When I was in middle school, I played softball for the local park district. We were called the Navy Blue Vipers. I played right field because it was the position that was least likely to get a ball hit in that direction. I was not the best softball player. And I loved it anyway.
One of my favorite things about softball was going out after the game with my team to get ice cream at a local hotdog place called Odies. They had chocolate and vanilla swirl soft serve ice cream that they piled so high onto the cone I thought for sure it would fall over. I loved getting their streak fries and dipping them in my ice cream, tasting the salty and sweet combination.
Odies was always a special treat, one that I had to earn. After all, ice cream, as my father said, was for winners. It wasn’t enough for my team to win; I had to participate in the victory. I needed to catch a ball, hit the ball, get on base, score; anything. But if I did nothing but stand in right field, I wouldn’t be good enough. Not for ice cream. Not for my dad.
Needless to say, I spent a lot of time trying to be good enough.
But somehow no matter how clean my room was, how quick I did my homework, or how little I talked back, it never seemed to be enough.
“Dad, can I come with you to the store?”
“Did you clean the living room?”
“Dad, can I go to the library too?”
“You cried doing your homework today.”
“Dad, can I go garage sale hunting with you today?”
His rejection would hang in the air, making it harder to breathe around me. It was worse when there was no reason. Simply, no. No, you’re not good enough or I just don’t like you enough.
If I’m not good enough for my own father, how the hell am I supposed to be good enough for anyone else?
I am 26 years old and I still haven’t learned how to stop hustling to earn my worth. I keep trying to prove myself because I have no idea how to accept love that I don’t need to work my ass off for. I have a hard time trusting people because I truly do not understand what they see in me. I am afraid that if they really saw me, they wouldn’t like what was there. I feel like a fraud. Like everyone is going to find out that I am not actually as good of a person as I think I am. I am terrified someone will look too closely and see that I am actually a worthless piece of shit.
Too emotional. Too weird. Too socially awkward. Too much.
I wonder how much different my life would have been if my dad had taken me for ice cream when I lost. If he had said, “even though you lost, you did your best and that is worth celebrating.” I think I would have become a whole different person.
I think of all the times he laughed at me when I fell over or fucked up, how he would go out of his way to tease me or make me feel small, how he always had to broadcast my failures because he thought it would be funny to share the joke with everyone. I think what would have happened if he had just said, “It’s okay, Faith. Here, let me help you.”
Stephen Chombsky was right when he wrote that we accept the love we think we deserve.
I find myself accepting love from those who treat me like my father did. That is what my brain reads as love. I’m not sure I have a frame of reference for anything else. Being with someone and just being accepted as you are?? I have a hard time accepting that as love; genuine love. It is not what I am used to.
I am used to spending my mental energy trying to figure out what people want from me because I can’t imagine they want me just as I am.
In my apartment that I share with my best friend, we eat dessert every night. Lately it has been chocolate chip cookies but sometimes it is cinnamon rolls or brownies or shakes or candy. We have two mason jars in our living room; one is for m&m’s and the other is for skittles. We always get the oatmeal with the tiny candy dinosaur eggs inside. And of course, the freezer is always stocked with various kinds of ice creams and popsicles.
“It has been a hard day. We deserve this.” My roommate will say with a laugh.
It is kind of a joke. Sometimes we do not get out of bed. Sometimes the garbage piles up so high it seems impossible to move. Sometimes we can only eat one meal a day. Sometimes we joke because deep down inside, we oftentimes do not feel worthy or deserving.
I think that the practice of eating dessert has become my act of resistance.
No matter what happened during the day or how much we got done or how good we felt about ourselves, the cookies get made and we tell ourselves we deserve it even if we do not feel it. Even if we have to get the words out as a sarcastic laugh.
Every time we eat dessert, I tell myself that I deserve it. Every time, I start to believe a little more that I deserve other things too. Happiness. Love. Belonging. Peace. I am worthy, just as I am.
“No matter what gets done, and how much is left undone, I am enough. Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and oftentimes afraid, that does not change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” – Brene Brown