Tuesday, January 26, 2010


From the perspective of a 45-year-old, a pimple is an inconvenience. Slightly embarrassing if I’ve been sporting one in a noticeable place all day, but nothing I can’t handle. To be honest, I’m still surprised my face breaks out. I was under the delusion that once I’d passed the dramatic hormonal shifts of adolescence, my skin would once again be dewy fresh, with a rosy glow and pristine translucence. Then again, from that painful teenage place, I thought all of adulthood was calm, complacent; I’d find my groove and exist day-to-day, like my parents. I wasn’t a person who had grand plans, career goals, I never dreamed of getting married, fantasized about weddings or babies, thought much about where I’d live or what I’d do there. I just assumed . . . well, I’m not sure exactly what I imagined would happen. That life would be fine. That I’d be taken care of I suppose. I think I never went to the future because my present, back then, was so fragile. My family maintained the illusion that we were cohesive and normal, to the outside world, but when it was just us, alone, there was very little holding it all together. I desperately wanted us to be close, to eat lunch together on weekends, to share hobbies, to enjoy each other’s company, to be a family like the Brady Bunch or the Partridge Family, but I was generally the only one. I remember my parents almost ridiculing me for wanting to be with them instead of with friends of my own.

Truth: I didn’t have many. I wonder if I was so insecure with people my age because I didn’t have a safe foundation at home that I trusted would always be there to nurture me. I held on so hard, too hard. And from my family’s disinterest in spending time with me, I believed I wasn’t worth spending time with.

Whoa. That’s certainly a painful, eye-opening interpretation one could discuss with a therapist for years. The reality is more that everyone was caught up in their own extreme dramas, both emotional and physical. I expected a lot from people who had very little to give me. I spent years blaming but left that behind a long time ago.


Back to pimples. When I was a teenager, the painful, throbbing, enflamed red circle on my cheek, my forehead, the side of my nose, tipped with that swollen dot of white pus waiting to explode at any second, was nothing short of a nightmare. I’d hold hot compresses to the affected area, praying it would be gone by the time I’d have to leave for school. I remember spending entire days pulling a turtleneck up over my chin or wearing my glasses so low on my nose I could barely see, thinking I was effectively camouflaging the area from everyone else. Time stopped as those blemishes destroyed my life, sometimes taking days to run their course and disappear, leaving me in humiliated ruin.

Was that pain as devastating as when my parents split up, at 45?


In any moment we can all get swept away on swells of emotion and drama, fear and pain, concretely real situations and those we manufacture so powerfully in our imaginations. I’m relatively sure a pimple won’t reduce me to a quivering mass again but there are still things that blindside me, leaving me unable to cope. I’m working on keeping even a grain of perspective in those out-of-control moments, knowing that even though they might feel insane, they don’t last forever.

Day 7 is appreciated being a where I am.

1 comment:

Katharine said...

Sigh. Emotionally distant parents. That and acne in the 40's. Two more things we have in common.