Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Armature

I took a life modeling class in college. Basically that is a human figure sculpture class where you work from a live model. One of the ways we worked, when creating a standing figure, was to use a metal armature and build our work on that inner framework. Clay alone could not stand up on its own. At the time, I remember realizing that in my current state of emotional fragility and with my cripplingly low self esteem, I had no inner armature. I could stay upright for some time and then begin to lean and eventually would find myself an unrecognizable pile of clay. I could recognize in others the strength I wanted for myself, and I imagined what it felt like to be filled with that inner framework. I tried so hard to force myself to behave as though I had it, as though I believed in myself and thought of myself as a great human being. I did not. I was a total mess. When anyone would say something negative, I would crumble. If you pressed me in the slightest way, I would fall apart. I looked for the strength to come from other people. "Please hold me up!" I was shouting. Hold my hand. Help me. If you tell me I'm great, maybe it's true. But when your strength comes from the praise or support of other people, you will fall apart without it. It's impossible to continue to function that way. Believe me, I tried. And that need for external approval and praise and support took me down some dark paths and into some scary, dangerous situations. I would do anything for it. I was a junkie for male attention and approval. I remember knowing it didn't make sense, knowing that was not the life I wanted, but I did not know how to change it. I didn't know how to build that armature for myself. And God wasn't doing me much good.

After years of this ridiculous behavior, I finally decided I wanted it finished. I wanted to build that framework. I just could keep crumpling. It was exhausting. I could feel it happening, almost watching from the outside. Oh crap, there I go again. My emotions were all over the map. I couldn't rely on my own self, on my reaction to anything. I was spineless and inept. I wanted to function.

It took a long time. I remember a friend of mine asking me, after I'd been in intensive therapy for a year, how long it would take, to be rid of it, to be healed. She wanted the same thing, to be strong and to be rid of the crippling doubt. But she wanted to know that if she invested in therapy, it would end in healing. I just kept saying, "Well, it's getting better." And it was. Slowly but surely I began at the base and started building that armature within. It was tedious and difficult and stripped me down to nothing. I had to eventually learn to just sit with the ugly, the mean, the sad and the acidic. I had to let all that clay fall away and focus on twisting together those bands of identity that had nothing to do with the external. I guess I'm still working on strengthening that armature, but, for the most part, there is a stature there on which the rest of me can depend, there is a substance that stays when the rest of it is being molded and formed and pushed and prodded by life. The external changes, but the internal remains the same.

So, here I am, during one of the most difficult periods of time in my life. And I am so grateful I spent that time building. I am so thankful, to myself, for stopping the destructive and rebuilding. Because even though I have horrible days and am exhausted beyond belief, I know that I cannot be torn down to nothing. I am waking every two hours and recovering from surgery and pumping my breasts constantly and feeling this mass of numb fat hang over my incision. I am challenged every minute by a difficult toddler. I am rubbed raw. I am stretched to the limit on the outside. But I know my own self. I am clinging to that inner armature like nobody's business. I will make it through. I will remain. I know this time will pass and I'll be sad that I no longer have infants. I'll wish I'd spent the time really focused and not lost in the fog of it all. The days change. Some days I muddle through and some days seem golden. But even when I'm muddling, I never doubt my own ability. I never question my own strength. The rest of me may hang limply on the armature. I may be in pajamas and barely keeping my eyes open, but I am calm within. I am strong at my core. At the end of the day, I am sure.


Katie Collins said...

Here's to building, to clinging, to being certain. Great post Heather! I love your writing.

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