Day 3 of being home alone and I think I can finally get my brain to work again. I am finally calming down enough to be able to process what I feel and what I think.
I looked at the last post I wrote again, and I think what I described—C’s “talks”—triggered something entirely different for me than what I first thought. It triggered other things too, but I think I didn’t realize what it triggered most strongly for me, and I think that was the sense of separation from ordinary life and ordinary people that I had at her age and the immense loneliness of it.
When I was in Class 8 and “running 14,” everyone was having “talks” too. But I was married, then I was a widow. My life was playing out at 450 degrees while everyone else’s just kind of had the pilot light on.
And when Nata died, I left Yuri’s place—I fled. I left behind the girls who could have understood what I was going through and I had only other girls who couldn’t understand, who couldn’t have even understood it with a lot of careful explaining—and I couldn’t explain. It wasn’t allowed and I was too overwrought to try.
So C’s life reminds me of my life at the same age, only the way I experienced it was as an immense loneliness. It wasn’t fun. It was catastrophically isolating.
I think that happens to me a lot. Whenever I feel like an outsider in a group of people who seem like they ought to be like me—when I meet up with the other foreign teachers, for example, nearly all of whom are white, most of whom are North American and speak English with North American accents just as I do. Then it seems like I ought to be like them—just as it seemed like I ought to be like my classmates when I was 13—and I’m not. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now.
Everyone is different. We are all having different experiences, but my experiences are very different. They are beyond the pale different. And it’s invisible. I think those experiences of being invisibly different trigger the devastating loneliness of losing the support of the other girls after Nata died.
This morning, I am also thinking about self-esteem. Liking myself seems to be connected to the girls, and I think that is why self-esteem has been so difficult for me to grapple with. I have tried to do everything I could to avoid the whole issue.
If I really relax and let myself, the things that remind me of the girls make me like myself. The emotion of those things for me is a feeling of being free to be myself. I feel proud of myself not for any specific accomplishment, but just kind of for breathing.
And so I think for decades self-esteem has been linked very closely to loss and grief. That is the association: feeling good about myself reminds me of the people with whom I felt that most strongly in the past. It reminds me of the people I felt accepted by and valued by, the people who seemed to like me for exactly who I was and that I never needed to pretend with. Then I realize they aren’t with me, and so self-esteem is linked with a devastating grief. That’s why I haven’t been able to engage with it. It has been too painful.