The Art of Losing Yourself
It’s dripping wet, and the concrete is soaked. The headlights of steadfast cars reflect on the road. Crying can often feel like a thunderstorm, especially when the tears that stream down your face resemble the highways you take to get home. Gazing out of a car window can only take you so far, and as you look out among city lights you leave behind, the loneliness is amplified, even if the stars and moon follow you.
I am a master at making mistakes and trying to avoid blame. It’s how I can (temporarily) accept my existence. I might do bad things, and I may be a bad person, but avoiding accountability would make things easier. I thought. Unknowingly, it created a cycle of involuntary self-destruction. Without getting pseudo-psychological, we can say that I had some childhood instability. I was used to things that were going well to abruptly turn bad. When situations didn’t play out the way I expected, I felt a sense of panic, which ultimately ended up detonating a suicide bomb. I became intimately familiar with this cycle. It landed me in situations that, while not exactly ‘dangerous’, prompted lucrative options for me to make questionable decisions. And sometimes I did.
I had a shell shock moment when I realized I had been the reason for all of my own problems. Obviously I knew that my decisions and their outcomes were my fault, but there’s a stronger confrontation with accountability I had been avoiding. I knew that a deeper sense of realization would shatter me. It’s easier to put the blame on other people, like a cause-and-effect chain, as if it makes anything excusable. Easier ways are not always the right ways, and often they’re avoidant. When a link in that chain snapped, I was confronted with myself and myself alone. I realized in order to cope with senses of loss, to cope with life’s changes, to cope in general, I had to strip myself down to my bones and expose the parts of myself I had circumvented.
It manifested itself slowly and in different ways, like stages of grief. The denial came fast: I ignored everything and anything, pretending everything was the same and that I was fine. Underneath the surface, anger was brewing. Expressions of passive-aggression boiled over into almost everything I did, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Bargaining with yourself is only minutely successful, so I looked for synchronicities, messages trying to further avoid accepting fates. Finally, I had fully deteriorated. I could only run for so long. I had a two-week mental break during which I barely left my bed, and while I was in bed, I cried uncontrollably throughout the day. I was lucky to drink one bottle of water a day, let alone eat a meal. I took a once beautiful home with open doors and windows with fresh breezes and slammed them all shut. Isolation was supposed to bring catharsis. Instead, it caused every little emotion and infraction to rear its ugly head, and I was forced to make acquaintances with it. In place of talking to my friends, I had to begin having conversations with myself. As if I was sitting alone in my room wearing a straitjacket, I had to stop impulsively doing and start thinking before doing. The assault had started.
I deconstructed every aspect of myself to the minimum of my skin. I recognized the things I had done to it. Scars here and there, new stretch marks on foreign terrain, what it had been and what it was becoming. I analyzed it all, like why I dyed my hair so fast and the horrible bangs I cut, the tattoo I had scheduled, a whole mirage of things. I contemplated what type of things my hands had done while wiggling my fingertips. It’s as if I was only partially existing before with a limited range of consciousness. Now I was forced to be enlightened. I could blame my childhood, or I could shift the narrative of a story to cushion the blow on my ego and mental health. Remnant of old habits where I swept things under the rug. Or, I could finally look myself in the eye and improve.
Acceptance comes in many forms. It’s picking up an old hobby I once loved, making a playlist for fun, cooking a favorite meal, or as simple as buying stickers online to put everywhere like patches to fix the rips in my mental fabric. Simple brush strokes on canvas can build an entire world that makes coming to terms with the present more bearable. I painted a pale blue sky with fields of grass and lavender, and now the scent of it calms me. Lyrics to songs on my playlists I can now easily recite, freed from the binds they once hurt me with. From hardly being able to eat, the joy I got from cooking some rice gave me a sense of strength. Stickers I deem silly make their way into cards I give to my friends and on the back of my phone case for me to smile at throughout the day. Part of me compartmentalizes all the ‘bad’ things that trigger me and the mistakes I’ve made. The things that I have done, the mistakes that I have made, do not make up who I am. They don’t do me any good sprawled out on the floor of my mind like photographs or piling up in the corner like a stack of books. Instead, I properly sort through them. I place them in boxes and wrap them in ribbon. Memories do not need to be hurtful if I no longer let them be. I take those boxes and I store them in the attic. Either I’ll forget about them and let go of the toxicity of repressed feelings, or I’ll be able to revisit them in peace.
The initial loss of self is devastating, mourning yourself while you’re here. But there’s a form to it. The movements are a sacred dance, a way to check in on yourself. Swaying, left and right, a circle spin, and a dip. Throughout life there is a phenomenon of la petite de mort. I have lost myself in the past, but I have waltzed my way into a better version of myself than before. It takes some breaking of glass and then a rearranging of the pieces. There’s a risk of getting cut, but if you’re careful, it can be put back together again. As I go through life with shed skin and feeling born anew, new choices and questionable options will introduce themselves to me. I’m certain that there will be a point where I lose myself again; I’ll experience another little death, and I’ll dance my way back again.