November 16, 2016

Know Your Worth

To My Women - To Know Your Own Worth

Featuring a brief political rant...



Five years ago, I met a man. We didn't have a moment. You know the moment. You're in a Starbucks at rush hour, you both reach for the little green spill stoppers at precisely the same moment and your hands touch. No. Nothing like that. We met, and he was just another guy. Unremarkable. Nice. A little too quiet for my taste. Not remarkably attractive, though to be fair I don't find anyone remarkably attractive, or even remotely for that matter, until I know them.

And then one day, after a year of knowing who he was but not really knowing him, and not really caring, for some reason, perhaps the Bellini I'd had at lunch, I initiated our friendship. I will never forget this day. I will never forget it, because this day proceeded to hang over the next four years of my life.

It's funny how one decision, one lunch...one drink...can change the course of your life. In many ways I was in a dark place when we met. The darkest I've ever been. But in many others, there was still a glowing, optimistic part of me, untouched by the horrors I'd endured. There was still a naivety I wish I could get back. A mushy-ness that has since turned hard. Bottomless pits of unconditional love and empathy that have since been filled with concrete.

But that's skipping ahead...

There is a woman who conducted a study about what made people fall in love. She concluded that all any two people had to do to fall in love was to look into each other's eyes as they asked and answered, honestly, a series of questions, about twenty or thirty I think, and I'm writing completely from the heart so I'm not going to check the source nor attach a link- translation: Google it - the questions progressing in personal intimacy. By the end, the stage for love-falling-into would be set. A friend had agreed to test her theory with her, in fact, and it was five or so years later as she spoke about it at a conference and they were still together...

Five years ago I knew of no such study. But I did know that I had the walls of Jericho around me (a guy I met on Match.com actually used that phrase when after five dates he felt like I just wouldn't let him in...) and that most of the friendships in my life were superficial. So I tried. I suggested that we play a game. The question game, I called it. We'd ask each other questions - there was no number or end in sight - and thus we'd get to know each other. They started out light. Favorite color. Birthday. Last name. Most embarrassing moment. But then they progressed. They progressed to, "What was the scariest day of your life?" Mine? 9/11. The day I thought I'd lost my mom for hours. She'd worked in the towers. They shut down the subways, Penn, Grand Central, everything that day. People were hitchhiking from ground zero covered in debris. My mom had gone right back into the subway when she got out and heard what she'd thought was shooting, and hightailed it for my school. They stopped the train and she had to walk in the tunnel. When she got out she walked to midtown, Hell's Kitchen as it were, where my school was. By the time she made it to my school the library was playing the news and the towers were crumbling...like dominos...like the weren't enormous and strong and made of steel...just crashing down. There was no cell service in NYC. Too many people were trying to call. I'd tried her work. Her cell. I asked to go to the bathroom so many times my teacher asked if I had a bladder infection. I wasn't the only one, and eventually they all heard and figured it out. There were no smart phones back then so the news came in the form of a receptionist coming to the classroom with a post-it note. Her work number had just rung, and rung, and rung...and then even that didn't happen. By the time I started calling her cell Verizon was telling me that they were sorry but no calls could be completed right now. I sat in my classroom holding my pink, electric pencil, bending it all out of shape, staring at one particular spot on the floor. I will never forget that day. And not just because I thought my mom was dead and when she showed up at my school, I hugged her like I'd never hugged her before, nor since, because quite frankly neither of us are huggers, and cried on her for probably hours because relief had shattered me in that moment...and some kids in my school that day, well...they weren't that lucky. But also because in the aftermath, I distinctly remember thinking that this was the end of the world. This event...it would not be forgiven, and it would not be resolved soon. That golden age my generation had been gainfully born into was over. Here it was...the thing you read about in textbooks. The kind of thing that shapes the history...the downfall of nations.

It rings so true to me now, 15 years later, after the Bush administration, after Iraq, and after the tears of joy I cried when Obama became the president-elect, during the first election I could vote in, I sit here eight years after I had the first black president's election day tattooed on my body, in my dear old NYC as we (well....80% of us) walk around silent and stunned like someone died. Because what died is bigger than any one someone. Hope...it's bigger than all of us. We'll probably all spend this next four months in bereavement.

I'm not even going to type his name. I won't dignify it. Mostly because I don't really blame his ignorance and audacity, nor the blind desperation of the people who voted for him. The stage for this election was set a long, long time ago the way I see it. Starting with that day. With the Patriot Act promptly being passed though it was never read. With the Voting Rights Acts being gutted to pieces in 2013.

But I digress...

I told him about the day I'd almost lost my mom. He told me about the day he'd lost his. Immediately, the game was over, and neither of us was playing any more. Two months later I'd declared myself in love. It took him about a month or two thereafter to catch up with me. And then to question it. Judge it. And abandon it, and me, over and over again, more times than I wish to count. As though it were as easy as an explanation. Out of sight, out of mind.

I write this now because for the first time in a long time, I am 100% myself. Five years ago I was frozen in time, in a rut that had started just a bit earlier with my first depressive episode, and though I'm still fighting every day, for the first time I can actually see a light at the end of a really, truly miserable tunnel.

I write this now because I think too many women out there have been lured in by mainstream media and convinced that life starts when they meet their prince. And their prince always fucks up. He's expected to. Drama is a given. Heartbreak, betrayal, they are all made out to be par for the course until one day he shows up at your door in the rain with flowers, or gets down on one knee after some length of estrangement, when your worth as a human being finally dawns on him, and you forgive his miserable ass, only to now take him as your best friend, your partner, the guardian of your would-be children...

No.

I write this now because that is complete shit, and it needs to be said.

After being jerked around by the first man I ever thought I could marry, having my heart broken, being able to accurately describe the taste of the carpet in the room I grew up in having cried on that floor over him that many times, one day I snapped out of it. We both knew he didn't deserve the last chance I gave him. Hell, everyone knew that. But only I knew it was truly the last, because it had taken so much just to put myself in that position again.

After that? I changed my life.

New job. New apartment. New cat. New pursuit of my life's dream. New resolve.

New boyfriend.

This is the part where I say he proposed last night and we're eloping over Christmas.

He didn't, and we're not. And that's absolutely not the point.

The point is, as women in this country - straight women; and by the way, being bisexual and struggling to explain even to my own mother that bisexuality is real - we are conditioned to believe that our worth is inextricably tied to the quality of our relationships with men. We are made to believe it at early ages, and thus we cling to these relationships, even when the person we are in them with isn't right for us. Isn't fair to us, or good to us. Even when they hurt us, hit us, rape us. We blame ourselves. We justify. We stay.

Don't.

Because once you step out of that cycle and realize who you really are, who you really are, outside of any pursuit of anyone else, you will know yourself. You will love yourself. And no man, no person for that matter, will ever be able to come between you and your true self again. You're enough all by yourself. You're strong all by yourself. You owe it to yourself to find that, know that, and believe that.

I'm not encouraging a solitary existence, nor the excessive adoption of cats. I love my boyfriend and while I wouldn't marry him by Christmas, I will eventually, that is if we're both still game.

But this isn't about him. This is about me. About you. About knowing who you are and what you're worth. No one who loves you will ever try to convince you that you are unworthy of...anything. Let alone hurt you. Abuse you. Manipulate you.

Someone who loves you will protect you. Uplift you. See you for who you are, not who you are not, and help you realize that potential even in the moments when you doubt it.

But it starts with you. Don't make the mistake of putting yourself last because it's what you've been taught and counting on strangers to give you what you can't even give to yourself.

Put you first. Love you first. Know your worth. And the rest will follow.

Promise...


Fuck the ex's and embrace the o's,

- Belle

P.S.: Apologies for the political rant, but like so many of us, I'm in mourning...


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