What's it all for? is a question my sister, Forty-Two, and I always ask each other when we're sitting in her kitchen, doodling on newspapers, snacking on leftovers, and bitching about life.
I sit and wonder this while I'm by myself, as well. I wade through all the memories in the depths of my mind, picking out the ones that make me question who I am and the choices I've made and I agonize over the answers I come up with. I should have been stronger/tougher/bitchier/selfish are usually some of the things I realize in hindsight, but alas, there are no do-overs.
The pains I experienced in my past were severe and emotionally paralyzing but they certainly have dissipated over time. Back when these experiences were happening, I never did think I would get through in one piece, but somehow I did. Somehow, I pulled through, even if weakened and in disrepair. And the more hurt I endured, the lower my self esteem dipped. And the lower that dipped, my vulnerability soared.
It's tough, too, because for as long as I can remember, I've always worn my emotions plainly on my face and in my stance. Unfortunately, others mark you as overly-sensitive when they see that, (which, to a degree, I've always been) and also view this unfavorably. Apparently, when you are sensitive, you're also open to hurt because of the vulnerability that comes with it. Oddly enough, I always thought being sensitive was one of my better qualities, but growing older and surviving the deaths of friendships has taught me differently.
Any time I ran into a problem, whether it was with people or situations, I always thought I had what it took to get through: reason, understanding, sensitivity, the ability to listen, the gift of being verbally articulate , the desire to learn how to be better and the desire to make others happy. And damned if I know why, those qualities never served me the way I needed and hoped that they would. In the aftermath of any situation, I always found myself wobbling and unable to steady myself. How did all of those things I prided myself on being backfire? I always replayed these things over and over in my head ad nauseum until I couldn't even stand to hear myself think anymore. All the whys and how could I have done things better or different swirling around my over-worked noggin. And no matter what, I always winded up feeling disgusted with myself and blaming myself for things I knew weren't even my fault or in my power. All these qualities in myself that I thought were so integral to being decent and caring were always spit back in my face. If those things in me weren't good enough, then what the hell else was there?
Well when Cynicism crept up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and baited me to come play, I had my answer. I didn't really like it, especially when Distrust, Skepticism, and Caution followed. When my Inner Bitch boiled up, I found it too difficult to really unleash her. I still wanted to be good and do good by all. Now, don't misunderstand; I'm not saying I always handled everything perfectly - I am human and faulted - but I'll be damned if anyone can ever accuse me of not trying my hardest. But all these newer things were hanging around me so much and I wasn't sure if I liked them. It wasn't who I was or who I wanted to be. But it seemed that everyone else befriended their inner bitches and their inner-cynics so I wondered if that was the way to go?
I've found that for me, it wasn't, but I tried to find a happy medium. Through the years, I've tried to incorporate these unfamiliar things into how I handled myself in sticky situations. Mostly, I have been able to balance these things out: I am still sensitive and wear my happiness/anger/disappointment/name-an-emotion-any-emotion on my face, but I am able to hold back the tears and really think things through using my newer, more cautious, cynical self to complement my older self. Things that formerly caused insomnia for months now only have the power to irritate me for a day. Or two. Okay, who am I kidding? A week at least.
And now that I'm that wonderful, hopefully magical age of Forty, I realize that all of those past bad experiences have just been par for the course that is life. My life now is not quite a smooth ride by any means, but somehow I'm finding I'm able to use the past experiences of pain to my advantage. There's something to be said for going through many damaging storms - if you're smart, you don't toss aside the damaged parts: collect them and prepare to use them to build something (someone) stronger and better prepared for the next one that comes blowing in.
That's what it's all for....