On day 7 I realized how fruitless this project is. I wrote
But [this journal] doesn’t address the real thing, which is that I can see nothing to like in myself. I can see the beauty in the moon over the parking lot at work in the middle of the night, I can feel grateful for new bras, I can savor the taste of carefree casserole, I can love my mother—but I also can’t trust her, or anyone, for choosing to spend time or emotion on me. [Today] I cried in a mall, shaking at a table in an empty food court, hating myself for crying and for being such a terrible daughter and […] I spent hours—literally, hours—afterward apologizing to my mother for having to spend time with me, for my outburst, for existing, for inflicting myself on her. And I apologize so much she begs me to stop, but I can’t.
So what is the point then of the gratitude journal? I am always grateful for the people in my life. I don’t know how I got so lucky that they all see something in me to like that isn’t there.
On Wednesday I saw my therapist for the second time and told her all about this, told her how I sat down at night and found myself recalling the things about the day that I liked easily, but it didn’t seem to help anything. I think she was a little surprised by it, a little unsure of where to go, so we talked about what I could to recognize the good in myself, to help my self-esteem* and I feel that writing is something I enjoy doing, so we decided I would write down some additional things every day about me.
"Do you think one is fine to start?" she asked.
"I think maybe one will be too easy," I said, hesitatingly. "Maybe two, to stretch." And she was pleased at my initiative, told me to keep track of things about myself that I noticed, or that other people said, and to make note.
But I came home that night, and I couldn’t think of anything. In bed, miserable and depressed all I managed was
1. there is nothing to like about me
Which is really not the point of the exercise I created for myself. But it is much harder than I anticipated to think of two things, and I can’t imagine how I am going to think of two things tomorrow. I almost want to walk it back to one thing, but insist that the one thing can’t be about how I am compassionate. It is the only thing I can recognize in myself, and I am so tired of it, as though it is my only quality. Notice when you are strong, my therapist said for an example. But I don’t think I have ever been strong. I don’t think I can do anything other than be nice. And that’s not a person. That’s not a personality.
Anyway. Back to the routine.
1. My brother bought me a Mexican Coca-Cola. He actually bought the whole family pizza for dinner, stopped at the little pizzeria/beer-seller down the street from my house and got my father a six pack of Heineken, and something for my mother, and two Mexican Cokes. On the way home a little family was coming around with a small child to trick or treat and my mom said, stop at our house, we have more candy than we know what to do with, and one of the two men with the woman and child laughed about how they’d rather have the beer, and my brother shrugged and gave them each one for the trek around the neighborhood, while the woman laughed. My mother recounted this to me when I came home from work. I guess I am grateful for my brother, for his heart.
2. We have a ton of new people at work—the beginning of the massive seasonal hires—and I met one of them tonight, T. I introduced myself, because I like to be friendly, because I like to shake hands, and she looked at me like I was something beneath her and didn’t move to step forward, just stared at me from under her eyelashes like I was offending her for existing. And I stepped away, a little annoyed. Later, on register, she had issues with things she didn’t know how to do—things, to be honest, she should know from the training material, but she never came over to me to ask how to do these things, she just walked over to my register and said “I can’t do this,” and then walked back like I was expected to come over and help her. And I am, and I did, but I didn’t like it—she never asked me for anything or thanked me, and I expect that from rude customers, but not my co-workers. At the end of my shift, I mentioned to D, “She’s a little weird, right?” And he didn’t even look at me while he said, “Oh yeah. She has an attitude problem.” It’s nice to feel a camaraderie over these things. A few weeks ago a woman came in insisting to see a manager, and R was up front, and said sure, I can grab him, but if there’s anything I can do for you first, I’d love to help. But the woman was rude, and kept insisting, and so R called up D, and then when he came to the registers all the woman wanted was an application, which she absolutely didn’t need a manager for, and continued to speak down to R and me, and then spoke down to D too when she realized he wasn’t the hiring manager but just the manager on duty. She filled the application out in the store while R and I rang up the mid-afternoon rush, and then went to give it to R, but instead asked for a phone book first. “We don’t have a phone book,” I said. She didn’t have phone numbers for two of her previous employers. Would M, our store manager, look those up for her? And R and I just exchanged a look, and I said, “No,” because I didn’t even know what else to say because obviously, obviously, no, and R said, “She’s very busy. She would not look those numbers up.” And instead of holding on to the application to get those numbers, she just handed it in anyway, expecting that our boss would waste her time on finding her references for her. R and I turned to each and I said, “We’re on the same page here, right?” and R was just astounded at the audacity. Why would you belittle the people soon to be your co-workers, or disrespect the person soon to be your boss? I gave the application to D later in the night when he was taking my register down, and I said, “Is there any way you can put a post-it on this that says ‘This woman was rude and R and Alex really didn’t like her and don’t want to work with her’?” And he said no, that it was a legal document so legally he couldn’t… “But I can put her at the back of the pile,” he said cheerfully, and he did. I like that understanding.
3. My dentist gave me a routine to keep my teeth healthy. I swear I do more for my shitty teeth than any other person on the planet, and it never works to my benefit. I am having a root canal next week—my third this year—but I use a fancy electric toothbrush, and I floss, and I swish for thirty seconds with an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash, and now I am using a terrible-tasting fluoride rinse for a minute after that. I appreciate that he told me this whole routine though.
4. My mother said she liked the polish on my toenails.
5. MC smiled at me as we passed each other along the back of the store, each doing our own thing, and it was the quick-acknowledgement-fake-smile, yes, and I was doing it too, but something about it still made me feel good.
1. There was an older man tonight buying candy for trick-or-treaters and he asked me if it was a dollar, asked “Isn’t think Dollar General?” And I said, no, actually, we’re Dollar Tree, and he laughed, touched my hand, said, “Oh, I was trying so hard to keep a straight face, but you were so earnest”—and he was still laughing—“I know it’s not Dollar General.” And I laughed too but felt a little stupid, explaining that there is not a day of my life I am not asked what something costs, if everything in the store is a dollar, and sometimes people are joking, but I am immune to it now. “I lost my sense of humor,” I said, apologizing. He shook his head and said, “No, no, you didn’t. You have a wonderful personality. You are wonderful. You’ll never lose that.”
2. It’s not as though I am some great writer but I guess sometimes things I post touch a nerve. I reblogged something from Sara and added to it and she reblogged that (totally unexpected because it was sort of ranty and written at six am) and I saw it got some additional likes and reblogs which felt nice. I like that on tumblr, at least—not really on twitter, and definitely not on Facebook—I have grown a little more sure of myself, that I can say things about myself, about being depressed, about being fat, about being sort of unattractive, without a total fear that once I point these things out people will notice that I am all these things and stop talking to me. I guess I am trusting people a little bit more than I used to. It’s really hard. But I like that evidently I am changing, little bit by little bit.
*I think she had a field day with my self-assessment. We were discussing—I’m not even sure, to be honest. We were discussing something, and I said something and she asked me to explain it and I told her than I am very afraid to appear boastful, or prideful. I actually quite like other people with that kind of over-the-top self-esteem; I find myself drawn to it even when I recognize that it is actually narcissism. I find these people charming in their self-satisfaction. Sometimes I even know that these people genuinely dislike me but I can’t help but continue to see them with stars in my eyes. I follow along like a puppy dog. But I am so afraid to be that person, because I know I am in a minority to enjoy that kind of grandioseness. I don’t think I knew until I was telling her that being prideful is a great fear of mine. I mentioned a few examples of how I sometimes go out of my way to not engage in things because I am afraid of appearing too confident, that when I don’t get that under control and let slip moments of—crowing? bragging? but not even about things but just like, pride in myself—whatever I berate myself for days afterward, feel a great shame. She laughed at me a little, when I mentioned this fear of confidence. It was a good laughter though. She held her hand up like a line. “So this is a healthy level of self-esteem,” she said. And then she lowered it by a foot and a half. “And you are down here.” And then she raised it way up, up above her head. “And you are afraid of being up there.” She brought it back to the middle again. “I just don’t think that you have to worry about getting up there. It’s just such a big step from where you are right now that it’s practically impossible.” I guess that’s true. But I am just always afraid of jumping up that high.