year.
i realize now, having been home for some time, that i have equated being good with being worthy of love, and in my mind im never, and have never, been good enough. this sad truth is frustrating as it is terrifying. as open and generous as i am, i am also emotionally removed and have never allowed myself to rely on the feelings of others because i could not even trust how my parents felt about me. im thankful im conscious and aware of this emotional breakdown ive been working to change it, but the reality is that it is hard. given my naturally introspective nature it makes human connection exhausting as i try to calculate the emotional risks of my varying relationships, never wanting to tip the scale against myself. but one day i hope the practice now pays off.
one day i will have the freedom that comes from knowing love is not awarded to the best, the brightest, the good. i will know and feel that love is the recognition of our inherent human worth and the acceptance that humanness is about our struggle to come to terms with who we are and the gift we are to leave the world and we are all worthy of that. and i will also know that ‘we’ will always includes ‘me’.