My day went just about as most Mondays go. Uneventful with a smack of angry undertones for no goddamn reason. The first thing I thought to myself when I got up this morning was “Amy, you’ve got to change your feelings.” This is what my older sister says to her kids when they throw tantrums. “I’m sorry you’re having a hard time right now. I suggest you go into another room and work on changing your feelings.”
Well, guess what? I don’t feel like changing my feelings.
And then on my walk home from work, I kicked the rocks, head tilted at just the right downtrodden angle. Like George Michael.
And that’s when I looked up and saw this dude walking his dog. The dog had this little limp, and he was so fucking happy to be out on a walk, and he looked at me and wagged his tail, and I started crying. Because he was so happy, and it was this beautiful little tableau–this limping dog so happy to be alive, even with a limp. And that’s when I said, Amy, you’ve got to get your shit together. You know you’re messed up when you start crying in the middle of the street about a dog with a limp.
I’m not sure how people change their feelings. Do you think when those bright, bubbly people tell you to look on the bright side of things–do you think they ever cry about a dog with a limp? Do they realize that we’d love to “BE POSITIVE!” if we could? It’s one thing to say don’t be so negative, but it’s another thing entirely to do it. That’s the thing with mental illness–we’d all LOVE to snap out of it. It’s kind of like women who fat shame other women, even though said women have been skinny their entire lives. Just eat well! Exercise! But don’t they realize that not all of us had it handed to us? Do they ever realize that people have completely different genetics and life experiences?
No, they don’t. The same way I think all people should love Radiohead as much as I do or understand Pokemon. I’m guilty. Which leads me to two conclusions:
1. We (read: I, Amy Morby) need to chill the fuck out and remember that at the end of the night, we all have our own demons to fight. And different paradigms. And completely different perspectives, which means, HEY! Stupid! It’s not so easy for people to snap out of anything. Leave everyone alone. Stop telling people how to feel and live.
And 2. I need my power back. Because here’s the thing: somewhere between age 16 and 27, I forgot I was my own person. I realized, crying about the dog with the limp tonight, that–as much as I hate it–my sister is right. I have to change my feelings. And the only way to do it is to get my autonomy back.
Autonomy=freedom from external control or influence. Or you calling all the shots. Sometimes when you grow up in a whack-a-doodle religion, you forget about autonomy. And then, when you hit puberty, you forget that you have any power at all. Which is exacerbated by media on all its many, heinous levels–the barrage of shoulds, should nots, ought tos, and supposed tos. And then you hit the fiery hellmouth of your 20s and compare yourself to everyone else because I’ll be damned if I’m not living and experiencing and growing and finding myself! And in this giant decade or so of “who the hell am I?” you forget that you have autonomy. That you can say, “you know, I’m not really into that,” or, “no thank you, I’m not interested in that particular lobby’s agenda, which you are now buying as pseudoscience.”
I forgot that I have the power to say no.
I forgot that it’s really up to me when it comes down to it.
It sounds stupid. And maybe I’m the only idiot in here that forgot I could make my own choices. But I can say, with 8,000% assurance, that I have not been my own person for a decade. I somehow forgot that I could get over my eating disorder. That I could just say, “nope, ED: not interested in your shit.” Or that I could choose my own agenda, even if it’s not scientifically backed by Cosmopolitan or just social sentiment in general.
I forgot that I could have my own opinion, and that my opinion counted. At least to me. In fact, when it comes to me, my opinion is the only thing that counts, right? Because if you think about it, life is just bullshit anyway. We’re all just making it up as we go, and nobody is right or wrong because nobody really knows in the end how it will turn out.
Take Intuitive Eating for example. I’ve been rereading that, and feeling blown away that listening only to my body’s internal cues is such a foreign concept. WHAT? See what I mean? Rather than listening to your own body, we’ve all gone mad and decided a book, blog, movement, whatever knows best. Because WE CAN’T TRUST OURSELVES.
That’s just it–in most aspects of our lives, we’ve somehow been trained, consciously or not, that we can’t trust ourselves.
But why is that?
And why don’t we celebrate autonomy anymore? Why is it that we celebrate those falling into the shoulds, should nots, ought tos, and supposed tos? Isn’t following the beat of your own drum something to be admired? Shouldn’t we admire someone so in tune with their own bodies, souls, brains, and psyches to make their own paths on their own terms?
Look–all I know is that I want my power back. I want to be able to not feel triggered to hell when anyone mentions their diet. I want to be able to not feel guilty any time I make a decision that’s perhaps not what’s expected of me. And my only point here is more of a question: why is that so hard? And how do I get my power back?
“I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel – let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing. I’m concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that’s handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers.”
― Howard Zinn
“The essence of independence has been to think and act according to standards from within, not without: to follow one’s own path, not that of the crowd.”
― Nicholas Tharcher, Rebels and Devils: The Psychology of Liberation
How did I get from a dog with a limp to this? I haven’t the slightest idea. But ultimately, I want my power back. Kind of like when Stella got her groove back.
Here’s to figuring that out, and to animals for being unconditionally loving and happy 99.999% of the time and inspiring this blog post.