“I think you should get a job.”
Her words cut me to the core of my very being. Did she not understand the pain and weakness that had forced me to retire several years prior to her statement? She lived with me. She understood, I thought, better than anyone else, how much I struggled every single day.
A thousand different responses played out simultaneously in my mind, like in the Matrix Reloaded when Keanu Reeves is talking to the Architect:
What I ultimately said, was “I make more money than you do, so when you start making more than I do, we can talk again about getting a job.”
Our relationship ended (over this and many other things), and we both moved on. I didn’t realize how much this conversation had hurt me, though, until several years later. More importantly, I didn’t understand why it had hurt me until just a few days ago.
I was raised (some might say programmed) to believe that hard work is the only thing that matters in this world, and that people who don’t work hard to contribute to society are worthless. So, I worked until I absolutely could not do it anymore. I tried everything I could think of, as well as a few suggestions made by others, to keep my job. I clung to my last job like it was the last life boat on the Titanic. But eventually, I simply could not hold on any longer, and I let go and slipped under the waves.
Leaving my job was the most difficult decision I had ever made (at least up until then…I’ve had to make much harder ones since then, but those are blog posts for another day). It completely destroyed my self esteem. As I said, I was programmed to believe that the only people who have worth are the ones who work hard. So if I couldn’t work anymore…that meant I was worthless.
Healing is a lengthy process. It’s not always linear, either. It’s a broken, dotted, dashed, squiggly line with peaks and valleys, U-turns and dead ends. Sometimes, you have to double back and pick a different path. It’s messy. Healing is a messy path from “completely broken” to “mostly ok”.
I left my job, then I failed at being self-employed, and then I failed at grad school, and then I had a failed relationship. (Not the one mentioned above, this was the one before that one.) Failure upon failure, loss upon loss, completely broken and disenchanted, I ran away from life, and then I ran away from life again. I entered the relationship above (the one that started this post), and when that ended in failure, I knew that I couldn’t run away any more. I came home, to confront my demons once and for all.
Demons are slippery as shit. The second you think you’ve got one under control, it slips right through your hands and bites you in the ass when you try to grab a different one. Healing, as I said earlier, is complicated.
Complicated, and difficult, but not impossible. And so, slowly, oh so slowly, bit by bit, piece by piece…I put myself back again. With the help of friends, strangers, YouTube videos, Self-help books, gurus, sages, and wise men (and women!) of all shapes and sizes, I’ve finally undone my programming. At least the self-worth knot, which I think was the root of most, if not all of all my issues. I don’t claim to be fully healed, because such a thing is simply not possible in our broken world. “Healed” is a lot like “enlightened” in that anyone who claims they are, isn’t.
It is tempting to end this post with a paragraph extolling my virtues, and the things that I love about myself. However, it’s all fresh and raw, and I’m just superstitious enough to believe that I might “jinx” it if I speak about it publicly. Rest assured dear reader, I know my worth, and it is worth more than any job title or bank account balance. It comes from within, and it’s more valuable than gold.