the see-saw is meant for going up and down

I can tell I haven't been writing enough lately, not only here but in any space. Okay, it's not that I haven't been writing; I haven't been writing creatively. I've been editing and working on scholarship, which feeds a completely different part of me. Too often, the intellectual pieces of me thrive at the expense of my more emotional, creative, reflective pieces. I can be, as my mom gently reminds me, "too much in [my] head," meaning not enough in the moment, not enough living with my heart or passions. My current job as a professor prizes the intellectual and so spending time doing research and reading articles and preparing for class feels necessary, feels accomplished. A lot of energy goes into that work. Just as much, if not more, energy is needed for writing.

It takes time to reflect. It takes time to create. I've been giving my time elsewhere and I've accomplished some things I'm really proud of, but I can also feel that I need to carve out some time for my creative pursuits including photography now that it's getting nice outside.

I've written before about the difficulties of balance and how I think our drive for balance is problematic, mostly because it elides the daily struggles of our lives and assumes that as women we're supposed to be in equilibrium. My thoughts on this resurface just as the wonderful Brene Brown is launching A Week of Worthiness where we are to celebrate "our messy, imperfect, wild, stretch-marked, wonderful, heartbreaking, grace-filled, and joyful lives!" None of those descriptions are about balance or stasis or equilibrium.

I have never been good at standing still. I fidget in my sleep. I've moved house more times than most people I know. I crave the new project, the new design, the new course. I love planning reading lists and assignments. But, balance just isn't my thing. I accept that. Being me means being along for the ride; it means changing my mind 3 seconds after I placed my order and speaking up so that I get what I want. I'm not about drama; don't get me wrong. I am however, about having a full life. What I mean is that, like most of you, my life is busy. I try to be a good partner, a good teacher, a good friend, a good daughter. There are a lot of people and things that need my attention and I want to give my attention to them. They don't always get it. I have to prioritize and that needs to be okay with everyone, including myself. So often when I feel overwhelmed by "all the things I have to do," I find that a great deal of that pressure comes from me. Just a few sentences above I said, I try to be a good________. The problem is what is good enough for "good" is sometimes incredibly damaging to my own self-worth. I felt this way as a child. I vividly remember feeling like if I could prove my worth through good grades, being responsible: taking care of my brother, working a part-time job, and appearing somehow from the outside that I was a "good girl," (gosh, the damage that phrase has done to me) it would mean that all of the pain and shame and trauma of being raped would disappear. It would mean that mother was well and healthy and present. It would mean that we would become exactly the way we appeared: the perfect family.

I was in a relationship, once, that had all the markers of happiness. There was romance, compatibility, affection. We never fought. Ever, not once. I've talked about that relationship before in this post where I explain how lucky I am to be loved today. Part of why I didn't fight before was because I was afraid. I felt like it wasn't worth the argument. Perhaps some things aren't. But choosing nothing as important to speak my mind on exhibits the unworthiness I felt then. My obsession with being the perfect girlfriend collided (maybe they're always connected?) with my feelings that I was unworthy of love and so if I could be perfect, or even good enough I would prove myself worthy of the relationship.

You know, I spent years (and money on a therapist) trying to figure out what happened in that relationship and why it was unsuccessful. There are certainly many factors to its ending, the most significant being that I preferred women to men, but many of my failed relationships come back to not being myself because myself wouldn't be, certainly couldn't be enough.

It took me a while to discover my own worth, again. When I talk to people who have known me for much of my life, they speak about a series of dark periods, as a teenager and later in my 20's. There are so many ways I have struggled to reconcile these periods of my life, these versions of myself. I tried denial and distance but that ultimately left a "not quite right" feeling about that time, a time I needed to get where I am now. It's a time where I made mistakes, a lot of them. Perhaps I treated people badly; I pushed away those who wanted to be close. I see now, however, that though I might not be proud of that girl who was selfish and furious and passionate, I'm also jealous of her. I'm jealous because I cannot go there again. I can never be her, again. This is the danger in nostalgia. There has to be a way to accept the girls I've been without feeling regret or jealousy or overwhelming nostalgia.

For me, being worthy is connected to that embrace. To say I am worth it means they're worth it, too. Or, more importantly, saying they are worthy means I am.