I’m broken. In so many ways: PTSD from my sexual assault (is that weird that I claim it as “my” sexual assault?), anxiety, OCD, depression, SAD and even extreme PMS. Oh and don’t forget to add every permutation of eating disorders known to mankind; I’ve been anorexic, exercise-purging bulimic/compulsive overexerciser, orthorexic, ED-NOS. I’m a veritable alphabet soup of crazy. (Somewhere people with real problems are laughing. And then craving soup.) But it isn’t enough for me to do crazy things. If I just acted crazy then that would be fixable. No, for my whole life I have felt intrinsically flawed. Deeply broken. My very essence a divine mistake.
This, as you can imagine, made for some very poor decisions. (But great dinner party conversations! Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I thought doing acrobatics hanging 70 feet over a canyon with no safety net was a good idea? No??) In all honesty, that’s why I stayed with my Very Bad Boyfriend as long as I did. I thought I didn’t deserve better. Thankfully other people, like my mom who threatened to send me to another country to get me away from him, did. This belief in my innate wrongness has also informed my general outlook on life. How do I trust a God who screwed up so badly making me? I mean, this is the same Guy who created sea cucumbers after all. Obviously He has a sense of humor – hey, who pooped in the ocean again?! – but how could I follow Him and help other people when I can’t even fix myself?
I know I’m getting deep here but I want you to understand how very seriously I have taken my brokenness. It’s generally the first thing I tell people about me. “Hi, I’m Charlotte! Lovely to meet you! Oh and by the way I’m crazy.”
Years ago, when I first started this blog – and I had like 2 readers which to this day amazes me considering I was still posting under my Goth persona (seriously, I know) with a terrible white-text-on-black-background site to match – Andrew, who has long since disappeared into the Internet ether, left me a very thought provoking comment on a post I wrote about metabolic testing. Essentially he wrote, “Why would I want to mess with my metabolism? It’s not broken.” He advocated a style of eating and working out that hinged primarily on listening to oneself – trusting your body to tell you when it needs to eat and when it needs to exercise and when it needs to rest. He’s not the first person to tell me this but my response has always been the same: “I can’t trust myself! I’m BROKEN!” And then, because I wear my deficiencies like a name tag, “duh.”
The thing is, it’s not true.
So why would I hold so tightly onto a belief that lacerated me every day with its cruelty? This weekend I read – nay, devoured – Geneeen Roth’s new book Women, Food and God (recommended to me by about 100 of you astute folks). In it, she tells an anecdote of a woman who exclaims that she is afraid people won’t love her anymore if she’s healed from her emotional issues. The woman uses compulsive overeating as a way to stay broken. She didn’t want to make others feel diminished in her presence, despite the fact that one’s successes do not take away from another’s. Despite the fact that any time a single person is truly great it lifts all of humanity.
It had never occurred to me before to consider that my self-flagellating belief served a vital purpose in my life. It saved me from failing. From not living up to my potential. See, if I’m broken then I have no potential so anything good I do is just gravy.
Who would I be if I weren’t so busy being broken all the time?
Would I be the mom who forgets one of her children for 2 hours? (True story: I forgot son #3 at his preschool a few weeks ago. I finished volunteering as Reading Mom in son #2’s classroom, took Jelly Bean and went home. I put her down for a nap, took a shower and got some work done. Never once did it occur to me that the house was so peaceful because I was short one child. I didn’t realize my error until his teacher called to ask me when I planned on coming to get him. What kind of mother does that? Not a good one, I tell you.) Or, would I discover that I have it in me to be a good mom? A great mom, even? If I weren’t so obsessed over my food issues and control issues and issue-y issues, would I have the mental space to come up with creative crafts and polish my floors and make egg rolls (son #1’s favorite food) from scratch? Perhaps not. Mothering has never come naturally or easily to me – nor has egg roll rolling – but maybe God could take this unnatural mother and make up for her deficiencies. If I let Him. My brokenness is really faithlessness.
Would I be the friend who automatically sees another’s need and takes action to fill it? The other day I was at a friend’s house for a birthday party and after all the kids in attendance inhaled the cake like so many tiny vultures, another guest quietly got out the broom and swept up the crumbs before all those little feet could track green frosting onto the white carpet. It was so simple and yet it hadn’t even occurred to me to do it. Perhaps if I hadn’t been so busy avoiding the cake and all the other party food, I would have looked outside myself and found the crumbs and then the broom and then the dustpan. Naturally. My brokenness is really selfishness.
Would I be the writer who has the courage to pursue the craft that I love, to tell editors that I’m really good and then prove it to them? Would I be the wife who not only packs the lunch but thinks to put a love note in it too? Would I be the body who knows when too much exercise is too much, who knows what it needs to eat and when? Without any person, diet or book telling me? Would I be the soul who takes time to meditate and and pray and be still and breathe when all I want to do is run from one manufactured crisis to the next? (I’m good in a crisis, by golly!) My brokenness is really fear.
I’m afraid of trying and not being good enough.
Sitting with Jelly Bean today after nursing and changing her, I realized something that felt important. To her I am not just enough, I’m everything. I’m food. I’m safety. I’m rest. I’m shelter. I’m entertainment. I’m love. And if I can be that for her, I owe it to myself – and to the God who made me, the God who “don’t make no junk” – to be that for me. I need to stop pretending to be broken – I am no more flawed than any other human – and get to work. It starts with learning how to trust myself, to know that my body will want what is best for it. It starts with learning how to forgive myself for all the mistakes that I do make without resorting to making it a spiritual failing. These things are hard; I’m not good at trusting or forgiving. Especially not when it comes to myself. But, like several of you have told me, sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. It starts with faith.
Who would you be if you were not broken? Anyone else feel that being broken is an intrinsic part of their personality? Anyone else ever forgotten a child somewhere???
Addendum: It seems that a few readers have interpreted this post to mean that I’m not okay with me – or others – making mistakes, being broken. Truly that is not what I meant. What I wished to have said that didn’t come through very clear is that it’s okay to make mistakes, to be broken – everyone is broken in their own way – but that I was wrong to make my brokenness a global aspect of my personality. Sometimes I do good things, sometimes I make mistakes but, as a human being, I am not broken.