I admire the women who can accept themselves in their vulnerability, women who can choose to love themselves over the affections of another. I respect a woman who would rather be alone than be a liar, a woman who would choose every kind of health over sickness of any kind. Like them, I desire to be a person who has overcome both biography and society to walk in authenticity. I am realizing that it is not a matter of just wanting to be a certain way – it is a journey of minute by minute choices, of ups and downs.
There is nothing easy about authenticity.
I once was able to adhere to the strictest of rules when it came to myself and food; once such a master of self-discipline that I didn’t even allow myself to keep food in the house. If I got hungry enough that I actually wanted something to eat, I had to walk to the grocery store down the street and purchase something. I knew that my actually leaving the house to buy food was unlikely because I was only hungry if I was alone, which would generally only happen in the middle of the night and I was afraid to walk outside by myself then. On the rare instances that my hunger would win, I would spend long periods of time wandering the halls of the grocery store reading labels and checking calorie counts before selecting something to bring home to eat. Any leftovers were thrown away.
Standing in a kitchen that is filled with food I try to remember the girl that I was then. I recognize that I am envious of the control that she had over herself. I remember her as being very beautiful, with bones that jutted at the hip. I wonder why I no longer have the capability to leave myself hungry. I wonder if I can convince myself to stop eating again. I miss the confidence of being thin.
I once played the ultra-cool, ultra-confident predator. I sauntered through the bar, a rockstar on display in all black and silver with a pair of heels to die for. I knew what I wanted and I did what it took to get it. I took control, liked to be in charge, and preferred to wake up alone. I didn’t worry about names or phone numbers, I didn’t plan on going where I’d already been. There were only a few times that I sobered up too early and spent the darkness of morning hours alone, weeping at the woman I’d become. It was only in those times that I understood that I asked my lovers to leave because I knew they wouldn’t want to stay; I acted as though they were disposable to me because I knew that I was to them. There were only a few times then that my brazenness overwhelmed me, that I mourned a purity of love that I never expected to have.
Now, of course, I am learning to navigate the waters of an all love and respect relationship. I find myself in new and vulnerable territory, trying to relearn old behaviors and patterns of thinking. There are times I think about the cavalier girl that didn’t care and wouldn’t tell if she did. I recognize that I am envious of the way she could cast inhibition aside. I remember her as being passionately beautiful, with a sex appeal worn like perfume. I miss feeling that good in my own skin.
When I’m feeling particularly self-conscious, or vulnerable, I think back to who I used to be and I miss my confidence of old. She, however, is not truth and the rose-colored memory of her is a trick. It is a trick played by my addictions, by the pieces of me not yet well; it is a trick of the soul’s enemy designed to take ground from me.
How do I know this? I can remember how I felt then. I don’t remember it often enough, and I don’t remember it easily enough, but every once in a while a moment of clarity comes upon me. I remember that I was trapped in the constant agony of proving and out-doing myself. I was addicted to drugs that were literally killing me and sleeping with men who had a depraved fascination with my slow death. I remember that I felt eaten alive by the world I had created, and exhausted with no escape.
Still, I could be whoever I needed to be as long as I had cocaine to keep me thin and alcohol to keep me wild. Sometimes I find myself longing for the escape of drugs and alcohol. I miss who I was when I am not confident in who I am. Insecurity is an emotion I never learned how to handle, a feeling I never could accept. It’s a struggle learning how to live through it now.
The truth is, it’s only in my head that I have to be this way or that way in order to be liked or loved. The more I test the waters, the more I allow myself to actually be true to me, the more I begin to understand that the me of old was living in a world of her own creating, and it was nothing like today’s reality. When I am convinced that my friends won’t be able to handle me, they surprise me with a level of validation that shows me just how wrong I am. When I am convinced that my boyfriend is just about out of patience, he amazes me with just how present he is. It would seem, in fact, that the only person who has a problem with who I am is me.
There is nothing easy about authenticity.