Sunday, October 26, 2014

Opposite Day

When you were a kid, did you ever pretend it was "Opposite Day?"  Opposite Day, primarily, existed to annoy people, and in my household, it never lasted very long.  On Opposite Day, you did the opposite of everything that was said/asked.  Yes meant No, Up meant Down, In meant Out, On meant Off, and so on.  It was a fantastic little pretend world we created until my mother seethed through clenched teeth, "JUST GO UPSTAIRS AND PUT ON YOUR SHOES" in that scary way that meant Opposite Day was officially over.

The past week, and particularly the past 3 days, I feel like I'm living a string of Opposite Days.  Let me tell you -- Opposite Day was much more fun when the opposites were limited to up/down and on/off...and when it was my mother's nerves I was grating on. 

Opposite Day today started like this: I opened my eyes at 5:45AM and my brain said, "You're so stupid.  How could you have forgotten to clean the kitty litter box last night?  Your sister would be so mad that you're not taking good enough care of her cat."

I closed my eyes again.  I took a breath.  And I thought, "so this is how we're playing again today, huh?  Alright, Brain.  Give me a second.  Then it's on."  I took another breath as my brain began frantically chattering about how stupid I am, about the kitty litter box, about the email I hadn't yet responded to, the phone call I didn't return at work on Friday, about the fact that I am not good enough, smart enough, capable enough.  Thirty seconds in, my body started to panic -- and no wonder, right?  It's 5:45 on a Sunday, and I've already given myself enough grief to last me until Thursday.  I focus on taking another breath, let the dog lick my cheek as I roll over, let my brain tell me that I don't deserve a dog as wonderful as the Mo-Man, and I sit up, exhausted. 

"Okay," I say aloud.  "You've got this."

"Pfffft," says my brain.  "No you don't.  You so don't have this.  You're falling apart.  You didn't even clean the kitty litter box.  You never even made that phone call.  You haven't even gotten UP yet.  You're probably not even going to clean the litter box, are you?  You're not.   Why bother?  If you didn't do it last night, why even bother this morning?  It hardly matters."

And just to spite it, I got up, and I cleaned the hell out of that kitty litter box. 

And this is how it goes.  With everything. 

"Why are you going to church?" my brain asks.  "Nobody wants you to be there, anyway.  Nobody will miss you if you aren't there.  Don't go.  Stay here.  Right here.  Don't move.  You don't have anything to wear.  You look stupid.  And tired.  Nobody wants to see you looking stupid and tired.  Seriously, you're going to wear that?  What are you even thinking?"

So I do the Opposite.  I do exactly what my brain is telling me I can't/shouldn't/won't do.  I get up.  I get dressed.  I find something I feel good in, and I get in my car and I drive to church.  Even though my brain tells me not to talk to anyone, I find the people that I know will hug me and I hug them, because hugging releases happy brain chemicals and god knows I could use a few of those. 
And, for a while, sometimes, I can get my brain to be quiet.  Sometimes, for a few minutes, I get pulled into sunshine and conversation and friends, and I don't have to work so hard to always think the opposite of what my brain is telling me.  The difference, though, is this: when my brain isn't celebrating Opposite Day, those moments fill up my cup.  Even just a hug, or a smile, or a conversation, or a walk in the sunshine will fill up my cup a bit, and I can hold and savor and celebrate that water.  I can express gratitude for that water, and I can be so joyful that my cup is a quarter of the way, or halfway, or completely full. 

On Opposite Day, my cup doesn't hold any water.  The damn thing is so full of holes that, as soon as the water stops pouring, it's gone and splashed into a puddle at my feet.  Friends and hugs and puppy kisses and sunshine fill up that cup, but as soon as the sun goes down, or the friends go home, or the dog decides to lay on the floor, the cup is empty again and my brain convinces me it was never meant to be full.  That I was never deserving of that full cup in the first place. 

Mostly, I am so fucking stubborn that I can make it into an Opposites Game.  Your brain tells me one thing, I do the opposite.  You tell me I can't do something?  Watch me.  I'm not a competitive person with others, but if you tell me...or if I tell me...that something can't happen, or that I won't be able to do something?  It will get done.

I realize that I am painting myself here as something of a pinnacle of strength and determination.  I realize that anyone reading this who has these Opposite Days too, is going to say, "you think you know, but you have no idea."  It smells vaguely of the stench I associate with the "you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" lie.

But see, this -- this writing here -- this is part of the Opposite Game.  This is my brain telling me "you can't cope with this, you're so stupid, what makes you think anyone would find value in anything you have to say about this?"

And so I do the Opposite.   I write, even though what would feel good to my heart right now would be to curl up with my head under the covers.  But it's Opposite Day, remember?  And so I'm writing instead, because curling up would mean that the monster is winning.  I've worked too hard today to let that monster win.

Anyone who has these Opposite Days is going to call me a liar.  They're going to say, "but see, if you can play the Opposite Game, then you really don't know what it's like."  And they may be right.  I do not know what their Opposite Days are like.  I do know that there have been moments and nights and days and even weeks when playing the Opposite Game for those 5 minutes before I get out of bed feels like running a marathon.  I do know that there have been moments and nights and days and even weeks when I couldn't play the Opposite Game.  That's why I play it.  That's why I know its value.  That's why I work to become so damn good at it, because those moments when I can't scare the crap out of me. 

Vulnerability feels like a roller coaster drop to me on a good day, but on Opposite Days, it feels more like sky diving without a parachute.  One of the lies my brain likes to tell me is that it's not okay to be honest.  That I should shut down, close off, build back those walls I worked so hard to knock down.  My brain tells me to give up this stupid "bravery" business, that I can't be brave, that I should go back to the me who kept herself safe by closing her heart.

And this is my Opposite.  One of my Opposites.  This is vulnerability, and bravery, and honesty, and opening. 

So I write this because I need to hear it.  And - if I need to hear it - there must be more of us, right?  There must be many of us going through the day making bets with ourselves that start with "you're so stupid, of course you can't...", and doing the Things only because we don't think we can.  There must be more of us -- if only because my brain tells me that I am the only one, and I am choosing to believe the Opposite.  

So if you are living Opposite Days, this is for you.  This is your evidence that there are others of us out there living these Opposite Days, or Opposite Nights, or Opposite Weeks.  Even though we think we can't, we're living, and we're playing this ridiculous Opposite Game alone, together.

And you...yes, I'm talking to You.  You go right on playing, okay?  It doesn't matter how your Opposite Time came about, or if you feel you're just barely following the rules.  You're playing.  If you're reading this, you're still playing.  And we're going to go right on playing until we live into those Opposites and we get our brains back on our side.


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