Saturday, October 25, 2008

Self Portrait

I wrote this in the spring of freshmen year of college. It was an exercise for my creative nonfiction class. I would say it's still accurate.

I move my life through words. In the winter my world was vague. The walls appeared to be vague, the scenery around me vague. Galesburg, I felt, was not a real place at all, but a dream world from which I needed to wake up. I then moved into a state of confliction. At meals I would have to choose between cereal or a more substantial meal that was doused in oil and fat. Choose between working out and going home and curling up in my bed. These choices blossomed into larger choices, ones that I was not sure I could make and so I settled into a state of ambivalence. The trouble is that confliction is an ever arising emotion that I can feel curling itself around my ribcage. It settles in the bags underneath my eyes and the dip in my skin where the collar bones meet at the throat. Confliction is what awakens me from my ambivalent state of sustenance where I hide in the winter. It rises with the flowers and the buds on the trees and it brings with it razors, scales, and bleeding fingers.
It started with a state of boredom. Not the boredom of a humid summer day spent lying in the grass eating a Popsicle, but restless late night boredom spent staring at the television screen. This boredom was baffling to me. A type of boredom that traveled with me in the pocket of my jeans and crawled into my eye sockets when it was time to go to sleep. I lay there with boredom until boredom pushed me out of bed and onto the quiet St. Paul sidewalks to trample it away. I would wake up in the morning and find boredom written across the notebook pages at school in the morning, not realizing until I was sitting in the doctor’s office with scabs across my arms that boredom was a synonym for anxiety.
It was most often a he who made me anxious. A he who did not look at me the way I wanted him to, a he who became built up into my head until he was more than any he could ever aspire to. The he who didn’t see me because I had too much fat around my thighs, too many pimples on my forehead. Because I cried too much, yelled too much, and because I simply needed him too much. It was this group of the ubiquitous he that stood me in front of the mirror at night. I would stand there, picking at blemishes on my face until gashes formed, grabbing handfuls of flesh and thinking that I was too much. If only I were lesser then he would love me. It was the other group of he that left the red and white scars that crawled up my arms. This was the he that aroused confliction. The kind that told me how often they thought of me, but left out the context under which this thought occurred. The kind of he who forgot to call or never once uttered the word beautiful. It was him that left me wandering the streets at night.
Ubiquitous was the word that became associated with him. He was in my mind always. I carried him around, dangling from my fingers like a coffee cup. Occasionally he would change. His hair would get shorter, lighter, he would get taller, heavier. This ever coveted he, a more abstract concept than anything real. Despite my ideals of feminism he became the one that was supposed to save me from my anxiety that was eating away at my wrists and thighs.
It was not a he who saved me, but diversion. I got a job. Instead of curling into my remorse ball at night I would call people. I started crocheting and doing embroidering and so instead of a he in my mind it was counting stitches and rows. I ate three meals a day and went running at night. I filled my mind with schedules and lists and lined up my case of oil paints in rainbow order. He still rests in my ear amongst the long row of earrings and at night I still pace around trying to fill the boredom. During the day I emulate the word distraction. I took it apart and tried to discover exactly what it meant. As I washed my face and brushed my teeth to get ready for bed one night after working on homework for several hours I realized that distraction was sustenance. Concentrate on eating, sleeping, cleaning, and little else.

No comments: