Did you ever see the movie Poltergeist? There's a scene where the mother is trying to get out of the gross out backyard pool, which is full of bobbing gooey corpses. The pool is in the process of being dug, so there's no cement and it is, of course, raining, as is often the case in haunted house movies. She's scrambling up the sides of the muddy hole, unable to get any traction, and the black slop is beginning to cave in on her, which it eventually does, pitching her back into the cesspool of pissed off dead. Very dramatic and skin-crawlingly skeevy.
I think that's what it feels like sometimes when you're trying to change your life. The intent is there, but gravity and rain combine with mud and you're very often grease-pigging your way back into the cesspool of your old existence. I was the piggiest of them all. I slipped and slid and crawled back up and slipped and slid again, always plorping back into the stagnant water and ghastly personnel I'd been trying to escape in the first place. I couldn't get any traction and I never looked inside myself for any climbing tools. I always looked outward, hoping to be saved, hoping to scramble hard enough next time to get out. Maybe I'd dig up a rock or hard place to get a toehold. But circumstances have to be modified from the inside out, not the outside in, when it comes to changing something so monumental as an entire life. It wasn't until my son went into rehab and I went into rehab counselling that I began to see that I was throwing buckets of grease onto the walls myself. The intent of escape was there...but so was my big ass bucket of slippery slop. I was sabotaging my own determination. I was digging my own hole.
It all comes down to self esteem. If you think you suck ass, your mind and body will find a way to obey. They're just following instructions. If you look in the mirror and see only faults, as I did for so long and sometimes still do, then faults will be all you develop. I used to do an hour of yoga, run two miles, do six hundred sit ups, dance for an hour or so, every day, all to lose weight. It wasn't because any of the above mentioned activities were fun. I did it to be skinny. To find self worth. To please others. Their opinion was more important than my own because I sucked ass. I concentrated on the outside, hoping that would do the trick. Nothing was done for my inside. Even when I did something worthwhile, I found a way to ruin it. I taught art classes at an abused children's home, which was a beautiful and fulfilling thing, but allowed myself to be badgered into quiting. The argument was simple. My husband told me I was selfish and a bad mother to leave the house once a week for two hours to teach somebody else's children. Especially damaged children, he told me. They weren't going to amount to anything anyway. They were already ruined.
It's easy to manipulate an insecure person. We believe pretty much anything our alpha dog tells us because we don't trust our own judgement. Why would we trust the instincts of ourselves; somebody we despise? So we listen to people we picked to hurt us in the first place. That's our bucket of rancid grease and we hurl it with abandon every time we try to change.
The trick is to value our inner kindness. We certainly listen to our inner asshole. Why not lend an ear to the benevolent side of our own personalities? It's hard, sure, and it takes time because the inner jerk will certainly shriek to get your attention, but it really works. That's the set of climbing tools to get out of our flop hole of horror. Value ourselves. I'm not talking about false pride, or patting yourself on the back for not doing anything to deserve it. Deserve it. Become good, one step, one inch, at a time. Otherwise, it's still empty. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Hold yourself at night and think about what good you've done. Compliment somebody on what they're wearing. If you see an old lady struggling to lift a bag of groceries, help her put them in the car. Throw some change in a charity can at the checkout counter. Smile at a neighbor. Hold the door for a woman with her baby. Help others. Kindness is contagious, just like cruelty is. One's a disease and the other's its cure.
But helping others is just the first step. It won't be enough if you don't get the praise you need. I've always helped others, ever since I was a kid, but I always expected that someday, I'd get a big pat on the back from somebody for being such a peach. So I waited. And waited. And waited. But nobody ever did anything but want more because I'd surrounded myself with cannibals and they ate me, on a plate I dished up myself. Even when friends complimented me, I didn't believe it. I questioned their motives, thought they were just being nice or trying to get me to do something. The blindness of my own insecurity guaranteed that I stayed in my rotting hole until I began to rot myself. I didn't understand whose voice I was waiting to hear, whose hand I wanted to pat me on the back. I kept thinking it would be a soul mate, a lover, a best friend, a hero. But I was none of those things so it never occurred to me to do it myself. And that's the person I most needed it from. Me.
So become a hero, even if just a teensy one, every day. With the smallest of gestures, you can change a life. I still remember an old lady at a gas station, thanking me for being such a good mother to my toddler son. That memory still has the power to warm me because it wasn't about my outer shell. It was my inner light and my happy little boy's laughter that inspired her words.
You can change yourself. Believe even when it's impossible to see anything but shit. That's just what you're used to. It's not all there is. You can give the world a beautiful contagion of generosity and thoughtfulness, all without being a pushover. That, too, is a slippery slope. Put down the grease bucket and begin the climb out. You can do it. Like I say, over and over, if a nutball loser like me can do it, anybody can. Believe it.