My husband looked at me quizzically the other day and gently asked, “What’s with all of the ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid’?” I hadn’t realized I was using those words so frequently but apparently I had. Usually I keep them locked away in my brain and they tumble around like rocks in a clothes dryer but I had let my guard down and they effortlessly spilled out of my mouth. Dumb. Stupid. Idiot. Slow Learner. ‘Special’. Challenged. These are the labels I generally apply to myself. I’m not sure how long I’ve been doing this but I can assure you, it’s been a l-o-n-g time. I have a general idea of when it all started, with the introduction of my stepdad, but I cannot give him all of the credit. There were other people and circumstances surrounding me during those critical years when I was a child and throughout my development, trying to figure out my own worth and how I fit into the world.
Have you ever heard of the ‘Low Self-esteem Club’? It’s the only ‘club’ I’ve continually renewed my membership with over the years. If I remember correctly, I signed up when I was around 8 or 9 years old, shortly after my stepdad entered the picture. I had accompanied one of my older brothers to a school event that took place a week before the school year officially began. It was located in the gymnasium. When we entered, aside from all of the other people milling about, I noticed numerous rectangular (folding) tables lining the walls with invitations to join assorted ‘clubs’. I glanced around the room and took it all in. There was the the Booster Club, DECA, Chess, Glee Club, Drama Club, FFA (Future Farmers of America), Math Club, Track & Cross Country, Swimming, Football, Tennis, Bowling and even Photography. My brother immediately walked over to sign up for Track and when he did, I decided to go exploring.
What you find when you look past all of the ‘noise and distractions’ are the things I’m drawn to. And when I noticed a solitary table off in the corner, far from all of the other tables, I had to investigate. There was a girl seated behind the table, her head hung low, her bangs shielding her eyes. The sign on the table was so small, I could hardly read what it said, but as I got closer, it became apparent. “Membership drive for the Low Self-esteem Club,” read the sign. It immediately piqued my interest. “What do I have to do to join?” I asked her. She looked up. “Do I have to be a student at this school?” “No, not at all,” she replied. “Fantastic! Do I have to be an adult?” I then asked. “There are no age requirements,” she answered. “I’d like to sign up!” I said enthusiastically. “Ok,” she responded. “But first you have to fill out this questionnaire.” A questionnaire? I didn’t expect that but I thought to myself, “Why not? What have I got to lose?”
There was a chair beside the table, and after she handed me a clipboard with the lengthy list of questions and a pen, I took a seat and got to work. It was unlike any other questionnaire I’d filled out in the past. It was actually pretty simple. Every answer was either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and most questions related to feelings. Question #1: Do you ever feel confident? Easy! No. Question #2: Do you like yourself? No. Question #3: Do you like your reflection when you look in the mirror? What a silly question! Of course not. Who does? No. Question #4: Do you deflect compliments? Yes. Question #5: Do you often feel like a failure? Yes. Question #6: No matter what you do, do you always think you could have done it better? Yes. Question #7: Do you always use self-deprecating humor? Yes. Question #8: Do you constantly worry about what other people think? Yes. Question #9: Do you think you’re beautiful? Oh my gosh, I started coughing and hacking when I read that and nearly fell off the chair! Do I think I’m beautiful? Oh, please! What a ridiculous question!! No. Of course not! Question #10: Can you name one thing about yourself that you love? No. And on it went.
How do you think I did? I passed with flying colors! And the best part of joining the ‘club’ is that there’s no annual fee. I just get a reminder each year that if I don’t respond by January 15, my membership will be dropped. Do I always respond? You better believe it! Why wouldn’t I? They have such low expectations and never ask anything of me. I don’t have to do fundraisers or anything exceptional. And despite how little they ask of their members, their membership continues to grow. Last I heard, their membership exceeded the combined totals of the Masons, the Eagles, Sam’s Club, Costco, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and the Rotary Club. And it just keeps growing. I’ve met a few of my fellow members over the years. And from what I can tell, we have a lot in common. But they don’t like getting together much. There’s a term that you would think fitting, ‘Misery loves company’. But it doesn’t really seem to apply to this club. Most of the members seem to prefer isolation.
I jest (sort of). I’ve actually been trying to cancel my membership but I haven’t had any luck so far. I’ll do pretty good for a while and then I’ll do something like ignore a sign and get yelled at or burn the bacon or accidently put ranch dressing on my Bolognese with penne instead of my salad or leave the loaf of french bread out overnight before I have a chance to slice and freeze it and it dries out. And ‘putting myself out there’ by doing this blog is really screwing with my head. I spend hours trying to put something together each day. I think about what’s relatable or funny or compelling. And each day when it’s done, after I attach a photo of an image that I hope captures the essence of what I wrote, I present it to ‘the world’. And I wait. And while I wait, I continually check my ‘stats’ and my email inbox. I keep a window open and watch the email count to see if it changes. When it doesn’t change? When no one says anything at all? The doubt starts creeping in. It’s like a slow moving fog that eventually envelops a small town until no one is even aware of its existence aside from its inhabitants.
Why do I bother? Can I even call myself a writer? Does anyone even care about what I have to say? What’s the point? Those are the questions that fill my brain. On most days, I answer with, “Why DO you bother? NO, you cannot call yourself a writer. You’ve never had anything published. NO, not really. There is NO point.” But on other days, I challenge those questions in my head. Why do I bother? I bother because it’s good for me. It’s therapeutic and it’s a great creative outlet. Can I even call myself a writer? Yes, yes I can. I’m writing after all. Maybe I’m not published and maybe only 2 people will view my content and not even like it, but yes, I can call myself a writer. Does anyone even care about what I have to say? Yes! I might not get tons of feedback but a few kind souls have reached out and let me know they appreciate what I do. And by the way, thank you Rajat and Barbara and Jay and Nikki and SaneBishop and yazzeus and Christian and Bixolon and beautybeyondbones and CoachKanika and Health & Nutrition and anmol and Billy and Tony Bologna and Natasha. There are others, too, and I hope you know I really do appreciate all of the ‘atta girls’. I really, truly do.
And what is the point? That’s a great question! I don’t know that I have the answer. It’s one of those existential questions that I continually ask myself but the answer continually eludes me. I imagine I won’t find out the answer until I cross over ‘to the other side’, whenever that may be. When the ‘great creator’ calls me back or my light is extinguished or whatever happens when my time here on earth is done. Between now and then? I guess I’ll just keep on keepin’ on. And I hope you do, too. I think we all have a purpose, even when we don’t know what it is. Life seems like it’s such a constant struggle, especially when you’re a member of the Low Self-esteem Club, but I think we all have a responsibility to see it through to the end. “Even on the days when we don’t like our reflections in the mirror?” you ask. Especially on those days! You have a purpose and I have one, too, even though I have no clue what it is. I really don’t.
While I ponder that question, I’ll keep on writing and reading and eating and sleeping. I’ll keep on shopping BOGO sales and stretching my dollars. I’ll keep on making mistakes and getting yelled at. And someday, maybe it’ll all make sense. Maybe. But I’m not getting my hopes up. My brain still hurts trying to figure out how that lady in the restroom managed to leave a trail of poop all the way from the bathroom door to the rear stall (while wearing pants) and didn’t require a change of clothes. If I can’t figure that out, there’s no way I’m ever going to figure out ‘the point’ of it all. But maybe you will. If you do, would you please let me know? And when you do, please provide your address. I want to make sure, at the very least, I send you a thank you card.
P.S. For you folks that are new to my blog and don’t know what the hell I’m talking about when I make occasional references, I apologize. A lot of the stuff I share refers back to old posts. So if you’re lost, that makes two of us. Just know you’re not alone.