Thursday, February 11, 2016

identity of love

one of my best friends recently told that she was sad because she was no longer a girlfriend. when i asked her why that made her so sad (despite her beautiful friend-filled and fulfilling work life), she replied "being a girlfriend is the thing i'm best at."

i remember feeling like that.  i remember going back to relationships that weren't good for me, despite knowing i shouldn't be in them. despite my friends' advice.  despite any evidence to the contrary.

this friend of mine finally escaped a long-term unhealthy and unhappy relationship.  i'm so proud of her. and i know she is happy now and doesn't doubt her new life.  but i also understand her thought pattern... especially in mid-february.  identifying yourself through a romantic relationship is shockingly normal in our society.

it's pervasive: we publish it through "Facebook official" relationships; we call friend's partners by "so and so's boyfriend (or girlfriend)" instead of by name; we often expect women to take their partner's name in marriage...

i don't think any of this is "good" or "bad" necessarily, but it does become problematic when we start to identify ourselves through our relationships.  i've become lost in relationships before: i've lost my identity; i've lost my sense of self.  and that's probably why her statement affected me so strongly: because i could identify that version of myself that felt like that, and how bad it felt.

i'm really stressed at work right now: there are a ton of things we are working on.  yesterday i was looking through three computer's worth of old files, trying to find something i had written earlier to use for a new project at work.  as i searched, i found a document that looked out of place.  i didn't recognize the title, so i opened it.  this is what i found:
Recurring Nightmare

I try to ignore the constant messages I’m left:
A toxic ex who calls nearly every day.

I try not to think about the memories we share:
At restaurants, grocery stores, bars, the gym…
They persist.

The more I try to purge myself of the relationship,
The more its benefits seem to intensify:
I’m haunted by my ex-best friend/new worst enemy.

“Come on, one more time won’t hurt,
One last go, for old time’s sake;
You know you want to.”

I’m beckoned,
Seduced, and then...
Enthralled again.

I fall into the trap.

My friends tell me to let go, move on:
“You’re better than that!”

My unnatural obsession with the relationship
Confuses people
It steps on the toes of—breaks the kneecaps of—
New relationships; nourishing, amazing,
Filling relationships

And leaves me empty.

So I propose the series;
The "How to Escape Culture’s Influence" Encyclopedia, starting with:

How to Break Up with your Eating Disorder.
Written as a reference.
It would be proudly displayed on every therapist’s shelf;
It would be hidden away in every adolescent girl’s room.

It would have to be a series:
How to Break Up with your Eating Disorder,
How to Meet a Rational Attitude about Food,
How to Hook a Healthy Idea of Exercise,
How to Have a Discriminatory Relationship with the Media,
How to Marry your Positive Body Image,
How to Nurture your Long-term Relationship with your Self…

Because I know that even as I awake from the nightmare,
Again,

Another girl is falling for the same lines.

woah.  *chills*

i don't remember exactly when i wrote that, but it was several years ago. finding it yesterday, after i had already started this blog entry, seemed extra-eerie.

even though i don't like the hold bulimia still tries to exert, there's an old familiarity to the thoughts and behaviors associated with it.  especially when i'm super stressed.  feeling like all my brain power is going to academic endeavors?  easy solution: use old habits of eating/exercise/stress avoidance to get through the day.

i've gotten lost in my eating disorder before.  i've gone back to it over and over.  i've ignored friends' advice.  the familiarity, and the implicit identity that seems to go with it, is so tempting.

(disclaimer: i'm doing fine)

the point is that there is some layer, hiding below the surface, that still likes this eating disorder identity; there is some part of me that still wants to be in this relationship.  i don't think it is a big part. but the sentiment of my friend's candid admission rings true here: "i'm fucking good at this relationship."

you know what is not a good reason for being involved in any type of relationship?
because we are good at it
because it is comfortable
because we identify as part of it

sometimes the extraction is easy.  but often there's layers and layers of it to get through.

but underneath the layers?
self-love
self-identity
self

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